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The U.S. team made it to the Second Stage Round of 16 only to get defeated by Belgium. It was literally a repeat of the American team’s defeat four years ago where it was finally defeated during overtime when Belgium scored two goals. The U.S. team scored one goal during overtime but Belgium won 2-1. Damn, it does sound nearly identical to what I wrote four years ago. The big difference is that I was watching that match from my own home and not during an Ocean City vacation.
I remember writing about how I had lost interest in the World Cup and the only silver lining is that I would no longer have to hear those horrible vuvuzelas that people brought inside the stadiums in South Africa. I remember when my then-husband read that entry online after I had posted it and he laughed and suddenly blurted out “That’s what YOU think!” When I wrote that other entry, I forgot that my husband was so soccer-mad that he would watch games when the U.S. teams weren’t playing (while frequently chiding me by saying “You have no appreciation for the beautiful game!”). Sure enough, I heard more of those vuvuzelas as my husband watched the 2010 World Cup to the bitter end. I had thought about writing another entry where I said that I was wrong when I said that I would be spared those vuvuzelas but I never got around to it because I was too lazy. (Yeah, I can be lame at times. LOL!) In any case, until the day I die, I will always associate the first World Cup ever played on the African continent with this.
This year there are no vuvuzelas (it’s merciful that Brazilian culture don’t have anything as obnoxious sounding as those South African vuvuzelas) and I also no longer have a soccer-mad husband. So this year, when I’m writing that I’ve lost interest in the World Cup and I won’t be watching it anymore, I really mean it. I wish the best to whoever wins the World Cup but I don’t care who wins now that the U.S. is no longer in the tournament.
Ironically I was doing something novel during the U.S. team’s World Cup swan song. There’s a person on Flickr known as Wolfheinrich who was taking a series of photos of Volks Dollfie Dream dolls next to a TV screen showing World Cup matches, such as this one.
I decided to do something similar. Since the American team was playing, I decided to use American Girl dolls (get it?).
It was fitting that Julie Albright and Ivy Ling were chosen for that photo since, having read the Julie books, these two characters are sports-oriented. (Julie plays basketball while Ivy is into gymnastics.) At least I had the chance to take a photo like this while the U.S. team was still in the tournament.
I may be finished with watching the World Cup for this year but I’ll always have these Google Doodles to remember the U.S. team’s time in the tournament by.
U.S. vs. Ghana (June 16, 2014)
U.S. vs. Germany (June 26, 2014)
U.S. vs. Belgium (July 1, 2014)
Since today is Memorial Day, I’d thought I’d devote an entry to something that was made right here in the United States of America.
For many decades (starting in the late 1970’s but it intensified with the election of Ronald Reagan and has been going non-stop ever since) more and more jobs have been shipped overseas. The vast majority of them have been manufacturing jobs and they have been shipped mostly to China (although some jobs have also gone to Mexico, Bangladesh, and Vietnam). Ever wonder what it’s like to have something that’s made in the United States of America? Well I’m going to provide just one example.
As most people know, most dolls and doll clothes are made in China these days. I happened to have a doll outfit that was not only made in the U.S. but it was also handmade as well. Here’s some background.
Back in May, 2005, when I was still married, my husband was going to a conference near Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. I normally didn’t tag along with him on his business trips but he decided to be really nice to me by letting me go with him on that trip. In addition some members of his family were visiting his sister (who, at the time, was living in an apartment in a small town located an hour’s drive north of Philadelphia) so he figured that it would be more convenient for me to tag along on his business trip in Valley Forge for a couple of days then drive further north to his sister’s town. I was basically on my own during the day while he was in meetings but we ate together every night during our stay there. After spending a couple of days near Valley Forge, we went further north to visit his sister and her son (who was making final preparations for his high school prom at that time) while also visiting with my husband’s mother and step-father (who had flown from Phoenix and were staying with my sister-in-law). We had originally planned on going to Valley Forge together for a few hours before driving to his sister’s place but it rained that day so we had to skip it and just drive to her home straight from the hotel.
During the Valley Forge leg of the trip, when my husband was in one of his conference meetings, I decided to drive to Lancaster County. I ate at this wonderful restaurant in Smoketown called Good and Plenty, which featured Amish and Mennonite cuisine. After finishing my meal, I visited the restaurant’s gift shop where I found this handmade doll outfit that was made by a local Amish woman and it was made to fit an 18-inch Cabbage Patch doll. At the time I was looking for clothes for my Volks Dollfie Dream, which can be so hard to find that I had to resort to sewing my own clothes. Even though my Dollfie Dream is 22-inches tall, the outfit looked baggy enough that I thought it might work so I bought it.
When I got home from Pennsylvania, I tried it on my Volks Dollfie Dream and took a few photos.
Even though, at 22 inches, she’s taller than a Cabbage Patch doll, her body is much slimmer so the outfit hangs a bit loose on her. She still looks cute in it. I took a couple of outdoor shots and those photos reminded me of those Holly Hobbie dolls that were very popular back in the 1970’s.
I took one side shot but it made my Dollfie Dream look like she’s six months pregnant from that angle.
After I took those photos in 2005, I basically packed that outfit away. In late 2011 I got myself my first and, so far, my only American Girl doll. Recently, while I was doing some spring cleaning, I came across that Amish outfit that I originally purchased for my Volks Dollfie dream. The outfit was made for an 18-inch Cabbage Patch doll while my American Girl doll stood at the same height yet she has a thick torso that’s much thicker than my Dollfie Dream and most of my other larger dolls. I decided to try the outfit on that doll so see how well it fits.
I found that the fit is much better on the American Girl doll than on my Dollfie Dream. She also looks incredibly cute in it.
The only downside is that her head looks like it’s swimming in her bonnet. I think it’s because the Cabbage Patch dolls tend to have over-sized heads. I think it could be easily rectified with stuffing some cotton or rags in the bonnet to make it fit better on her head. Otherwise, this outfit is a perfect fit.
Yes, I know that the outfit may look dull and plain compared to the historical outfits available from American Girl (such as this one) but you have to realize that this outfit reflects Amish culture in that Amish isn’t just a religion, it’s a total lifestyle. The Amish consider themselves to be a plain people so they eschew bright colors or fancy patterns in their clothing. Despite these limitations, I still find that the doll looks incredibly cute in it. All I know is that this outfit will be exclusively worn by this doll since she’s the only doll who can fit properly into the body. I would recommend this outfit for any American Girl doll owner who wants something a little bit different from what is sold through American Girl. (After doing a quick Internet search, I found a doll store in Lancaster County that sells Amish clothes for 18-inch dolls.)
I recently created this new piece just in time for the recent Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire and I printed out on special jigsaw puzzle cardstock which I then sold. It was one of the few sales I made that day. (I made a total of $25, which was a bit of a letdown financially even if I enjoyed working at the event.) This piece is based on a local legend known as the Goatman. I first heard of this legend years ago after I moved to my current hometown and I tend to hear more about it around Halloween.
I sold that puzzle early in the day and I regretted not making more Goatman puzzles I’m also thinking about branching my Goatman out into other forms of art that I can sell at future street festivals.
Here is how I created my Goatman. I used one of my ball-jointed dolls as a posing model while I had reference photos of goats on hand. I made a rough sketch in ink and watercolor pencil. I photocopied it, transferred it to black paper using white graphite paper, and colored it in using ink, wax crayon, and watercolor pencil.
When I was preparing for last Saturday’s Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire, I wanted to have something at my vendor table where I would draw attention to myself. I had an idea to try something and I finally decided to do it.
The below picture is a special dance pad controller that one would hook up to a console system (such as Wii, PlayStation, XBox, etc.). Using this special controller enables the user to play video games using his/her lower body instead of hands and fingers (like with the handheld controller). Some games like Dance Dance Revolution (also known as DDR) are generally better with using the dance pad controller instead of the handheld controller. Using this controller also helps the user get exercise and burn calories better than just using hands/fingers.
The only problem with the soft pad controllers is that they tend to wear out so they become unusable. Usually the user is directed to throw the dance pad in the trash. The only problem with that approach is that it ends up on a landfill with all the environmental problems that comes with it.
There is an alternative to using the soft dance pad controller. One could purchase a dance metal pad. Unlike the soft controller, the metal controller tends to hold up better and can literally last years. The downsides are that 1) unlike the soft pads, the metal pads can’t be easily folded up so it could cause a problem with people who have limited space in their homes and 2) prices for a metal pad start at $200 while soft pads start at $15 and they don’t go above $100.
So I’ve been using the soft dance pad controller for years while having fun with playing video games and getting some exercise in the process. There were times when I would throw away the latest broken dance pad and I would think that there had to be a way that these could be recycled for other uses. A couple of years ago I attended Otakon 2012 where I took a photo of this cosplayer who managed to fashion this really cool costume from an old DDR pad.
I began to think about the above photograph when my current DDR pad started to act up and stopped responding to my footsteps. In addition I had just signed up to be a vendor for the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire and I needed to make some new crafts to sell at my table. I had a eureka moment one night when I was at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts and I found this McCall’s Pattern MP322.
So I decided on an experiment where I took some scissors and cut my broken DDR dance pad apart. I found that, with a decent pair of scissors, it was easy to cut apart.
The McCall’s had patterns for a comfy chair for one doll and a loveseat for two dolls. I got ambitious and decided to work on the larger loveseat. During the construction phase I discovered that the DDR pad didn’t provide enough fabric for the loveseat. I decided to compensate by going back to Jo-Ann’s and buy quilt square fabric as well as fabric scraps from the remnant table.
Due to the use of some leftover vinyl fabric from the remnant table, the loveseat seemed plain in spots. I compensated by using fancy duct tape to provide some design and color.
For assembling the loveseat, I felt that sewing either by hand or machine would be impractical because I wasn’t sure if the DDR control pad’s slick vinyl would be too thick for a sewing needle. Instead I went to my old standby: E-6000 glue.
I used the E-6000 glue to glue the edges of the wrong sides of the fabric together then used some duct tape to clamp the edges together. Since I worked on the wrong side of the fabric, I didn’t have to worry about removing the duct tape once the glue dried.
Here is the result of my hard work.
The original pattern was designed for the popular 18 inch dolls of today such as American Girl, Springfield, Our Generation, etc. The photo below shows two 18 inch dolls—an American Girl doll and a vintage 1970’s Beautiful Crissy doll.
I found that the loveseat could fit a variety of other dolls that are slightly smaller than 18 inches. In other words, I think this loveseat is best suited for dolls from 14 inches-18 inches. Two Wilde Imagination dolls (Ellowyne Wilde and Lizette Dionne) try out the couch for themselves in the photo below.
This couch also fits Mini Super Dollfie-sized ball jointed dolls, which these two Bobobie elves prove below.
Yesterday I was visiting a friend at his home in Takoma Park, Maryland. (We are currently working on a project together that could potentially earn us some extra money on the side.) It was a very warm and sunny day. After the visit I decided to drive closer to the downtown area. I realized that it’s been a few years since I last visited the area, which didn’t make sense to me because I live relatively close to Takoma Park. Oh well, at least I got there yesterday while basking in the warm sunshine and I didn’t regret it.
What’s really wild is that just five days earlier on St. Patrick’s Day, the entire Baltimore-Washington, DC area was buried under six inches of snow.
By yesterday much of the St. Patrick’s snow had melted, as you can see in the photos I took of the downtown area.
Despite the very warm and sunny day, there are now new snowstorm forecasts for the area for next week. Nooooooooo!!!! I’m so tired of snow that it’s not even funny! :-(
During the 2008 presidential campaign an artist named Shepherd Fairey created a poster that showed a digitized red, white, and blue image of then-Senator Barack Obama (who was running for president as a Democrat) with the word “HOPE” underneath. That poster immediately became iconic and some people even credit that poster for inspiring people the to vote for the first African-American ever elected as President of the United States. It was such a simple yet inspiring image that could’ve elevated Shepherd Fairey to the rank of that rare artist who achieved a level of fame and success for creating such a memorable image.
But there was one problem. It later came out that Shepherd Fairey used a photo that was taken by a freelance Associated Press photographer named Mannie Garcia when he created his Hope poster and he did it without getting permission from either Garcia or the AP. That revelation led AP to sue Fairey for copyright infringement, which cast a pall over Fairey’s artistic reputation.
I’ve had art teachers and professional artists advise me that if I am going to use a photo to create my own drawing, painting, digital art, etc., I should base it on my own photograph that I shoot myself with my own camera. That AP-Fairey lawsuit over the Hope poster was definitely a real-life version of that lesson.
Despite that incident, there are still would-be artists who try to cut corners by creating works of art based on other people’s photos without permission of the original copyright holder.
Before I started this blog I spent the bulk of 2009 recuperating from two surgeries in late 2008 (one was a hip replacement and the other happened six weeks later when the same surgeon had to remove a blood blister that developed when my body had a reaction to a blood thinner called Arixstra that my surgeon prescribed to me after the hip replacement). During my long recuperation I learned about a scandal that erupted in both the art world and among the Asian ball-jointed doll fandom about an artist named Mijn Schatje.
Mijn Schatje was a French-Dutch artist living in Paris whose digital art received massive acclaim in the art world. Her work was sold in art galleries throughout Europe for thousands of dollars. She was interviewed in major art magazines like Juxtapoz. She did the art for an ad campaign by Sony’s European subsidiary. Basically things were riding high for her. She was getting more and more noticed by the art world for her work. She was making a living with her art. She had gained admiring fans for her work. It was no surprise that her art had gained her public attention because if you saw her art, you’d notice that there was a doll-like quality among the females depicted in her work.
There’s a reason for the doll-like art. Some people in the Asian ball-jointed doll fandom recognized some of Mijn Schatje’s art from somewhere else and began their own investigation. It turned out that there was a very close match between much of Schatje’s vector digital art and photographs of dolls that were taken by either individual doll owners or doll companies. The doll fandom accused Mijn Schatje of downloading those photos off the Internet, importing them into Adobe Illustrator, tracing over the photographs, then passing them off to art galleries as her own original art. A website was erected that documented the similarities and many doll fans began to contact galleries, websites, art publications, doll companies, and the original photographers about that discovery.
The main website that originally documented the plagiarism of Mijn Schatje isn’t online anymore but there are other sites that still have the evidence posted at the following links:
Since that scandal broke not much has been publicly mentioned about Mijn Schatje or her art. Her official site hasn’t been updated since 2009 or 2010. Her Facebook page is more up-to-date even though it looks like she only posts there once every several weeks or so. One of her Facebook posts had this message that was dated April 26, 2013.
I’m moving out to Bali, indonesia, in less than two weeks, I’ll be working in a different field for some time (french pastry/bakery!), but stay here if you dare.
It looks like her art career hasn’t quite recovered from the plagiarism accusations. Maybe she’ll have better luck in her new career working in a French pastry/bakery in Bali. At least she won’t have to worry about people hurling plagiarism charges at her for baking croissants or eclairs.
Despite the bad outcome of Mijn Schatje’s art career, there are still people who can’t resist using someone else’s photographs without permission to create their own work of art to sell to the general public. Yesterday I accidentally found a more recent example when I decided to post my same photos that I used in yesterday’s Irish Lass in the Snow entry on the Den of Angels forum (which is one of the biggest Asian ball-jointed doll fan forums on the Internet). I hadn’t been on that forum in at least two years mainly because I was dealing with both recovering from my hip revision surgery in late 2011 and my husband’s sudden walkout on me just three months later without ever telling me that he was unhappy in our marriage. (In other words, I had more important things to worry about than dolls.)
I decided to peruse the other sections of the forum until I found a thread on yet another artist who decided to plagiarized someone else’s doll photos in an attempt to make a profit. The thread started on March 5 and, as of this writing, it has gone up to 37 pages.
Apparently an artist named Matthew Christopher Nelson had started a funding campaign on Kickstarter.com in an attempt to finance the publishing of an art book full of his work. Like Mijn Schatje, someone in the Asian ball-jointed doll fandom stumbled across Nelson’s Kickstarter page and recognized some of the art from photos that other doll fans had been posting on the Den of Angels. Like Mijn Schatje, other doll fans began their own investigation and found too many of Nelson’s pictures that bear a close resemblance to those doll fan photos. The doll fans began to organize online and, as of this writing, they have been instrumental in shutting down the Kickstarter campaign, Nolan’s deviantART account (which had featured the controversial art), and Nolan’s public Facebook page (which also featured the disputed art).
And there’s one more reason why Matthew Christopher Nelson is in the same boat that Mijn Schatje was back in 2009. Some doll fans have been posting online evidence that Nelson essentially took other people’s photos without permission from the original photographers, imported them into Adobe Photoshop, put them through a few Photoshop filters, then passed off the altered images as his own original art. Here are some links about the comparisons that feature lots of damning evidence.
It’s too early to see whether Nelson’s art career will tank just as badly as Mijn Schatje’s did. But this latest incident only drives home this lesson: If you are going to use photographs as a source material for your art, use only the photos that you took yourself from your camera. That way if someone accuses you of plagiarism or art theft, you’ll at least own the evidence that refutes that accusation.
In other words, don’t even THINK about using someone else’s photo for your art. It only takes one discovery to ruin your reputation. Of course some people will ignore the previous sentence and plagiarize anyway. That’s why sites like You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice exist and are constantly updated with new content. :-(
Since I’m pretty much snowed-in today, I decided to take a couple of quick photos outside. A Volks Dollfie Dream models a St. Patrick’s Day-themed outfit that I created myself called “Irish Lass.”
For details on how I made it, read the post that I wrote about making the Irish Lass outfit four years ago. It has been a couple of years since I last photographed this doll. I really fell into a bad funk when my marriage fell apart and I was dealing with a husband who refused to communicate with me other than to demand that I adhere to a separation schedule that existed only in my head or else he would file a lawsuit against me.
It was kind of fun photographing a doll dressed in green in the snow on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not like I can go anywhere since I heard that much of the Baltimore-Washington, DC area had pretty much shut down due to the snow. At least I have enough ingredients to fix myself a nice Irish-themed dinner tonight.
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.