Fall is here. Now to figure out a costume.

17 10 2009



Hard-knock life

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The weekend before this current one, I went with coworkers to a corn maze in North Georgia. We had to go through and find the photos of pumpkins. If we matched all the pictures to the pictures on the cards we were given at the start, indicated by writing down the name of the pumpkin, we could get ice cream at the end. The maze itself was easily exited, but we did have to go through and find the things. And, you know, get into the fall spirit. Another thing we did was take pictures of kittens and cats a-go-go, such as the one in the photo. The kittens were very tiny and the mother had an eye problem. Still cute.

We also saw some falls for the fall in the Tallulah Gorge state park. I read that it was at one point a top tourist attraction in the South. The visitor center was nice, as was the view and the nice almost-changed leaf-peeping experience. We didn’t find much to eat, however, and went back to the ATL to fill our famished bellies, exhausted from climbing all those freaking stairs down to see the suspension bridge and the water.

Now I’m mulling my Halloween plans (more travel? I must be nutzy) and what I’m going to costume myself as. I posted a bunch of themes on Facebook and have even more now: some kind of two-party political thing with donkey and elephant parts, Mod Squad, Clockwork Orange, lolcat, fairy with giant wins, tooth fairy, The Economy, modernist art, postmodernism, a hippie, Michael jackson, Kanye West, Balloon Girl, Internet Meme-a-palooza (crasher squirrel, Kanye, lolcats, you name it), a computer, an iPhone, a Google phone, the Twitter bird, a fail whale, a scrabble board, a keyboard, a social network, something from Alice in Wonderland, omg I don’t even know what I could be. Mom even suggested the Mona Lisa and I was intrigued at what could be done with that. There is no limit to my imagination, only to my artistic abilities and wherewithal.





What I did in London: Impressions of an American Werewolf

17 10 2009



25 points

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I’m going to tick someone off, and rightly so, but my recent taste of the UK gave me the impression that London is just like a city in the United States, but maybe a little wackier and a little hipper. Am I wrong? Then again, the UK has yielded things like Are You Being Served?, much of PBS programming in general, Monty Python, Mr. Bean and Thomas the Tank Engine (and Ringo Starr). Paris, on the other hand, can claim Babar and Madeleine. That should give you an idea of my experience.

I arrived on a Eurostar a few days into my trip across the pond and for the most part I was thoroughly relieved to be around people who in theory speak the same language as me. Mind you, all that “Feeling peckish?” and “lift” and “Mind the Gap” stuff was a constant reminder that I was no longer in Kansas, but things were familiar enough that I was OK with being so far from “home,” wherever that might be nowadays.

As I sit here in Arizona typing this post, I am a little floored at the culturedness of London. Its Tube underground, while crowded and filled with people who are walking way too fast and stressing way too much about missing trains that come every two minutes, is pretty good and pretty useful as long as you’re not handicapped. The whole city is pretty and cultured. The food is tasty. There are literally things to do and see around every corner. There aren’t so many skyscrapers and it’s not nearly so urbane as New York, but it is very hip and the open-air markets are a nice change. A lot of my impressions about London were wrong for the most part. The weather was nicer (still a bit chilly, but pleasantly so) and the people were all about being outdoors. It wasn’t that foggy (certainly not like San Francisco) and colorful things could be seen everywhere. The people have a delightfully wacky sense of humor and you just get the sense that culture is brimming from every chimney.

Now for the weird stuff: I got really tired of climbing stairs. Sooooo many stairs. It was really bad. There were a few escalators but in general walking around London left me hurting really bad during the trip and for about a week after. I think I’m still feeling some residual effects now that two weeks have elapsed. If you wanted to go to the restroom you had to go downstairs or upstairs (true of Paris as well) and there was just a lot of stair climbing to do.

I had a strange hotel room. Trying to find a place to stay was not easy but I found something. Coming from an odd hotel in Paris, I was sure that anything else would be normal, but I was wrong. I found a place that was safe enough, close to transit at St. Pancras and in general convenient as all hell. It even had a fresh English breakfast each morning consisting of eggs, sausage, toast, tea, juice, grilled tomato, baked beans, etc. That was a plus. But it was a strange room. I had to take the stairs to the third floor. The hallways were narrow and split by fire doors that you had to go through, and then the room itself was pretty small. The bathroom was elevated up onto a platform. My sink had separate hot and cold faucets so that your hands would never be comfortable when washing. There was no phone or clock in the room, and so no wake-up call of any sort, but there was free wi-fi. Still, not too bad, I guess. Could have been worse, and it was clean. The strange hotels are part of the travel experience methinks.

Oh yeah, so what did I see? My first stop before heading to bed was Piccadilly Circus, which had glittery neon and gawdy shops and the Trocadero mall with its weirdness and its danged pay toilets. I found an awesome souvenir shop that sold killer merch; I returned the next day to buy something and the store had been closed and completely stripped of its goods. In the morning and on the next day, I visited everything you’re supposed to: Walked by the London Eye, Parliament House, Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guard, St. James’s Park, Hyde Park, the Marble Arch, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern and the Globe Theater. Bridges were everywhere and it was awesome. I took a side trip to Camden Town, which is like Atlanta’s Little Five Points on a much grander scale, and grabbed some gelato amidst the open-air markets of Notting Hill (which is sort of like Decatur, GA, on a much grander scale). Open-air markets are the thing in London. Before I left, I dropped by Turner House to pay a short visit to some of my colleagues in distant lands. To arrive at a satellite office of my workplace when so far from home was a very strange feeling. I had also browsed some neighborhoods and had Persian-Chinese fusion cuisine. Trafalgar Square was nice, as was its view of Big Ben. I liked the wacky charm of Soho and the international flavor of Chinatown. All in all, so much to see and do! I’d like to go back and see everything I missed.

It was a good trip and full of good humor and great underground art. At left is a Scrabble sign posted on a building in Notting Hill. It’s so pretty and hip in London. I want to go back and explore the UK, especially Scotland. I also want to see Ireland. So we’ll see. I also want to go to Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, EVERYWHERE. Lord help me. Thanks for reading.





What I did in Paris: In-Seine in the Membrane

17 10 2009


DSCN7210

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I departed for Paris on September 24, 2009. I arrived at 8 a.m. the next day after a layover in Philadelphia and an ensuing 8-hour flight, plus the 6-hour time change. After fumbling around for a bit at Roissypole and then crashing in Room 666 at my very strange little Parisian hotel, I was well on my way. The first night, I went all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower and looked out the window. Great view from the top.

After a good night of rest, I visited things such as Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre, the Montemartre butte and Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, the outside of the Montparnasse cemetery, parks, cafes, McDonald’s and KFC. You can buy beer everywhere, even at the fast food places, and it’s a lot cheaper than paying 4 Euros for a Coke.

I wandered around the Pompidou Centre and strolled down the cobblestone streets of the Marais and other neighborhoods. Good times. I left for London in the middle on the Eurostar and returned to spend one more night. Unfortunately, the Catacombs appeared to be closed due to vandalism.

The Metro was my primary form of transit and it did me right except when I really needed it to be on time; and it was during these times it screwed me over.

My last night I had a weird hotel that had slanty walls but was otherwise pretty nice, so I could forgive the strangeness. On the way out, as I said, I had some Metro and RER issues that resulted in my almost missing my flight to Philadelphia. But I made it, and here I am.

People say the French people are mean and whatever, but I found them to be more helpful and less crazy than the British. My biggest gripe was with the high cost of beverages and things in general. The Euro is very strong, and a four-Euro cola comes out to about six bucks. It’s like the whole region of Europe is one giant ballpark when it comes to buying a beverage. I guess a small “price to pay” if you will, for a nice trip and a “Seine” of good things to come with international travel.





Dragon*Con redux: Part Deux: The Recap

9 09 2009
 


Thriller creep

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

So just a few days ago, I made my third expedition into Dragon*Con. As usual I was overwhelmed by the schedule, the possibilities and my own physical limitations. It is difficult to stand up for hours and wander around. Heaven forbid that you are wearing a sweaty Klingon outfit and carrying a bunch of memorabilia around. I’d hope these folks have a hotel room that they can retire to.

The impression that I get is the 2009 event was the largest ever. It was super-crowded. We got to do a few things and it was fun, but we had to fight a little and be smart about it. No doubt, the fact that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were making appearances must have drawn in the crowds by the thousands. It was, by all accounts, a magical exchange. I was at work, but I was there in spirit. Now, if only I cared about all these newfangled shows the kids are watching. Im an old-school Trek and TNG fangirl. Buffy, Babylon and Battlestar don’t really do it for me. And the new Star Trek movie? I have to admit, it was a bit of an affront.

I managed to get myself up for the parade (my second year doing this) and enjoyed it, although it was much harder to see than last year. After that, we objectified ourselves by looking at wings, masks, corsets, bellydancing suits and other geeky and nerdy thingamajigs. It was good because one of our non-Con-membership-$$$ friends was able to sneak in with us and buy some things, thus helping the tourist E-Con-omy — someone who otherwise wouldn’t go. That’s how we justified it; I think it’s just like how BART overcharges for travel to SFO airport — because tourist dollars are sought after more than resident dollars. When the Patrick Stewart line had gone through (our mouths were agape at the fact that it stretched through the Marriott and into Peachtree Center mall), I asked the ushers if I could get inside and we lucked out. Captain Picard was on fire, exchanging hot remarks with the Trek Trak show hosts with the sharp, barbed wit of a bald, Shakespearean science fiction actor. We sought coffee and were immediately besieged by geeks with cameras and horrible pickup lines. 

After that, we marched around some of the show areas where art is on display and went to see a concert by Abney Park that was right in the middle of the Hyatt ballrooms. The fire marshall was literally pacing back and forth like Darth Vader, and his D*C minions were adamant that people were to “keep moving” and not linger in the area around the concert. Clearly the demand exceeded supply. I don’t know why the fire marshall didn’t don a villainous constume, because it would have befitted his cretinous ways. I was tired at that point and could hardly see what was going on because the crowd of ewoks and other ridiculousness had gotten thick. I heard some clapping and cheering going on. Turns out, there was a marriage proposal during the concert. Too bad I couldn’t hear. But, congratulations to the lucky couple. We had run into a coworker who was working on a video piece about love and romance at Dragon*Con (not as much of an oxymoron as it seems) and we let him know about this as well.

The rest of the time around then is a little fuzzy. At a later point we were wandering around the art show. And at still another point, we attended a panel discussion by some people who worked at Battlestar Galactica (but were not key players like writers or actors). In the words of a friend, they “towed the company line” in regards to fans’ questions and disappointment about the series ending. I didn’t know what they were all talking about, but I enjoyed getting this sense of the kinds of reactions fans get to work that people put out, as well as a way NOT to act when receiving criticism and affection from devoted followers. It was enlightening nonetheless. I also remember we tried to sneak into the Leonard Nimoy panel just as we did with Patrick Stewart only to find that it was canceled. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to wait in line to find out.

And then, sometime later in the evening, we went to go get some food and had some geeky conversations, and then we attended a panel on skepticism (a bit baffling to me coming from a crowd of folks dressed in Spandex alien suits), followed up by a “filk” concert by Tom Smith. I always forget what filk is, but it’s basically a geeky version of folk music. The music guests that I saw were a lot better last year. Voltaire and folk duo Paul and Storm were there. I know the latter joined the likes of Jonathan Coulton and Wil Wheaton at Penny Arcade Expo this year. Hey, I can’t blame them for wanting to go to Seattle. In fact, I’m thinking if I do a Con again, I might seek out a change of pace by heading out West instead of looking outside my back door.

After that, or maybe before that, my memory fails me, we had some time to kill and went in search of amusement. We found it in a tiny, dark room showing bizarre films. We watched the last act of “Black Sheep,” an apparently foreign film (Australian? I’m going to get myself in trouble here…) about evil mutant sheep that attack humans and try to turn them into additional members of their kind. Yes, I said evil mutant sheep. The film is a hoot. After that, we saw the beginning of a horrible movie about lesbian vampires. Meh. It was kind of entertaining, though.

We closed out the night with a rousing concert by Cruxshadows, a funhouse-mirror reflection of Depeche Mode; I would describe it as the band’s brooding, younger, goth-ier brother — the one who cuts himself for attention. No, but Cruxshadows rocked the carpeted ballroom floors in stylish fashion. The band isn’t all that well-known, so they were hungry to bond with fans. That made this a great show. The lead singer dude came into the audience right in front of us on a couple of occasions, standing on a chair in one instance and doing some sort of a dance in another. And then at the end, everyone jumped up on stage and the singer picked up a young child that had been sitting on someone’s shoulders (!) much to the crowd’s excitement. Everyone was singing along and it was awesome.

That was the conclusion of day one. Day 2 found me sleeping in, going to a brunch at Straits in midtown, venturing out to the Decatur Book Festival, and then heading back intown just in time to join the world’s largest thriller dance. It was chaos when I got there and I almost didn’t get to dance. They were only going to let the first 1,000 go in, and they weren’t giving out any more ribbons. I was lucky that someone in the gift shop heard my pleas for a ribbon and mentioned that her pelvis hurt too much (or something along that line) and soon I found myself with three ribbons in the 400 group. And thus I had admission for my friends as well. It was a good time. The way I see it, the count is MORE accurate this way, even if it’s not the same person.

The dancers included a giant Michael Jackson single shiny glove, Cookie Monster in an orange jacket, storm troopers, zombie Elvis and some other colorful folks. It was a good time. The dance was more involved than I thought. I tried to recreate it for my coworkers the next day when we went wading in a fountain near the office, but was not very successful. That MJ. So talented was he. And such a great zombie.

And then more dinner and talking and a little more gawking and soon I was back at home, celebrating and mourning the end of my Con experience at the same time. Maybe next year I’ll go to PAX in Seattle for a change of scenery. Maybe not. I’m certain that there’s something magical about Dragon*Con and I hope it stays that way.





Sunday schedule

25 07 2009

I’m planning my schedule RIGHT NOW on the Internet access enabled plane ride over. My belly is full of pretzels, cookies (yes, pretzels and cookies), and cherry Coke (yes, Cherry Coke, on a plane, with refills) and I’m in the right frame of mind. Saturday is up in the air. I don’t have a ticket, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to stop me. 🙂

Sunday, I do have a ticket. It’s a short day, so we have to make it count.

Subject to change at any time, below are the programs that I’m eyeing to attend. Of course it won’t be possible to attend them all, but I think I’ll get a well-rounded day.

10:00 a.m.: Tie between Comic-Con film school (postproduction) and the Dr. Who panel. Also Phineas & Ferb.

11:00 a.m.: Lots of great stuff including Women of Marvel, American Dad and Emily the Strange. Also some cartoon voices.

11:30 a.m.: Newspaper editorial cartoonists. I’d love to go to this, but don’t think I”ll make it.

Noon: Random stuff. Good time for lunch.

12:30: Scooby Doo

12:45: Marvel video games? Some recognizable names on that one…

1:00: Ghost Whisperer stars panel will have a few big-shots. Expecting hard time getting in.

1:00 alternate: Comics in Museums

2:00: Future of HP *or* BBC America (Being Human/Torchwood)

2:30: Ethnographic analysis of Comic-Con attendees

3:00: Starship Smackdown

3:30: 501st costuming

4:00: Buffy the Musical





Working in the middle of a tourist attraction

18 04 2009
 


Order like an Egyptian

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

You never know what you’re going to run into in the CNN Center since it’s such a popular stop whenever a big event comes to town. People stop by to eat, to chat and to grab a cup of overpriced Joe.

The junior robot builders competition is always a real treat because the participants wear festive costumes to identify their team. This group really took it to the next level by dressing like pharaohs from Egypt. Good times.





Crazy hat

6 04 2009
  


Crazy hat

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

Walking to the park on a weekend, you always see crazy things. But I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw this guy standing outside of OutWrite, the midtown gay bookstore. A crowd congregated around him and he explained that the hat was “for a contest next door.”

My neighborhood and its Piedmont Park surroundings are so fabulous and flamboyant… for people of all kinds. And that’s what I like about it. So unexpected in the South. Makes for comfortable living, although I usually head to other neighborhoods and places to socialize because the scene ain’t always my style.





The value of civility

4 04 2009

Honor and civility have their place in this dog-eat-dog world we live in. I firmly believe that you must keep your head high no matter what, and you can’t stoop to any level. Sometimes it’s hard to live up to this ideal, but you have to try. Conflict is a chance for communication and greater understanding.

People on the Internet, and in many facets of society, often fail to realize that others are just like them. Some are just trolls. But in many cases, a would-be enemy can be turned into a friend.

Case in point, a few days ago, I received a heated comment on one of my flickr images expressing offense and disappointment at the title. My first urge was to retaliate. How dare he? Upon closer examination, it seemed that the person was probably reaching out (in their own way). As much as I wanted to give this person a piece of my mind, I decided to change the title and then initiate a conversation with this fellow. I think now that I have made a new friend.

This was a strangely profound experience for me, however miniscule in the scheme of things.  I wish more people would just calm down and take a second to listen to each other, and that goes for myself too. Indeed, by being understanding and assertive, we can turn enemies into friends and the opposition into allies. This is not to paint a rosy view of the world (as I am extremely well aware of the many inequities this world brings), but only to emphasize that even when it is difficult, the only way we can move forward is together.





Colors

14 02 2009
 


Colors

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a picture I took at our Sidebar outing to celebrate iReport.com’s first birthday. I think it might be one of my best architectural photos ever.





Paul and Storm!

1 09 2008

I’m just learning about Paul and Storm… good stuff. I mean, it takes a lot of brainz to realize that there are a lot of “seamen” on pirate ships.

Good show. Bacteria/disease dolls were given out (so you can “catch” syphillis) and even audio books on tape.

So they called Jonathan Coulton during the performance… based on Twitter exchanges I saw, the comedic routine may have backfired. Paul called and made a lot of jokes teasing Coulton for being at PAX (holding the phone to the Mic) and then hung up the phone mid-convo.

Dana Snyder, Master Shake’s voice, was a guest.

I also saw goth-folk-comedy artist Voltaire perform and he was just great. Plus, there was the added benefit that he didn’t really tick anybody off. He was performing at the last minute after his schedule was changed the previous night. D*C officials or hotel or some peeps deemed him a “fire hazard.”

Paul and Storm – on the phone…, originally uploaded by N-Sai.