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Yesterday marked the one-week anniversary of the day that I last saw Spike the Hedgehog alive. It fell on a Sunday, which was a day I usually devoted to the weekly cleaning of Spike’s cage and I moved him out of his cage and into his outdoor playpen. Once I finished cleaning his cage, I removed him from his outdoor playpen and put him back in the cage. He overheated earlier because I had left a window open while the outside temperature rose to a high of 85 degrees Farenheit with very high humidity. I closed the window and turned on the air conditioning and once I finished the cage cleaning and the sun went down, Spike seemed okay. He managed to go inside the pink plastic igloo he used as his bedroom so I thought that all was well.
Monday morning I notieced that Spike didn’t even touch his mealworms, which were his favorite food. Monday evening Spike didn’t emerge from his igloo but it was also very hot and humid outside and I know from past experience that in extremely hot weather Spike tended not to even emerge until well after 11 p.m. So I wasn’t that concerned as I changed his food and water yet left the unopened Easter egg where I stored the mealworms. Tuesday morning I saw that Spike still hadn’t opened the Easter egg full of mealworms so I thought that something was up. Since hedgehogs are nocturnal, I decided to wait until after dinner before I investigated. By dinner he still hadn’t emerged so I went over to his cage and called out his name. He didn’t respond with any kind of snuffling sound like he usually did when I talked to him. I bumped the side of his cage and found that he didn’t make any of the hissing noises he usually makes whenever I accidentally bumped into his cage or changed his food and water. I then opened his cage, lifted his igloo and found that he was dead.
Earlier on the same day that I last saw my pet hedgehog Spike alive, I visited the Baltimore Comic-Con. Among the various items for sale in the Artists Alley was this table that was full of handcrafted jewels that were made to resemble the Chaos Emeralds from the Sonic the Hedgehog video games. They were a bit on the large side (I thought that the best use for them would be as paperweights because they looked too big to wear in a necklace) but they were visually stunning looking.
I’ve been slowly doing one final cleaning of Spike’s cage. So far I removed his litter and threw it in the trash. (I inspected his litter as I scooped it out and found that, unlike other weeks, I didn’t see any hedgehog droppings among the litter clumps. I still threw the clean litter in the trash as a precaution just in case Spike died of some kind of a contagious disease. I don’t know what killed Spike and I saw no evidence of blood or oozing pus or any other kind of injury or infection. It’s possible that he simply died of old age but since I didn’t have anyone do an autopsy on him so I’ll never know exactly why Spike died.) I plan to do a thorough cleaning of his cage and furniture using Lysol in order to kill any germs that may or may not have had a hand in Spike’s death. Once I finish this special cleaning, I’m going to pack up his cage and furniture and put it all in the attic for the time being.
Right now I’m going to take some time off from being a pet owner while I get over Spike’s death. I would like to own another pet sometime in the future but I haven’t decided on whether I would get another hedgehog (If I did this, I would make sure that I adopted a baby hedgehog instead of an adult like Spike was when I brought him home to live with me because I hope that, with a baby hedgehog, I would have this pet for longer than I had Spike) or if I would get a dog. When I was a teenager my parents had a half-Labrador Retriever/half-Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Napoleon and, while he was a rambunctious dog, he was basically a sweetheart. When I was in college and I lived in off-campus housing I had a housemate who had a dog named Michelle and I got along really well with Michelle. (My time with Michelle was short-lived. Michelle’s owner went out of town for a couple of weeks of following the Grateful Dead’s latest tour and the dog was placed in the care of another housemate who was a bit of a flake. This housemate tried taking Michelle for a walk along a very busy highway without a leash and the dog suddenly decided to bolt after some car and she ended up getting hit by one of the cars.)
I also once had a pet parakeet as a teenager named Baby, who managed to coexist beautifully with Napoleon. (Both the parakeet and the dog basically ignored each other.) It’s possible that I may decide to get a parakeet or some other kind of bird instead of a dog or hedgehog.
All I know is that cats are out of the question for me because I am allergic to them. Any member of the rodent family (such as rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc.) is also out of the question for me because I have a couple of electronic rodent devices in my home that emits high-pitched sounds that humans can’t hear but they are very offensive to rodents. I had to buy them from the hardware store a few years ago after my home suffered from a sudden invasion of field mice who chewed up rolls of surplus paper towels, chewed through boxes of food in the pantry, and left their droppings everywhere.
In any case, I’m just going to take my time deciding on who will be my next pet. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll come to any kind of a decision for at least six months.
Yesterday after I attended church, I went to Target to look for a storage box that’s big enough to house Spike’s cage and furniture while I keep it up in the attic. I found the perfect size storage box (it was the largest box that the store had in stock) then wheeled my car to the checkout line. On the way to the checkout line, I found this new Monster High doll that’s totally ironic for me in light of Spike’s recent death. Here name is Howleen Wolf, she’s the daughter of the Wolf Man and the younger sister of Clawdeen Wolf, Clawd Wolf, and Clawdia Wolf.
Here’s the ironic part. Like the other Monster High dolls, Howleen Wolf comes with a pet of her very own. This particular pet happens to be a hedgehog named Cushion.
A doll with a pet hedgehog. That is pretty ironic. If Spike hadn’t died, I might have even been tempted to buy Howleen Wolf. This time I left the doll package on the shelf. I just wasn’t in the mood of collecting anything that was hedgehog-related other than taking the above two photos with my smartphone.
For the 19 months I had Spike I had gotten into taking smartphone photos of every hedgehog related items I could find on the store shelves as well as collecting Internet graphics of anything with hedgehogs. While hedgehog products weren’t as prevalent as—let’s say—dogs and cats, there were a sizeable amount of hedgehog products I could’ve bought if I wanted. (In reality I didn’t buy too much hedgehog stuff because of limited space in my home. I’m in the process of doing extensive decluttering of my home and starting a new hobby where I collected a lot of stuff was the last thing I wanted to get into.) It was pretty cool to see the amount of hedgehog there is out there.
First off is the main hero of the Sonic the Hedgehog video games. I confess that I played those games long before I even had the idea of getting a pet hedgehog but I still thought it was fair to give a nod to the character that helped me to be tolerant of hedgehogs.
But Sonic wasn’t the only video game character that I encountered. I also downloaded other hedgehog-themed video games for my iPod Touch and iPad including the following:
Ironically I recently found out that there was a video game that was made for the PC years ago called Spike the Hedgehog. I had never heard of that video game before and I only named my pet Spike because he never hesitated to put his spikes up every chance he got. Given that one negative review I saw on Amazon.com, I think there’s a reason why this particular game is obscure.
I also remember reading about a hedgehog in literature. Who can ever forget that bizarre croquet game in Alice in Wonderland where the players used a flamingo as a mallet and a hedgehog as a ball?
I later learned that Beatrix Potter, who’s best known for the books Peter Rabbit and The Tale of the Squirrel Nutkin, wrote and illustrated a book called The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle whose main character is a matronly looking hedgehog who did the laundry.
There were plenty of hedgehog toys, figurines, and a vairety of miscellaneous products that I could’ve collected if I wanted to (but I mostly didn’t due to limited space in my home).
Ty Beanie Ballz Prickles
The Calico Critters Pickleweeds Hedgehog Family
A forest-themed water bottle that includes a hedgehog.
A pair of Kikkerland Hedgehog Dryer Balls.
Some hedgehog plushies I found at Otakon 2012 that was held in Baltimore.
Hedgehog-shaped Christmas ornaments.
Westland Adora Bears Hedgehugs
A plush hedgehog puppet on sale at the 2012 Faerie Con in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Inner Creatures’ Spikey anthro hedgehog ball-jointed doll.
Aurora’s Herzog the Hedgehog.
A handcrafted Sonic the Hedgehog quilt on sale at Awesome Con 2013 in Washington, DC.
Craft Play wooden hedgehog kit.
Ganley the Birthday Hedgehog.
Special edition Sonic the Hedgehog statues sold at Katsucon 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Special Sonic the Hedgehog edition of the board game Monopoly sold at Katsucon 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Hedgehog print on sale at Katsucon 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.
A t-shirt that reads "Hedgehogs: Why Don’t They Just Share the Hedge?" that I bought for myself at Katsucon 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.
A hedgehog birthday card.
A Scentsy Buddy Havi the Hedgehog that was on sale at the 2013 Hon Fest in Baltimore.
eeBoo’s Waste-Not hedgehog craft kit.
If the above products weren’t enough, there were a variety of hedgehog-shaped toys that I could’ve purchased for a dog or cat that were sold in the big-box retailers like PetSmart and Petco.
In Europe there is a hedgehog character named Mecki who is very popular there. Below is a 1952 German-language stop-motion animation featuring Mecki. (Unfortunately there are no English subtitles in the one clip I found online.)
Mecki’s popularity has led to a variety of spin-offs including postcards and stuffed animals.
Here in the United States there was one animated hedgehog character I was more familiar with. His name is Mr. Pricklepants and he was one of the minor characters in the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 3.
Despite his small role in that film, I saw this one toy spin-off in one of the stores.
Earlier this year the Animal Planet cable channel broadcasted its annual Puppy Bowl (which is usually shown on the same day as the NFL Super Bowl) that features cute puppies playing with each other in a football field-like room along with the Bissell Kitty Halftime Show (featuring cute kittens swatting at various toys), hamsters broadcasting in the Puppy Bowl blimp, and a cockatiel named Meep the Bird who issued tweets on Twitter (get it?). At this year’s Puppy Bowl, Animal Planet featured hedgehog cheerleaders, who were incredibly cute. (I only wished I had known about the hedgehog cheerleaders sooner because I happened to live near the Discovery Channel building in Silver Spring where the Puppy Bowl is shot. I could’ve enter Spike in the tryouts.)
I saw people dressed in costume as hedgehogs. This one person cosplayed as Shadow the Hedgehog at Otakon 2012 in Baltimore.
Here’s a person dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog at Awesome Con 2013 in Washington, DC.
There was even a hedgehog who served as a mascot for a company called Spokeo who had gotten its share of controversy for its business practices. When I checked the URL for the first time in over a year last night, I saw that the cute blue hedgehog mascot had since been replaced by a typical bland corporate logo.
I’ve had my fun with using my smartphone or Internet searches to document all of the hedgehog-related products that are out there while I had Spike but now that my pet is deceased and I have no immediate plans to replace him with another hedgehog, I’m going to cut back on this activity. If I happened to see a really cute and memorable product I’ll snap a photo but, otherwise, I’m no longer going to go out of my way to take these pictures. As you can see in this blog, I already have more than enough hedgehog images to keep me amused so I don’t really see the need to continually take more pictures.
The night before the start of the first day of Otakon I took a plastic grocery shopping bag and reused it in order to pack a few extra things to bring to Otakon with me. I had heard of various meetups that were taking place and I decided to pack a variety of small items just in case I happened to run into a meetup already in progress. The items were a mix of tiny Asian ball-jointed dolls, My Little Pony figurines, and a couple of Japanese-imported Arpakasso plushies I purchased at previous anime conventions. The below photo shows what I brought. The figure in the foreground is Derpy Hooves. In the back are (from left to right) a small pink Arpakasso plushie, Rainbow Dash, Orient Doll Ji, Soul Doll Kimmy, Soom Mini-Gem Uyoo, Bobobie Sunny, and a larger light beige Arpakasso plushie.
I didn’t get any opportunities to open the bag on the first day but on the second day I found one meetup where I could display what I had brought.
Anyway, I had every intention of checking out this panel titled "Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland’s Effect on Anime & Manga" even though it was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. (which meant I would’ve had to get up really early for the commute to Baltimore). But then I woke up in the middle of the night with total muscular pain throughout my whole body. I tried shifting around in bed but it was no use. I finally had to get up and take some ibuprofen before the pain finally stopped. As a result, I overslept so I not only missed that panel but also another panel that was scheduled for 10: 15 a.m. that I wanted to go to titled "Nintendo: Entertaining Since 1889." I was so tired and stiff that it took me a while to get my body into gear so I could do something simple as to take a hot shower (which helped loosen my tight muscles). I also decided to put on some compression socks that I originally purchased when I underwent my hip replacement back in 2008 and I suffered from edema in the immediate aftermath of that surgery.
I arrived at the North Linthicum light rail station where I saw these cosplayers.
By the time I arrived in Baltimore I managed to miss the scheduled 1 p.m. showing of a video that I really wanted to see titled Beijing Punk. I managed to get into the Baltimore Convention Center through the front doors because the line of people waiting to register and get their badges was way smaller than the last two days.
Once I got in I went up to the 400 level of the Baltimore Convention Center where I found one of the many Asian ball-jointed meetups that were being held throughout Otakon weekend and they were all organized through the Den of Angels forum. I’ll admit that I had my trepidations about attending because I still remember this bizarre incident from last year when, at the first meetup I attended on the first day of Otakon 2012, these two women came up to me, claimed that I had posted a photo I took of a bag that belonged to one of them on my own Kim’s World of Art website five years earlier, asked me to remove that photo, then walked quickly away before I had a chance to ask them any questions (like "Do I know you?" or "What photo are you referring to?"). While the other doll meetups I attended last year were all free of similar weirdness, I was still unnerved by that incident.
Fortunately the meetup I attended on the second day of Otakon 2013 was free of such weirdness and everyone present were pretty nice and friendly. I also got a chance to take a lot of photos of gorgeous dolls while I took my own dolls out of the plastic grocery bag and displayed them in public.
Fortunately the meetup I attended on the second day of Otakon 2013 was free of such weirdness and everyone present were pretty nice and friendly. What was cool was the willingness of one meetup participant to help another meetup participant re-string her doll after her doll literally fell apart during transit. (That’s why some of the photos include doll parts.) I also got a chance to take a lot of photos of gorgeous dolls while I took my own dolls out of the plastic grocery bag and displayed them in public.
It turned out that the 400 level terrace was a very popular place to hold meetups so there were usually many of them going on at the same time. In addition to the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup, there were also meetups for Star Trek,…
In addition to the meetups, a group of cosplayers (including one dressed as Santa Claus) were playing cards in the same area.
When the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup began to break up, I headed down to the lower levels. I wanted to visit the Artists Alley but I found the best way to reach it is through the Dealers Room, where I took this photo, which is a bit on the NSFW side.
I didn’t spend much time in the Dealers Room because I really wanted to visit the Artists Alley and I didn’t get a chance to do so yesterday because my feet grew very tired and sore after all that walking in the Dealers Room. I finally made it to the Artists Alley, where I ran into someone cosplaying as Luke Skywalker standing next to R2-D2.
The Artists Alley focused on aspiring artists and crafters who sold a variety of handmade items including drawings, jewelry, plushies, hats, lolita dresses, and self-published zines.
While I was in the Artists Alley, I looked in on the progress of this giant work of art that Eric Maruscak of Pepper Ink was working on throughout Otakon.
I wanted to go to Video Gaming room but it became a challenge to do so because the security would block off certain stairs or escalators in the name of crowd control. I found that walking around outside then going back inside the Baltimore Convention Center was the quickest way of going to the Video Gaming room. While I was outside, I took a photo of the bleachers that were recently set up in advance of the upcoming Grand Prix of Baltimore, which will be held on Labor Day weekend.
I managed to re-enter the Baltimore Convention Center where I found these cosplayers.
After much maneuvering around the security’s maze-like crowd control efforts, I finally made it to the Video Gaming room.
There were a variety of video games that were all on Free Play. However getting to a video game console was difficult because nearly all of them were occupied with small lines forming behind the current players.
The one video game I was able to reach wasn’t working and one of the Otakon staff told me that he thinks that someone had beaten the game and the game became inoperable as a result. One interesting tidbit about this busted game: it used a vintage pre-Wii Nintendo controller. (I’ll admit that I didn’t realize I was holding the controller upside down until a few days after Otakon ended.)
I managed to try my hand at one of the pachinko machines because they were less crowded (I had never used one before and I couldn’t find instructions in English on how to play one so I just shot the metal balls at random and I have no idea if I did well or not) but that was the extent of my hands-on experience. The proceeds from the pachinko machines went to a charity called AbleGamers and I was given three free unopened packs of Magic the Gathering cards as a "thank you" gift for paying to play pachinko.
There were smaller less-known video game companies who were showing demos of their latest video game.
Even though it was the Video Gaming room, there were plenty of card games and board games as well. The non-electronic games were just as crowded and popular as the video games.
There were plenty of cosplayers in the Video Gaming room.
After a while I left the Video Gaming room and just took pictures of cosplayers in the hallways and outside the Baltimore Convention Center.
After my earlier failed attempts at attending workshops and panels, I finally managed to get to one scheduled Otakon event but I had to really go through all kinds of obstacles to get there. I saw the English-dubbed version of this feature-length anime titled Wolf Children. I hadn’t originally planned on seeing that movie until I saw a description about it in the programming booklet while I was eating the dinner that I had brought with me while sitting in one of the comfy chairs in the hallway. I thought the plot of the movie sounded interesting. On top of it, when I pre-registered a couple of days ago I had a choice of a variety of designs for my badge (most of which were anime scenes) and I picked this one design because I thought it looked really cute. When I looked at my badge and saw "Wolf Children" on it, I thought it would be really cool to see the movie behind my Otakon badge.
I know that crowd control can be a challenge for a really big convention like Otakon but there were times when I questioned some of their methods of crowd control. The event I wanted to get to was held in a room that was located on the lower floor of the convention center and I was on the floor directly above that room. Normally one could take either the escalators, the steps, or the nearby elevator to get to the lower floor. I had no argument with reserving all of the elevators only for people with major disabilities. But access to the steps and the escalators was also closed off. In order to get to the lower floor, I had to exit the building, walk around the building from the outside until I hit the front doors that led to the lower floor, then re-enter the building. I have no idea why people had to leave the building in order to get to the lower floor.
Once I got to the lower floor there was this scrum of people that I had to literally push my way through in order to get into another line so I could get into the theater showing the film that I wanted to check out because the synopsis intrigued me. In this case the term "line" could be used very loosely. It was almost like you had to pick a large group at random then endure more waits as the security alternated between letting each group get into a more organized line that led to the doors where the movie was being shown. There were so many people trying to get in that the movie ended up starting a half an hour later than originally scheduled. At least the room was very large so there were plenty of seats for a giant crowd like the one that I was a part of.
The movie was worth the wait. It’s got a similar "human female student meets fellow male student who’s a supernatural creature" story to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series except I thought that Wolf Children was way better than Twilight. The main female character, Hana, faces (and eventually overcomes) all kinds of obstacles that would’ve brought Bella Swan to a total nervous breakdown. The animation is incredibly beautiful and the story was very well written. I saw the dubbed version and I thought that the dubs were done very well. It’s too bad that a film like Wolf Children doesn’t get a wider theater distribution because I think that movie would definitely hold its own against the likes of any Pixar film.
Since the movie started a half an hour late, I ended up arriving at this workshop that I wanted to check out late. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get in at all because over the last few Otakons, the conventional wisdom is that if you want to guarantee of even getting inside the door, you should arrive at least a half-an-hour early. If you want to guarantee of getting inside the door and getting a seat, you should arrive at least 45 minutes-1 hour before the start. But, amazingly, I was able to get inside and get a seat with no trouble at all. The workshop was titled "Introduction to Deleter Neopiko2 Marker" and it was a hands-on demonstration of the Japanese-made Neopiko2 markers that many artists use when creating manga. I was very impressed with the quality of the markers and I felt that they were way superior to Sharpies. (FYI, in case you were wondering, I didn’t do that drawing below. It was originally a black and white photocopied drawing and I only colored it with Neopiko2 markers.)
After the workshop ended I did a little walking around the Baltimore Convention Center. For once I was actually at an anime convention past sundown and I noticed that one of the hallways of the Baltimore Convention Center was bathed in this really pretty blue light that reflected on all the people walking down it.
While there were a few late night panels and events that intrigued me, I was totally exhausted. The good news was that the compression socks I wore the entire day helped my feet alot and I was able to physically last longer on my feet than the day before. However, even with the compression socks I had hit a point where I couldn’t take Otakon any more so I decided to leave. As I was on my way out the door I took this one last photo of Otakon’s second day.
A year ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a phenomenon of adult male fans known as Bronies. I was kind of amazed by the rise of the Bronies because I’m old enough to remember when the original first generation of My Little Pony toys were sold on store shelves back in the 1980′s. I was always into unicorns and Pegasus and I used to think about getting a unicorn pony or winged pony for myself but I didn’t because they were clearly marketed as toys for very young girls down to the plastic hairbrush that was included for each pony (which reminded me of the plastic hairbrush that was included with each Barbie doll) and I felt too awkward at the time to purchase such an item for myself, especially since I wasn’t a child and I didn’t have young children at home. I don’t recall any high school or college-aged young men openly expressing any interest in My Little Pony at the time.
So three generations of My Little Pony later they are now totally hot. What is really amazing (and cool in some ways) is that a number of young guys are into this. All I know is that back in the 1980′s when the original started, most young guys back then would not have openly bought such toys unless they have young daughters or younger sisters because in the past guys who were into obviously "girly" things would’ve been denounced as "gay." Maybe that’s the positive side of society becoming more accepting of same-sex couples: guys can now openly indulge in My Little Pony and other tradtionally feminine stuff without having their sexual orientation questioned. (Besides, based on what I’ve read, the vast majority of Bronies are heterosexual.)
I got introduced to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic through an off-beat way. Back in March I participated in a Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event that was held in Washington, DC when one of my drawings made the finals in one of the contests that took place that evening. Third Eye Comics is one of the sponsors of the Dr. Sketchy’s DC chapter so all the prizes in that contest were donated by that store. My drawing came in third place so I got the third place prize: the first issue of the new My Little Pony comic book series. I read it when I got home and I was amazed by it. The first issue was a combination of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a little bit of Night of the Living Dead mixed in. I ended up hooked on that comic book and I’ve bought subsequent issues since then.
That comic book was the first comic book I’ve really paid attention to in a number of years. My ex-husband used to collect Marvel comic books starting when he was an undergraduate at Oberlin College. During the first few years of our marriage he continued to purchase titles like The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, The New Mutants, Alpha Flight, and Dazzler and I can remember when the two of us used to make regular trips to the now-defunct Geppi’s Comic World in Silver Spring so he could pick up his subscription to the numerous Marvel comics he had the store hold for him. But then my husband stopped reading them because he said that the cover prices on each issue had gone up too high for him and he was too busy with both his job and numerous other extracirruicular activities (such as being involved in various groups in our Unitarian Universalist congregation, going to graduate school at night, and co-writing a book with a friend on Object Oriented Programming) to continue buying them.
When I learned when Otakon was happening this year I decided to take part in the Art Show by tapping into both the Brony market and video game enthusiasts by creating My Little Robot Unicorn Pony Attack. However I didn’t learn about BronyCon until just a few weeks before it was being held. BronyCon was being held at the Baltimore Convention Center the weekend before Otakon. Unfortunately I hadn’t finished my piece at the time or I would’ve made an effort to put that one up for sale at BronyCon and, if it went unsold, I would’ve put it in the Otakon Art Show the following weekend.
BronyCon held the whole weekend but I only went on Saturday because I wanted to save my time, money, and energy on Otakon the following weekend since I had already purchased the weekend pass for that one. At least BronyCon lets you buy a one-day pass. (Otakon used to allow people to purchase one-day passes until a few years ago when they required everyone to purchase the weekend pass—even if you can only go on one or two days.) So I went to the Saturday event.
I decided to blend in while checking out the Brony phenomenon for myself. Fortunately, I already had something in my closet. Just a few weeks earlier, I saw this cute t-shirt on sale at Target for only $10. It was a reproduction of a vintage My Little Pony t-shirt from the 1980′s or 1990′s. I had gotten so many comments on that shirt during my time at BronyCon that I decided to a photo of the shirt a day later while I was gathering dirty clothes for doing the laundry.
I parked my car at the North Linthicum light rail station (mainly because it’s cheaper than going straight into the city and using the parking garage) and boarded the train when it arrived. Some people saw my t-shirt and began to strike up a conversation with me. They were pretty nice and friendly.
I arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center only to find out that one had to walk over to the Hilton Hotel next door in order to buy passes. While I was walking around looking for the registration area, I saw this man just standing there while promoting a variation of the latest issue (#9) of the My Little Pony comic book including a special cover that was sold only at BronyCon.
I also ran into this cosplayer.
After much blundering around, I finally found the sign pointing to the Registration area.
I was given a program booklet after I registered that provided all the details about BronyCon. The cover was so cute that I later took a picture of it.
Here’s a hilarious cosplay mash-up of Darth Vader and a pony.
Everywhere you walked there were cosplayers and all kinds of interesting signs.
A professional photographer takes high quality portraits of some of the cosplayers.
BronyCon had all these really cute signs that I couldn’t resist photographing. The next three photos are of signs denoting rooms where workshops, panels, and continuous video showings were held.
The Salt Block Lounge was a room where fellow convention-goers could hang around and socialize with each other. Later in the day it was the place where people a "Pony Swag Trade-A-Thon" while, at the same time, someone was demonstrating a pony-inspired video game which was originally created by those in the My Little Pony fandom.
Quills & Sofas was another room where people socialized and where some workshops and events were held.
Stabletop Games was a gaming room where people can play a variety of board games and card games. At times a deejay from Celestia Radio played tunes in that room.
Cosplay Lounge was the place where cosplayers could hang around together, make adjustments or repairs to their costumes, and take a rest without having photographers around.
The Crusaders Clubhouse was a place that was created just for children. In fact, teens and adults were not allowed to enter that room without a child under 12.
One of the high-points of BronyCon was this Traveling Pony Museum, which was devoted to pony-themed arts and crafts in a variety of media, styles, and designs
The Portal to Equestria room was set aside for pony fans of all ages to engage in some live action role playing (LARP) based on their favorite My Little Pony character.
The largest area at BronyCon was the Dealers Room where people had the opportunity to purchase every kind of My Little Pony stuff currently available. There were also pony cosplayers throughout the Dealers Room.
The Dealers Room even provided opportunites to get autographs from special guests who directly worked on My Little Pony in some way. The bad news was that the lines were frequently long so I didn’t bother getting any signatures. I managed to get a couple of photos of two of the people who work on the My Little Pony comic book series, writer Katie Cook and artist Andy Price.
At times I saw a dance party burst out spontaneously in the hallway which sometimes included a deejay.
I even shot a short video to give you an idea of what it was like.
There were some convention attendees who brought their own instruments so they could make music the old fashioned way.
I caught a few minutes of a cosplay contest where there were categories based on ages (children and adults) as well as whether the cosplayer wore only some of the identifying features of his/her favorite pony or if the cosplayer went all-out and wore a full fur pony suit.
I basically walked around until I grew tired then I took the next light rail train out of Baltimore to the North Linthicum station (where my car was parked). I was pretty restrained in my spending. I brought my own lunch and sodas so I wouldn’t have to pay the overpriced low-quality food that’s sold in the Baltimore Convention Center. I made small talk with many of the con attendees. I found the Bronies to be very polite, nice, and friendly. I was impressed with them. If I wasn’t still shaken up over the drama regarding my husband’s walk-out and divorce for nearly two years, I may have tried socializing more with the Bronies, especially with guys who were closer to my age, to see if any of them were potential date material. (Right now I’m really not interested in any romantic relationships.)
I only purchased one item at BronyCon. There was a table in the Dealers Room that was staffed by a non-profit group called the Brony Thank You Fund and there were stuff that people can get for a donation, which would ultimately go to a local charity. I donated $10 and got this 2014 calendar. I figured that this would definitely come in handy in just a few more months.
As far as comparing BronyCon to other geek conventions I’ve been to at the Baltimore Convention Center in the past, I have to say this: BronyCon is bigger than the Baltimore Comic Con yet it’s still smaller than Otakon.
After spending a full day at Katsucon the day before, I woke up totally tired and sore. I was so fatigued that I had a hard time moving. There were times when I began to think that maybe I’m starting to get too old for anime conventions. I also remembered that for several days before Katsucon I spent long hours trying to finish the tote bag that I submitted to the Katsucon Art Show and I think all that work coupled with a physically grueling first day at the con took a physical toll on me.
So I spent the morning at home. I ended up eating the lunch I had originally intended to bring with me to Katsucon. Afterwards I decided to head out when I found mail in the mailbox. I got yet another reminder of the crumbling state of my marriage—I got a letter from my husband’s lawyer. I didn’t open it that day because I didn’t need to be bummed out before I got to Katsucon. (I opened the letter a day after the convention ended and it was basically a letter verifying that I received the divorce petition from a process server. Blech!)
I didn’t arrive at Katsucon until after 3 p.m. As I was walking from the parking garage I saw this sign from one of the many bars and restaurants that dot National Harbor.
When I entered the front lobby of the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center I walked past the hotel restaurant that had been temporarily converted into a Maid Cafe. I never checked that one out because the line of people waiting to get in was very long.
The check-in desk in the hotel lobby featured someone cosplaying as a robot that gained lots of attention from other people waiting to check into their rooms.
I saw the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup, which started at 2 p.m., was already in progress. I dropped off my tiny dolls then ran to the nearest women’s restroom because I needed to use the toilet after making the commute from my home to National Harbor. Once I emerged from the stall, I found this bottle marked "Vampire Blood" next to the sink where I washed my hands.
I managed to rejoin my dolls at the doll meetup, which was just starting to break up by the time I arrived. I still managed to get a lot of photos of gorgeous dolls (there were more of them than the previous day’s meetup). Someone also brought some homebaked gingerbread, which was very delicious. (I’m sorry I was never able to learn who baked the gingerbread because I would’ve complimented the baker.)
After the meetup ended I walked towards the Art Show and I found no bids on my handpainted tote bag. Then I walked around both the Artists’ Alley and the Merchants’ Room where I took some more photos that I wasn’t able to take on the first day due to low battery power in my cellphone. (This time I made damned sure that my smartphone was fully charged before I arrived at Katsucon.)
The biggest guest star at Katsucon was the Japanese pop band known as The Sound Bee HD. I missed out on seeing this band perform in concert mainly because the concert started after 10 p.m. and I grew too exhausted to attend a couple of hours before the concert. The group had a table set up in the Artists’ Alley and members of the band were there to greet fans, sell copies of their CDs, and sign autographs.
Both rooms had a variety of things available for purchase that one can’t find at a Wal-Mart or Target.
I went to an anime convention and a Twister game broke out.
The next few photos are scenes from the World Cosplay Summit semi-finals that was held at Katsucon. I never knew that cosplay was a serious international competition like the Olympics or the Miss Universe Pageant. Basically the winners of the semi-finals went on to the finals (which will be held during another anime convention). Whoever won the finals would represent the United States at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan later this year.
There were plenty of cosplayers who didn’t take part in the World Cosplay Summit semi-finals and they could be found walking the hallways throughout Katsucon, such as these Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
This person dressed up as a futuristic robot version of Hello Kitty.
This guy wore a plushie on his head like it’s a hat in the Merchants’ Room.
Since Katsucon took place soon after Lunar New Year, a group of people came carrying a Chinese dragon.
This cosplayer posed for professional photographers.
Are they Anonymous? Are they cosplaying as V from "V is For Vendetta"? Or are they simply Guy Fawkes fans? In any case they were at Katsucon 2013.
After I walked around the convention for a while, I chilled out in one of the video rooms watching the anime series Fate/Stay Night. I first became familiar with this series when I was at Otakon last summer and I purchased this kit that’s based on one of the characters named Saber Lily. (I’ll admit that I haven’t worked any more on that kit since last September. I need to take it out again and work on it.) I downloaded the fansubbed manga version and it’s pretty entertaining. While the anime version is okay, I probably won’t be buying the DVD version because I personally preferred the manga version. The manga went into more details about the relationship between the characters while the anime version was mostly swordfights and it grew tedious after a while.
The one workshop panel I attended that day was one called "Kickstarter 101 With Obsidian & Dern." It was a fascinating view on the process of getting your work financed via Kickstarter.com. I took the workshop because I had a fantasy of getting a project funded via Kickstarter but after taking that workshop I learned that you really need to have a detailed production plan in order to have it work for you.
After that panel I grew very tired again so I drove home. I began to notice that my stamina for three-day anime conventions isn’t as strong as it used to. It’s another sign of getting older, I guess. <Sigh!> I’m sure that I’ll get to the point where even attending a convention for even a half-day will tire me out but I hope that doesn’t happen for several decades. <LOL!> At least driving home was easy compared with the previous night’s frightening commute (where I had to deal with both heavy rain and crazy drivers).
I had gone to the Katsucon anime convention in the past but it must have been at least five years since I attended the last one. (I remembered I attended the last one when it was still held in downtown Washington, DC instead of its current home in National Harbor, Maryland.)
The past few weeks I slacked off on doing major decluttering of my home because I decided to try participating in my first anime convention-related Art Show. (I’ve been to previous anime conventions but I’ve never submitted anything to the Art Show.) I purchased a blank canvas bag and did this two-sided painting of the Gardener Twins Souseiseki and Suiseiseki from the anime Rozen Maiden. (You can read the February 14, 2013 blog entry for more details about the painting of this bag.)
Even though I preregistered over the Internet (I was able to get a weekend pass at a discount) and it entitled me to pick up my pass the day before the convention opened, I wasn’t able to make it on Thursday because the pick-up time conflicted with my weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced. (Since the meeting fell on February 14—Valentine’s Day—the group was holding an "Anti-Valentine’s Day Party" instead of the usual meeting and I really wanted to go to it.) So I woke up early and got to National Harbor as soon as possible. Luckily there was a separate line for preregistrations and it was shorter than the line for those who were purchasing passes at the door so I didn’t have to spend too much time waiting in line.
Once I picked up my pass I immediately headed to the Art Show where I entered my tote bag. I had put it in a display case but I also posted photos showing both sides of the bag since the display case could only show one side at a time. Here is what it looked like after I hung it at the Art Show.
By the time I got my pass and hung up my tote bag at the Art Show I was feeling hungry because it was around noon. In order to save as much time and money as possible, I opted to bring my own lunch, dinner, and sodas in a giant Wegman’s insulated bag from home. (The bag was pretty heavy to carry around at times until I consumed the food and drink.) So I sat in a chair in the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center lobby and ate my lunch. I have to admit that the entire large complex was pretty fancy. Here is a shot of the Convention Center atrium.
The only major snag that first day came when I realized that I didn’t have enough battery power in my cell phone so I couldn’t issue as many Twitter tweets as I wanted. I had a car charger but it would’ve meant going to the parking garage, finding my car, starting the engine, letting it run for up to a half-an-hour while my phone recharges, then go back to the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center. I found a Best Buy Express vending machine and I found that there was a battery recharger on sale for my cell phone. I sucked it up and charged $40 to the credit card to get that item.
So while I was eating lunch I decided to recharge the cell phone with the new battery. It worked for a while then it stopped recharging. I read the manual and found that the battery needed to be recharged and it didn’t have much juice left. The battery didn’t come with any wall adapter and I really didn’t want to pay more money at the Best Buy Express vending machine to get one so I basically dealt with a cell phone with low battery power for the entire day. As a result I ended up making tweets about the day’s events the following morning. I kept on taking photos with my cell phone until I lost battery power entirely.
Once I finished eating lunch I shopped around in the Merchants’ Room. I did mostly window shopping because I’m currently in the process of decluttering my home and I’m trying to be conservative in spending my money due to my husband suing me for divorce. There were plenty of things on sale and if you weren’t careful, you could easily go broke buying all kinds of stuff that you really don’t need to survive but they looked irresistable.
This one statue on sale made me feel old. It’s Kimberly from the early 1980′s video game Space Ace. I remember when I used to play that game in the arcades. If the statue hadn’t been out of my personal price range, I would’ve been tempted to buy it because of both the video game and the fact that she shares the same name as me. (LOL!)
The next three photos are from the most bizarre booth I saw in the Merchants’ Room. The military-style armbands promoted tolerance of same-sex relationships by using terms like Yaoi and appropriate symbols. But the hats reminded me of Nazi hats from World War II and there was even a giant swastika against a psychedelic background on display in the background. That booth had me scratching my head.
I read on the Den of Angels forum of a series of Asian ball jointed doll meetups that were going to happen during Katsucon. I was on the fence about being able to make any of those meetups so I decided to pack my smaller 1/6 and 1/12 scale dolls just in case because they are lighter and easier to carry than my larger dolls. (I’ve carried some of these larger dolls around at anime and doll conventions in the past and it turned out to be such a pain to lug them around.) I slipped these small dolls in a plastic bag then put them in the large Wegman’s insulated bag. Here are the dolls I brought with me to Katsucon from left to right: Orient Doll Ji, Soom Mini-Gem Uyoo, Soul Doll Kimmy, and Bobobie Sunny.
I arrived at the meetup right at the 2 p.m. start time. The Asian ball-jointed doll meetup went off pretty well for me with no drama. Everyone was pretty nice and I got a chance to see some gorgeous dolls. Here are the photos I took of that meetup.
After the Asian ball-jointed doll meetup I walked around and took photos of cosplayers and people carrying various plushies until my cell phone battery finally died.
Someone cosplayed as Merida from the Disney/Pixar film Brave.
This cosplayer was in a wheelchair yet was still able to rock it in this awesome looking costume.
This cosplayer in the next photo appeared as his personal fursona Azure.
Here’s Belle from the Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
Spiderman poses with a friend.
It’s a unicorn!
According to the comments and messages I got through Flickr, the woman in the next photo was cosplaying as Kougoyku Ren from the Japanese anime Magi.
The last two photos feature a total blast from my own past. Yes, it’s Gumby!
I attended my first panel at Katsucon. It was called "Publishing for the Speciality Market" and I was mildly curious about the topic since I can draw and write and it was supposed to provide tips on how to make an income off of your work. That panel was a definite eye-opener. It’s disheartening to hear that there is only one major distributor of comic books in the United States (Diamond Comics) so if your idea for a comic book gets rejected by this one publisher, you don’t really have any alternatives. As for me, I could see myself maybe doing a web comic or digital e-book in some distant future as a hobby but I found that publishing my own comic book/graphic novel to distribute myself or convince Diamond Comics to distribute to be downright daunting and scary.
Immediately after the first panel ended I attended a second panel called "Bad Anime, Bad!" That one is definitely self-explanatory. I saw clips of anime that have either a) awful animation, b) lousy dialogue, c) poor translation, or d) all of the above. I’ve seen this same panel at other anime conventions in the past and it’s amazing that the guy who runs it always gets new examples of anime so bad that it’s really hilarious.
After watching bad anime, I settled down in the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center lobby to eat a pre-packaged dinner that I brought with me. What was funny was that I had some people sitting near me asked me where I got my dinner from and they seemed disheartened when I said "Wegman’s." (LOL!)
After dinner I managed to attend one last panel in the evening. It was called "Steampunk to Cyberpunk: A History" and it was an interesting presentation that compared the steampunk with cyberpunk sub-genres of science fiction. When that panel ended I was so exhausted that I decided to drive back home. (In order to save money I opted to commute to this convention instead of staying at any of the hotels located in National Harbor.) I had this harrowing commute because it was raining very hard and the streets were so slick that they resembled mirrors. On top of it there were crazy drivers on the road who were speeding on these very slick roads and it was a challenge to avoid accidents. At least I made it home okay.
A few months ago I made my first foray into customizing a blank tote bag that I purchased at one of those big box arts and crafts stores then donating it to my Unitarian Universalist congregation’s annual auction. The tote bag I customized received rave reviews from my friends in that congregation and someone bought it at the auction that night.
I felt really good about the reception to that tote bag that I decided to do it again. This time I’m going to attempt to sell it outside my UU congregation at an event where I won’t know most of the participants. I’m going to put the tote bag in a special display frame that I got on sale at Michaels Arts & Crafts and offer it for sale at the Art Show that will be among the events that will happen at this weekend’s Katsucon at National Harbor, Maryland.
I’m just doing a little experiment to see whether I have any kind of future creating customized tote bags/shopping bags as a side venture (or maybe even as a full-time venture if reception is totally overwhelming). I figured that trying a bunch of strangers is a good way to find out.
If it fails to sell, I’ll have a customized bag that I can carry around in public. If people ask me where I got this bag, I can hand out copies of my business card and hopefully get some opportunities.
Either way, it’s a win-win situation for me!
Painting the bag also helped me to take my mind off my current troubles (such as my mother’s ongoing struggles with MS and my husband sending me divorce papers).
Here are a few words about this latest tote bag. Since Katsucon is dedicated to anime from Japan, I decided to do a Japanese anime-themed fan art design this time. I featured two characters from the manga and anime series called Rozen Maiden, which is one of the few anime or manga series that I have even paid attention to. (There are so many anime/manga series out there that I have a hard time deciding which ones I want to try.) I originally heard about this series through postings on the Asian ball-jointed doll forum Den of Angels because this series features living, talking ball-jointed dolls as the main characters. When Tokyopop came out with an English translation of the manga series, I bought the books in order to find out what the hype was about. I also saw the first four episodes of the anime version when it was screened at the annual Otakon in Baltimore but I never purchased any of the anime DVDs mainly because the DVD version is way more expensive than the manga books. (Each manga book volume costs $10 while each anime DVD costs $25.)
Basically Rozen Maiden is a surreal fantasy series featuring walking, talking ball-jointed dolls wearing gorgeous clothes that also have a lot of Alice in Wonderland overtones. (There is a character in the series called Laplace’s Demon who looks like a thinner, more sinister version of the White Rabbit. Each of the dolls are expected to battle each other in a match known as the Alice Game. The last doll to survive the Alice Game gets to claim the grand prize, which is to become Alice, who is defined in the series as the embodiment of the perfect girl.)
Since I’m going to hype this tote bag as a recyclable shopping bag, I thought it would be appropriate to feature two of the dolls who are known as the "Gardener Twins" in Rozen Maiden since gardening is a green activity and so is using a recyclable shopping bag instead of getting a new plastic bag everytime you shop. Below is an original still from the anime featuring the twins.
The girl wearing an ultra-feminine dress with white cap that has lace trim is Suiseiseki, whose name translate as "Jade Star", which is appropriate since she wears a green dress. She is frequently seen carrying a watering can. Her twin sister, Souseiseki, has a name that translates as "Lapis Lazuli Star", which is appropriate since she wears blue-colored clothes. She is frequently seen carrying a pair of gardening shears. Her clothes and haircut show her as a tomboy so I initially thought of her as just an androgynous tomboy until I read online that, in the original Japanese, Souseiseki frequently uses the masculine pronoun to refer to herself—which I didn’t see in the English translation. (Hmmmm, I wonder if Tokyopop omitted this on purpose because it wanted to avoid controversy as to whether Souseiseki is really more than just a tomboy doll? If what I read online is correct, the Japanese language original seemed to imply that she could be a female-to-male transgendered doll.) Both twins have one green eye and one red eye. Suiseiseki’s left eye is green while her right eye is red. With Souseiseki, the eye colors are reversed. While I was painting the tote bag, I constantly had a colored printout of both their faces next to me in order to get the eye color placement correct on each twin.
When it came time for designing the bag, I breifly thought about doing a Zentangle background like I did with the last bag I did. But I still felt pretty burned out from the hours I did doing the Zentangles over a large area so when I happened to find a floral stencil on sale at Michaels Arts & Crafts for only $5, I decided that using a stencil would be a better idea than drawing Zentangles. That stencil was definitely a time-saver for me and the results were pretty nice to look at.
When I was shopping for paints I could use in this project (other than the paints I already own), I found this acrylic paint color called "aqua green", which is a blue-green color. I thought it would be appropriate since it is a combination of the two colors that represent both Souseiseki and Suiseiseki.
Here are the close-up photos of each side of the tote bag along with a description of how I customized each site.
For this side (pictured below this paragraph) I initially painted the entire side in aqua green. Then I used the floral stencil and created a plant background using light blue paint on one side and light green paint on the other. I downloaded a graphic that depicted a close-up of Souseiseki and Suiseiseki from the Internet. I traced the graphic on tracing paper then I took what I drew on the tracing paper and I traced it again on the bag using graphite paper. I painted the twins in acrylic paint then sealed the entire job with varnish.
For the other side (pictured below) I initially divided the entire side into two sections. I painted one section light blue and the other section light green. Then I used the floral stencil and added plants in aqua green over the lower two-thirds of the side. I downloaded a graphic that showed a faraway shot of the twins. Not only did it show the full outfits the twins wear but also showed them brandishing their gardening tools (Suiseseki’s watering can and Souseiseki’s gardening shears). I traced the graphic on tracing paper then I took what I drew on the tracing paper and I traced it again on the bag using graphite paper. I painted the twins in acrylic paint then sealed the entire job with varnish.
I’m going to submit it to the Art Show at Katsucon tomorrow. I purchased a special display frame to protect the tote bag while it’s being on display.