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I filmed an Asian ball-jointed doll meet-up that was held during the 2007 Otakon anime convention in Baltimore, Maryland. This one produced some unwanted and unexpected drama that I’ll explain in detail below the video.

The Otakon anime convention is held every year at the Baltimore Convention Center and it happens to be one of the largest anime conventions held on the East Coast of the U.S. The convention generally atracts at least 20,000 people.

This meet-up that I filmed was held in the lobby of the 2nd floor of the Baltimore Convention Center. The only reason why I’m providing all this information up front is in order to provide some background for what happened.

I had brought along a videocamera and a still camera to one of the Otakon meet-ups and I filmed a few minutes of the doll meet-up with the videocamera before switching to the still camera for the rest of the event. While I was videotaping, I tried to focus on the array of dolls as much as possible. I only included people when I was doing a general pan of the area (to let you know how huge this meet-up was) or while I was doing a zoom-in on the dolls. I never stayed on any one person for any longer for two seconds. I tried to keep the focus on dolls since I felt they were the true stars of the video.

While I was at the meet-up, I had several people request that I upload online what I had shot with both cameras because they wanted to see how everything I shot turned out. Soon after the weekend convention ended I edited the footage. I uploaded the still photos on ImageShack while I uploaded the video on YouTube. I then provided the link to everything on the Den of Angels forum. (The meet-up was originally organized through that forum so it made sense to make my posts there.) I received all positive responses in response to what I posted and I had several people thank me for posting what I had online. I also got positive comments through YouTube as well.

So things were okay and I moved on to other things that were currently going on in my life at the time. Six weeks passed with no messages of any kind of disapproval or any kind of hostilities. During Labor Day weekend I was sitting with a laptop at an Internet cafe when I got this YouTube comment from this person claiming that I had filmed her without her permission, I had violated her privacy, and she had threatened to report me to YouTube in an effort to have my video removed.

At first I thought it was some kind of a sick joke. The video had been online for six weeks, I had publicly posted on the Den of Angels about it, I had received positive feedback, and she sent this message during Labor Day weekend. The first thing I did was to make the video private. Then I sent a PM to the person through YouTube explaining that I never intended to violate her privacy, the video had been online for six weeks, I posted to the Den of Angels about it, everyone else had given positive feedback and they were glad I had posted that video, and her comment was the first negative comment of any kind. I especially emphasized the fact that she had waited six weeks before complaining. I also said that I made the video private because I never intended to violate anyone’s privacy or humiliate them or whatever.

A couple of days later she sent this PM where she accused me of being a creepy stalker several times. She said that she’s not the only one who felt that what I did was creepy but they kept that comment to themselves because the moderators on the Den of Angels tended to discourage negative opinions. She said that, despite such discouragement of negative opinions, she felt that she had to take a stand against what I did on behalf of others who were reluctant to do so.

Had she responded in a more polite manner, calmly explained why she felt the way she did, and didn’t call me a "creepy stalker" I would have offered to have her tell me where on the video did her face show up (as you can see in the video, there were a huge turnout at the doll meet-up plus there were thousands of other people who were walking through the lobby as they were making their way to one of the many other events that were held at Otakon) and I would’ve edited out her face then re-uploaded the video.

But she called me hurtful names and hurled all sorts of accusations at me so I never made that offer to her. In fact, I was so frustrated by her hostile message that I blocked her from my YouTube account then I logged into my Den of Angels account and put her on my "Ignore" list. I just couldn’t reason with her since she came to the conclusion that what I did was creepy with the unsubtle implication that I’m a borderline stalker. (Of course any rational person reading this would conclude "If she really is a stalker, then why would she go to great lengths to block her alleged stalking target online so she would never have to hear from that alleged stalking target ever again?")

I wrote about what happened in a doll blog that I kept at the time and, soon afterwards, I received a PM through the Den of Angels forum from someone who had read my blog entry and she sent me some links that she thought would be useful to me regarding photography and privacy. I read the links (on the Krages site, the Photographers’ Guide to Privacy, and a story posted on USA Today’s website) and I found out that what I did was legal and I didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission.

That’s because I had filmed in a public area (the lobby of the 2nd floor of the Baltimore Convention Center) during a public event (the 2007 Otakon anime convention) that attracted a huge crowd of people by the thousands.

Even though I was legally correct in what I did I still kept the video private because I feared that this unhinged person would report me to YouTube and I knew that she was so sure in her misguided opinion that those links would not have changed her mind at all.

I was also bitter that this person had called me a "creepy stalker" after I told her that I had taken the video private in response to her feelings. I resented the fact that I had caved in to her after she called me hurtful names. I didn’t want her to win in the long run. I wanted to make my video public again without enduring any more trouble. There was only one thing that I could do in order to make sure that I would emerge victorious in the long run.

I waited several months until the 2007 Otakon convention receded further into the past. I wanted this person (and any other person who didn’t like what I did) to put the convention behind them. I had to wait very patiently for a long time. One day, many months later, I quietly made the video public again. I did it with zero fanfare and I didn’t even mention it in the doll blog that I was keeping at the time. I haven’t had any major incidents associated with that video since.

That meet-up was the last Asian ball-jointed doll meet-up I attended for the next few years. I was so unnevered by what happened that I was turned off from attending another one. (In 2009 I did attend a Blythe doll meet-up at a doll show that was very nice. The people there were friendly. I didn’t make any videos but I did take a few photos that you can see here.)

In fact, until this year, when I attended the 2010 Otakon, I hadn’t attended another anime convention since 2007. I attended only one Asian ball-jointed meet-up at Otakon this year and everyone was pretty pleasant to each other. (I would’ve attended a second meet-up that was scheduled for the following day but it got preempted by this massive evacuation of the Baltimore Convention Center when someone pulled the fire alarm. It turned out to be a false alarm.) I shot some photos and videos of that meet-up and uploaded them online and, as of this writing, I’ve have heard no complaints this time around. The mentally unhinged doll fan wasn’t present at that meet-up and none of the other attendees was quite as mentally unhinged as her.

So I guess the big lesson I’ve learned from my experience is that while one can meet cool and awesome people through fandoms (whether it’s dolls or baseball cards or Harry Potter or Twilight or Silly Bandz or whatever) one also has to be aware of the fact that fandoms can also attract people who aren’t completely rational and these people can sometimes hurt you. (I’m old enough to remember when John Lennon was brutally murdered by a man who claimed to be his biggest fan.) While I don’t mind attending an occasional meet-up through a fandom, I tend to prefer to choose the majority of my friends through my church and my neighborhood.

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