Hey Erica, What Have You Been Up To?

Wow, I haven’t posted here in forever! But, ’tis the CON season, and I was at Fargo CoreCon last weekend.

Erica and Brenda get horny with a priest.
Erica and Brenda get horny with a priest.
I got to wear on of my favorite outfits.
I got to wear one of my favorite outfits.
I danced with some Jack O' Lanterns (thanks for the pic Debi).
I danced with some Jack O’ Lanterns (thanks for the pic Debi).
And with Mistryl Shimmy Guard (MSG - bringing the flava!)
And with Mistryl Shimmy Guard (MSG – bringing the flava!)
There was a Furry Parade!
There was a Furry Parade!
And a marriage proposal (under duress? Darth Vader is, like, right there).
And a marriage proposal (under duress? Darth Vader is, like, right there).
Spiderman and Spider Gwen made it all the way from San Diego
Spiderman and Spider Gwen made it all the way from San Diego
And then this thing happened
And then this thing happened
But was defeated by this thing
But was defeated by this thing
And there was some comedy
And there was some comedy
And then we all had a nice nap.
And then we all had a nice nap.

Also Voltaire was there, which was really cool but I didn’t get any good pics. Same with Christopher Mihm, who did some great panels. Love his movies. The end. See y’all at CONvergence!

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Enrolling in Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School

Bender !Flames!, or at least part of him
Bender !Flames!, or at least part of him

I am an art school dropout, and I have not sketched anything other than accessory patterns for literally years. There is a reason I concentrated on photography! But last night I attended the Fargo branch of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School, with guest model Bender !Flames! and I really enjoyed stretching my brain muscles a little. My first few sketches were crap, but I got better after I warmed up a bit. It’s still not great, especially compared to some of the awesomeness that was on display, but I feel better about my mental workout the next day. If you enjoy drawing or even wire art (as one original young man did last night) I’d encourage you to check it out in your area. There are at least 100 branches throughout the world! Dr. Sketchy’s new Fargo home is at the Beefsteak Club. The next session will be Dec. 12.

Words of Wisdom from the Birthday Girl

It's MY Day!
It’s MY Day!

Today is my 40th birthday, so to mark the occasion I will share some things, in no particular order, that I have learned over my last 4 decades on this planet. There’s a lot here, but I guess that just shows I was paying attention (maybe).

  1. Being an adult is not standardized. At 16 you can drive a car and get a job. At 18 you can vote, get married and join the military. At 21 you can drink alcohol. You can’t rent a car until you are 25 though. And you can’t run for President until you are 35. When do you become an “adult?” I know a lot of immature people who have kids and jobs so that doesn’t always cut it. My personal definition is “when you make your best effort to be responsible for the choices you have made.” But it’s all a matter of opinion.
  2. Don’t take on more responsibilities than you are comfortable with. Learn to say “no.” There is not enough time to do everything you want to, so if you try to do it all it will be half-assed.
  3. There are no “adults,” we’re all just faking it. The older you get, the better you are at faking it.
  4. People are complicated. I know Democrats who love their guns, Republicans who march in Pride parades and Atheists who are open-minded about spirituality. When they say that stereotypes are there for a reason they are right; it’s because many people are lazy and don’t want to have to think too hard about how complex human beings are.
  5. Gender doesn’t mean much, and it is damaging to everyone to try to force roles on people. Men take care of kids, women bring home the bacon. Some people are both men and women, some identify as neither. We all love who we love. If you don’t like it then it is probably a reflection of the gender role you have been forced into. It’s a tough thing to shake. I have a hard time letting old ideas go too.
  6. Nobody is 100% good or 100% bad. JFK was a great champion of civil rights. He was also a terrible husband. Even Dick Cheney likes puppies. You don’t have to excuse bad behavior, and you don’t deserve a cookie for being a decent human being. This is one of the hardest ideas I have had to accept because it requires some complex emotions and a lot of serenity to be able to digest.
  7. Have you ever made a mistake in your life? Maybe a really, really big, embarrassing mistake? Yeah? So maybe don’t be so hard on other people then. Don’t be too hard on yourself, either.
  8. Don’t be a dick.
  9. The best time to buy a used car is October. It is the end of the fiscal year for the government and that’s when they swap out their fleet vehicles. You can get a well-maintained late-model car for less because it has high mileage.
  10. Buy whole life insurance if you can afford it. People who tell you to eschew whole in favor of term life are just after your money. It’s the difference between buying and renting. You can cash in your whole life when you retire. Term goes away the minute you stop paying into it.
  11. Make a will. Everybody dies and not everyone is lucky enough to be old when it happens. Make things easier on your next of kin by having your affairs in order. Make sure this includes a living will. You can get cheap software to help you and your bank will probably notarize it for free. Make sure your executor has a copy or knows where to find it. Besides, it can be fun to think about who you would bequeath your prized possessions to. It’s like a birthday on opposite day.
  12. There are worse things than dying.
  13. Be involved in your community. By “community” I mean a group of people you share an interest or mission with. I am part of the nerd community, the belly dance community and the burlesque community. It is very rewarding to be able to share these loves with other people.
  14. Share your knowledge. Isn’t it great to be able to look up anything on the internet for free? Think about contributing to that, to being a part of a wonderful resource for others.
  15.  My tech theatre methods instructor in college told our class that if you believe what you do is art, then it is art, and don’t let anyone else tell you different. Word.
  16.  Recycle for the money, not the environment. People roll their eyes when you bring up the moral or ethical reasons for recycling. Here’s the practical reason: Taxes. If we don’t recycle, the landfill gets full faster. Then our municipality has to either buy more land or spend money to send our trash somewhere else. Our tax money. If we all recycle we not only lessen the tax burden, but the city sells our recyc, generating revenue that further reduces what we have to pay for solid waste disposal. So put that in your bin and recycle it.
  17.  There are rarely simple answers to complex problems. Violence, health care, civil rights, social inequality: these are all problems that have been decades, even centuries (millennia?) in the making. If someone presents an answer to these problems that is a paragraph or less, they probably haven’t thought it through that carefully.
  18.  You did not get to where you are today by yourself. We all live in a society, not a vacuum. If you are successful it is because someone gave you a job or bought your product. Somebody else gave birth to you and changed your diapers, educated you and fed you. Be grateful for what you have and remember to help others as you have been helped. If your life is crap right now, help others anyway if you are able. You can never have too many friends.
  19.  Don’t feel guilty about asking for help or being a burden. Someone else will need to lean on you someday.
  20. Try Yoga.

So friends, that is the best I have to offer after 40 years. Maybe the next time a base-ten number rolls around I will have more wisdom to impart. If you have anything to add please do so in the comments. But if you do please remember #8.

CONvergence 2012 Highlights

Finn and Jake meet Fionna and Cake!

What a busy month! Kicking things off for July we went to CONvergence 2012 in Bloomington, MN. Super fun as always! In the above picture Finn (don’t know this guy, but he was a good sport) and me as Fionna from Adventure Time. This turned out to be a surprisingly popular costume as I had several people ask to take my picture and also ask me “what time is it?” Also, while I was walking back to the CON from the DQ across the parking lot I heard some guy yelling “Finn! I love you Finn!” and I realized he was yelling to me! I think that was a first. Since I talk about crafts and costumes on this blog, here’s my costume breakdown: Shorts, tights and shirt are all from JCPenney; hat from Etsy.com (I had to add some wires because the ears were too floppy, and sewed in blond doll hair because my hair is dark red/brown); shoes are Sketchers; Backpack and Cake made by me. It was really challenging making a round backpack, but I found that if I approach it like I would sew the shoulder of a sleeve it really helped a lot. Cake is one of my best creations. She’s just a huge feltie. I’ve had some practice with these, and I fashioned her from a picture I found online. I have to say though, I like how this guy made his Jake, because it was a lot less bulky and hot, I’m sure.

So on the subject of costumes, while at the CON I purchased a new corset, hat and sparkly scarf and wore it all on Saturday. This did not culminate in the costume I anticipated due to a very thick crocheted top and a large, yummy meal at India Palace on Saturday. So, what am I? Futuristic saloon girl? I don’t know. The skirt is from a thrift store and the boots by Lane Bryant.

Uncategorizable

I think we managed to get into almost all of the party rooms.

Par-tay!

Friday I think our big highlight was making it to the Jews In Space party room in time for the Shabbat blessing and matzo ball soup. Good stuff. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of Optimus Prime wearing his tallit. We also really enjoyed the Ochaya tea room, partly because it was comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, but also largely because we like to say that Paul has the T-virus.

The Ochaya

We also went to the Worship The Goddess room so that Paul could worship me, of course. We met a satyr there. He was cheeky.

Worship the Goddess
Cheeky Satyr

The Ghostbusters 911 room was pretty impressive with all of their gear, although I don’t remember the uniforms being this sexy.

Gonna bust some sexy ghosts!
Vigo and Paul

And of course we couldn’t miss the Burlesque show at Stand Up Records! They even had Boylesque by the Goblin Prince.

Jessica Rabbit
The Goblin Prince gets ready for the ball

My favorite of course would be Smiling Lune bellydance. Hourly shows all night Friday and Saturday!

Not your mama’s bellydance!

There were loads of fun costumes too:

Cap and the chorus girls
The Tardis
Dancing Robot
The two Moiras – they didn’t even know each other but showed up to the American Horror Story panel!
Jawa and Sandperson doing Yoga

And toward the end we all sort of felt like this guy:

Too much partying

So a fun time was had by all, and we can’t wait until next year, when the theme is the British Invasion. I’ll have to come up with a really good costume in my spare time.

BONUS – Test your geek cred:

  • Who is Optimus Prime?
  • What is the T-Virus in reference to?
  • What is a Tardis?

If you know the answers to these questions you should go to the CON next year. If you don’t, you should also go to the CON next year because it’s super fun anyway!

 

CoreCon 2012: Hosting a Con Suite

Boy howdy, have we ever been busy lately! Too busy to blog, apparently, but I will start making up for that now.

Karen with Jezebel and the Whore of Babylon
Karen with Jezebel and the Whore of Babylon

CoreCon 2012 was the second year of the KEEP con suite. If you are unfamiliar with fan conventions a con suite (or hospitality or party suite) is basically a party room, usually with a theme, that is open to the attendees of the convention. It may be hosted by the convention itself, or by fans who just want to throw a party.

The KEEP consists of Karen, Eric, Erica (me), and Paul. This year, in following with the apocalypse theme, we decorated sort of like a fallout shelter/ossuary for the general room layout. Friday was “Puppets of the Apocalypse,” which included a puppet stage and 3 different puppet shows, each running twice. Saturday was “Doomsday Cinema.” If you are considering running a con/hospitality/party suite here are some things to think about, and how we dealt with them:

The KEEP
The KEEP

Decoration: We used Scene Setters wall coverings this year, which we attached to the wall with blue painters’ tape. We also had a gas mask and warning posters for that special extra touch. That part was not too complicated or expensive.
When planning for decorations consider how you will attach them to the walls. Do not use anything that will damage wallpaper or leave holes in the walls or ceiling. You are liable for any damages. Also, be aware of any impediments like smoke alarms, a/c unit, pictures that won’t come off the wall. You can’t cover smoke detectors or sprinklers.

Activities/Entertainment: Friday night was the puppet show, which also sort of falls under the “decor” category. We were able to borrow a puppet stage from the library, used a backdrop stand to help support it and hung up muslin left over from last year’s circus tent theme as a curtain. Saturday night we removed the puppet stage and set up a movie screen in its place, running apocalypse-themed films.
When planning for activities and entertainment think about if this is something you would like to see or do yourself, and if it would keep you in the room.

Refreshments: We had Kool-Aid, candy, and homemade cookies.
When planning for food and drink consider what is practical and if you have the necessary facilities to pull it off. You will probably be lucky to get a mini fridge and microwave in the room. You may not be allowed to have hot plates. Find out ahead of time. Typically plan to have a serving for every expected attendee of the convention. Yep, that’s a lot. Some people will not show up, and others may take seconds. It should even out. Chocolate goes fast.

New things we learned this year:

  • People love puppets. I was really surprised to find we had a full house for all six shows. Rock on.
  • People are less interested in homemade cookies than we expected. We thought we’d be bribing people with the cookies in hopes they would stay for the show. It was the other way around.
The cast of KDINO
The cast of KDINO

We did a panel at CoreCon 2012 on this subject, and I would like to say a big THANKS to Karen for writing the outline, and to House, Carrie and Kim for contributing. The following comes from that panel.

Top tips for preparation:

  • Plan way ahead.
  • Decide on your theme.
  • Find out what kind of space you are working with (talk to the con chair) and what is available – chairs, tables, etc. See if you can get room dimensions.
  • Find out what the Con expects/requires from you.
  • Determine who you can actually count on to help before, during and after the con. Plan for breaks for everyone involved.
  • Figure out your budget. If it will be extravagant consider spreading the cost out over the course of many months.
  • Look at all of your resources. What do you have around your home or work that already fits into your theme? Do any members of your group have talents for sewing, designing, building, etc that you can use?
  • Determine how you will transport and store decorations and props, before and after the con. Will it fit through the door?
  • Decide if you will have commerce (selling stuff) in your room. At some cons this is prohibited, and there may be tax codes or health codes to deal with. I am personally biased against commerce because I think of it as a party for your 500 closest friends, not a business opportunity. That being said, if you are selling something akin to a meal, I can’t really fault you for wanting to cover some of your expenses. Use your best judgement.
  • Decide if you will have alcohol. YOU CANNOT CHARGE FOR ALCOHOL. And I wouldn’t recommend selling cups and then “giving away” the alcohol. You, not the con, are responsible for checking IDs and badges so be prepared for that. Giving alcohol to a minor is a big deal. Plus it is expensive. But it is also a party and will get more traffic in your room, so choose wisely.
  • Test all recipes ahead of time.
  • If possible, practice set up and tear down, and a run-through of any activities.
  • Design an ad and fliers.
  • Consider drawings or prizes.
  • Consider a tip jar. You won’t make your money back, but it’s worth a shot.
  • Make a checklist of every single little thing you will need, like remote controls, batteries, lights, napkins, cups, serving utensils, doorstop, etc.
  • Make sure you know the check-in and check-out times of the hotel.

Top tips at the con:

  • Get in as early as possible.
  • Be aware of badges. Non con-goers should not be in your room. Check all IDs if you have alcohol.
  • If you have food and drink consider getting self-adhesive painter’s plastic for the floor. It has paid for itself in our suite for sure! As I said earlier, you are liable for any damages to the room. We bought ours at Lowe’s, but I can’t find it on the web site. It’s in the flooring section.
  • Make sure to schedule breaks for everyone involved so you don’t miss the rest of the con, and you can check out all the other excellent suites!
  • Get a contact for security in case you have any trouble, and do it BEFORE you open up the room.

On a personal note:

  • Don’t take it personally if you don’t get much traffic. Some days are good, some aren’t.  Maybe nobody was in the mood, or another suite stole your thunder. It happens.
  • Taking into account the above, do this for yourself first and foremost. If nobody else shows up at least you will have fun.
  • Be realistic about how much time you actually have to dedicate to this project, both before and during the con. When we started out with the puppet show idea we were talking about doing a different show every half-hour all night. Eventually we got real and only did hourly shows that lasted about 5-6 minutes. Don’t burn yourself out.
  • As I said earlier, this is not a money making venture. We figured we spent around $700 amongst the four of us over the course of the year leading up to CoreCon 2012. Much of that expense was for things that we would have bought eventually anyway (portable movie screen, for instance). We had to pay for the room, decorations, food and drink. We also have a lot of puppets left over that we may never use again, and we had a prize drawing each night Friday and Saturday. We got $6 in tips. You do NOT have to spend a crapload of money on a suite! You just have to get creative.

Even though it was a lot of work we had a blast this year, and we won second place for our suite! That means we get a full-page ad in next year’s program! Now we have to figure out how to top this year’s success in 2013. I’m sure we’ll sort something out in our spare time.

Fionna and her Furry Friends
Fionna and her Furry Friends

Props to Puppets by Margie for our custom-made puppets! If you have any questions or suggestions please put them in the comments.

Elevensies

I was recently tagged by Karifur for the Elevensies meme. So in keeping with my Spare Time theme, I’m going to give you eleven spare time adventures I have tried:

1. Bellydancing! See here, here and here. Thank you Roxanne Gritt for the pic of my latest performance!

Enchanting Erica performing with Bad Weather Burlesque at the Erotic Art Show. Hosted by the Red Raven.

2. Sewing – I constructed the coin bra and harem pants in the above pic.

3. Photography. I don’t get a chance to do this as much anymore. I miss it a lot, but I only have so much spare time! Check it out here. NSFW!!!

Heavenly!

4. Scrapbooking.

5. Soapmaking. I had to give this one up, so I buy hand-made soap on Etsy.com.

6. Papermaking – that was particularly short-lived.

7. I went back to MSUM and took art classes several years ago. I prefer photography.

8. NaNoWriMo – I have completed two novels and given up on two novels.

9. Collecting art by local artists.

10. Travel – this also combines with photography, but I have a separate web site for travel.

Paul and Erica, Seville, Spain, 2011

11. Fused glass – Actually, I start that in earnest next month. Wish me luck!

Bonus twelvsie: BLOGGING! Sure, you’ve read this blog, and my dance blog, but did you know I also blog about less than truckload freight transportation? It’s a gripping read.

And now for Kari’s bonus questions:

1. In retrospect, what hair and/or fashion trend do you most regret following? Was it caught on film? Neon. It was the 80’s, and I only bought one shirt. My dad probably has a picture somewhere.
2. What is the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten? Did you like it? Probably beef tongue. Good flavor but the texture was hard to get used to.
3. What would YOU do for a Klondike bar? Not much.
4. Whistling: awesome or annoying? Annoying
5. Rock climbing, deep-sea diving, or spelunking? Rock climbing, if the rock was not taller than me.
6. Blanket Forts or Snow Forts? Explain. Blanket fort – I live in ND!
7. Who would play you in the Lifetime TV Movie of your life? Monica Bellucci, because then my husband would totally watch it.
8. Would you rather have a TARDIS or a time machine made out of DeLorean? (If you had to click either of these links, go to the back of the class) Tardis
9. Can you drive a stick shift without dropping the transmission on the road en-route? Yes!
10. Which movie do you most wish you could un-see? Battlefield Earth
11. DisneyWorld/DisneyLand: Magic Kingdom or Overrated? We went to Disney World for our honeymoon. It rained a lot. Epcot was fun. The lines are too long for rides, which over too fast.

So now you know a bit more about little ol’ me. Coming soon: How I made that coin bra! To be published when I get some more spare time.

Zombie Felties Update

Zombie Pirate rises from his adorable coffin
Zombie Pirate rises from his adorable coffin

It’s that time of year again, and I’ve been sewing up an adorable army of the undead. Last year I reviewed the book Zombie Felties and made the Classic Zombie. That pattern had a difficulty rating of 2 skulls. This year I made a Pirate Zombie (pictured above) at a rating of 3 skulls, and the Zombie Kitty at a rating of 1 skull.

Zombie Pirate and Book
Zombie Pirate and Book

I actually felt that the Pirate was a bit easier to construct than the Classic. I concede that may be because I had a little more experience in making them at that point, but I also noticed there were fewer beads involved in the Pirate’s construction, and I think all the little bandages on the Classic made it a little fussier. I did not have the right size red bead for the Pirate’s eye, but I did have on hand some red sequins and a red seed bead. I’m pretty happy with the results. That was my only real substitution, apart from the hook, which is just a piece of bent wire. Super easy.

The Kitty was appropriately 1 skull because it was very easy to put together. The photo in the book does not reflect this, but there is a drawing on the following page that depicts the eyeball collar decoration as being bloodshot. I used a fine-point sharpie to add the red squiggles to the white bead. I did not use pale green felt as directed in the book, because I couldn’t find any. I think the gray works just fine.

Zombie Kitty
Zombie Kitty

Speaking of the actual felt material, there is one consistent piece of advice I would give for making any of these: try to find eco felt. It is made from recycled plastic bottles and it is more firm than regular felt. I wouldn’t use it for anything really cuddly, but for decorative purposes it makes life a lot easier. The Zombie Felties projects involve lots of teeny-tiny pieces of fabric, and with lots of handling the felt can start to come apart. Eco felt will not fall apart when cut into tiny pieces.

Since it is nearly Halloween I expect my next project will be a costume. I hope I can find some spare time!