Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Return of SteamPunk World's Fair

Thanks to  Bubble T's dear friend, Doctor Ziff R. Zedock, Apothecary and Scribe, we were able to not only hear about the ins and outs of this years SteamPunk Worlds Fair, but were able to coax the dear Dr. into giving us his thoughts on this years event.

One of the many amazing poster's designed to advertise SteamPunk World's Fair

It's difficult to sum up the SteamPunk World’s Fair (SPWF). It's a festival steeped in Victorian aesthetic, and run by the esteemed, Jeff Mach, the very same who orchestrates the one and only, Wicked Faire. The SPWF has grown to such a size, and attracts so many different types of people, that the myriad of activities going on at any given time makes it impossible to focus on just one aspect of the overall event.  It’s quite possible (and likely) that you’ll lose yourself in all of them. Therefore, I'd expect every review of the 2012 SPWF to be different, but all of them echoing the same sentiment, "I can't wait for SPWF 2013, I need it inside me, now, and I want to have all of its gorgeous goggled babies".

2012 found the SPWF returning to the Embassy Suites and Radisson Hotels in Piscataway, NJ. If you attended the 2011 SPWF, then you'll know that the vendor situation was a complete and utter disaster, as last year's hotel insisted on following, "fire codes"-- lame regulations that prevented vendors from selling items from their rooms. Not the case this year! It is unclear if Radisson is woefully lax on safety measures, or if they're not managed by a draconian assembly of lawyers; whatever the case may be, I'm happy to report that nearly every available room on the first floor was indeed 'transformed' into some type of merchandising location; the Steampunk markets are alive and booming.

While we're on the topic of the hotel situation-- I was happy to find that this was the first year in which the SPWF properly utilized both hotels. While the Radisson has always been the 'Main' hotel, this year, The Embassy also saw a fair amount of events, including a major stage, at which Emperor Norton Stationary Marching Band played on. The only thing lacking at The Embassy was guests. While the Embassy hotel was mostly filled, Steampunkers appeared to only take up about 3/4 of the attendees; which can make for odd elevator conversations.

(Side note: If you haven’t attended a Jeff Mach event before, more often than not, the Embassy hotel often becomes the spill over hotel.  While there have been efforts to rouse interest and entertainment at the hotel, it has usually come up short and left attendees wanting.  The hotel itself is a beautiful setup that allows for fantastic photo opportunities and a number of different venues for entertainment, but Mach and Co. still seem to be in the process of figuring out how to utilize more than their one main space.)

Of all the events I've attended, the SPWF seems to consistently have the most and best organized steam activities and panels. Pushed harder this year were the concept of 'premium' tickets, which allowed the purchaser to access VIP events, such as the Goblin Market (an opportunity to meet the various performers and entertainers). I must have been the gentleman P.T. Barnum was speaking of, for not only did I pay an extra $10.00 upon early registration to attend the Goblin Market, but I showed up at 10:15pm Friday night, just in time to miss the event. Not that it mattered.  On any of the three days of the event, some 60 to 100+ scheduled    events occurred, including: panels, poetry readings, book signings, workshops, plays, burlesque, dancing, fashion shows, and all number of parties from tea to kink. 
Some of the acts and performances featured at the SPWF 2012 included: V is for Villans, Hellblinki, The Cloockwork Dolls, Dr. Dubious Lie, Wyck, Blue Beard, Eli August, The White Elephant Burlesque Society, Voltaire, Platform One, Way to Egress, and the aforementioned Emperor Norton Stationary Marching Band.  Each one has their own unique style in terms of music, presentation, and audience appeal.  EMSMB is a continual crowd favorite that kept it's audience on it's feet and dancing into the wee hours of the morning in 2011 outside of the hotel, as it was the only space to fit the band and the large group of listeners/dancers.  Frenchy and the Punk, a new and up and coming favorite both stateside and internationally, is based out of upstate New York and provide the dulcet tones of tribal and far east influence mixed in with Victorian dress and classical sounds to even out to the kind of music you expect to hear at a steampunk event.

Greetings from Emperor Justin of RFE
 It seems like every year a different group tries to assert itself as 'the' nerd-gang to hook-up with. Last year, I attended a panel where Doctor Steel made a charismatic push to have anyone attending enter into his flock.  It must have been a bad year for Doctor Steel, because this year he failed to make an appearance. Now, in his stead, were two parties lobbying for my attention, the "Red Fork Empire" and the seemingly more poorly organized "Phoenix Something-Or-Other". The only reason I know about the Phoenix crew, is that members of the, "Red Fork Empire" drew a number of black sharpie penises on the Phoenix propaganda poster in the elevator outside my room. The idea of Steampunk "Gangs" seems like silly fun I suppose, but one of my new acquaintances did recently post a photo of her new arm sleeve tattoo, an insignia pledging allegiance to RFE for life (or until she comes up with the cash to get it removed). Here's hoping RFE lasts longer than Doctor Steel.

Great show for a late night viewing at SPWF
Everyone seemed to behave themselves, or rather, seemed to respect others and the hotel properties; that said, the Embassy's fire alarm did go off Saturday evening around midnight. I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet it was due to some partying. Ahh. Partying. There was much of this. ENSMB always bring the ruckus with nightly impromptu parades. The clink of absinthe glasses and 'crack' of beers are regular sounds after the sun has set; as is taking in the heady aroma of weed outside of the occasional closed hotel room door. Not everyone parties, but if you leave SPWF Sunday evening 'well rested', then you did it wrong.

If you haven't attended a Steampunk event in the past, and would like to start-- then by all means, attend SPWF 2013. If it's anything like SPWF 2012, then it's bound to be a good time!

See you at SPWF in 2013!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

NYCC 2011 Recap “The First-time Con-Goers Costuming Guide” Pt. 1

The gals of Con*Verse are back from yet again another fantastic year at New York Comic Con and man did we have a blast! From an impromptu run-in with Doc Hammer outside of the Javits Center to meet and greets with some of our newfound and old blogger pals alike, and have some truly geek-worthy conversations with the artists of Artist's Alley, we'll say that we're well pleased with the jam packed event. We adore the gals of Bookshelf Bombshells, who we were very sad to have missed meeting up with and a great big hug to Alex of Moviebuzzers.com, Bubble T enjoyed petting on his abs just as much as she did chatting with the equally savvy comic/movie buff. While we enjoyed peeking in on certain panels and discussions, the majority of NYCC was a less than enjoyable blur of costume. If your more accustom to events like Dragon*Con and settings that are more conducive to running back and forth between a hotel room and the mezzanine level for panels and photo ops, NYCC strays far out of the comfort zone of the hallway creeps and geeks. It's all bright lights and large event rooms here. One of the biggest concerns we thought about, while huffing it through the crowded subway and streets (secretly hoping Peter Parker would get his butt in gear and cut down our walk time to the convention center), was what kind of costumes to do/make for such an event when there is no readily available changing space (other than bathrooms) and no hotel within close walking distance. The truly elaborate and impressive costumes were pretty scarce, unless you managed to make your way up to the anime section. Since it was a pretty big concern on our part, we took this opportunity to focus on some of the easily made and altered outfits to address just how anyone can be con-tastic in the big city with as much or little effort as you would like to put into a costume.

From the moment we stepped foot into the Javits Center we were surprised and disappointed to see how few people were dressed up for the event and were just sporting comic book-based shirts and jeans. Close friend of the gals of Con*Verse and first time con-goer, Courtney certainly appeased out palettes with her amazingly adorable getup that rocked the con floors. Blondie and I had batted around the question of "what are easy costumes anyone can do that are functional and recognizable in a setting like NYCC" like a badminton birdie. Courtney had posed a similar question weeks prior about what she could dress up as we imparted the wisdom of ages and years of cons past words of advice boiled down to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart)...we reserve the right for Stupid on that last 'S' for pretty horrific wardrobe choices. After some brainstorming Courtney settled on a female version of the classic board game Monopoly's Mr. Moneybags. What we love about her outfit is that not only is it comfortable, but just about every part of it is able to be used for a future outfit and it can be utilized for everyday events. With a white button down shirt, black slacks, black button up suit jacket, and black dress shoes, Courtney didn't have to go further than rummaging through her weekly office-wear (we know that she moonlights as a kick-ass crime fighter, but we won't give that alias away). Simple accessories and accents made her outfit pop with the addition of a classy cane and red bowtie. The parts that made her stand out the most for us were her cute miniature top hat with feathered out monopoly bills, glasses with eyeglass chain adorned with dice, and a vintage purse equipped with added money sign and filled with monopoly money that she handed out to other con-goers (we definitely saw some $500 bill worthy costumes!).

Tip: Don't rush out to do some one-stop shopping just because you know where to get the perfect article of clothing. Some things are not worth the $50 and up that the price tag states (ok… so perhaps Blondie and I believe that most things aren't… unless you are getting a replica of Kristin Bauer's latex dress from True Blood *pause* we'll get into that later). Chances are if you bide your time and do a little detective work, whether it be on the internet or actually tracking your steps through a few stores, you'll find some worthwhile picks that will do or with some slight alterations make the cut for an easy outfit. First year of D*Con I was in a serious bind when it came to putting together my Dawn outfit. A diehard Linsner fan, I've always wanted to dress up as the iconic character and enter the Dawn Competition. However, a majority of the buxom bombshell's creative outfits are not only that… they can be difficult to construct. While the character Dawn depicts curves and hair that defy gravity, getting the same effect usually requires a lot more work and a number of support and lift methods. Most women and men who have competed in the competition admit that they haven't created all of their costumes, usually they have enlisted the help of fellow costumers and even gone the route I would be less likely to travel, have their pieces commissioned.

Instead I stuck to one of my cheeky favorites from the Dawn – New York selection. Simple enough… jeans, a white jacket, high tops, and a bra. Not only did I already have a bra to work for the whole outfit, the jeans were easy enough to find along with the biker style white jacket at TJ Maxx. The hardest part was tracking down the right shoes. Converse were probably the most accurate, but not for over $100 was I willing to make every detail of the outfit precise. Instead, I opted for a spot on second; Pastries high tops for a fraction of the cost via Ebay.

Occasionally I will find that I become blindsided by the fact that I need a specific piece for a costume or else my outfit is totally lost. However, dear cosplayers, as to suit the purpose of this posting in particular, the name of the game is cutting down on costs and keeping it functional so you can actually work the floors of NYCC. There is always room for interpretation with an outfit and 99% of pieces to an outfit could probably be pieces together with duct tape or a glue gun and a few hours of your time and far less money out of pocket. Ok… so maybe I'm more of the "I can make that better myself" and whip it out of the sewing machine type, but for those of you not so inclined to the humming lull of a costumers best friend, duct tape and glue make every outfit work, I guarantee it!

We were pretty impressed with Brian and Stephanie, who we met wandering around the Cultyard. A second year vet of NYCC, Brian had prepped first time, girlfriend Stephanie for the throng. His costume abides by one of our cardinal rules, when costuming take a swing through the pawn shops, thrift stores, and army/navy supply shops to check out what kind of good are available. Brian donned himself up as a WWI worthy Captain America, complete with helmet and shield he painted himself. Of course to Blondie and Bubble T, his shield serves an awesome double purpose of fending off the crowds and batter ramming your way to the front of a line for autographs and pictures with must see stars (we let Brian keep his shield though). Stephanie, a longtime lover of comics, especially DC (a girl after our own hearts), made her debut this year dressing up as Black Widow for the launching of the trailer for The Avengers being shown at NYCC. Her entire outfit was put together with a combination of Halloween store, army/navy store, and a purchase from eBay for her arm patch. There were a few people who attempted a Black Widow at NYCC, but Stephanie was by far the closest to accurate with her personal interpretation of the movie-version outfit. Proof that simply buying a costume isn't always going to get you to be picture perfect, doing a little bit of legwork with DIY pieces help make a costume look more original and unique.

Roxanne was *squee*-worthy for yours truly. Your dear writer, Bubble T, ran into the picture-perfect Storm while being escorted to the Anime-con section of NYCC by Shaun of the Dead (with some many zombies walking around you can't be too careful and Shaun had a pretty mean aim with his cricket bat). Her second con, Roxanne was intent on going a bit more in depth with her outfit this year. The year prior she stuck soley to her leotard and silver wig. The leotard, black vinyl material, and silver cuffs make her more of an inconspicuous character, but the addition of her striking wig and Halle Berry-like Storm inducing eyes are what made her stand out among the crowd. Take a gander at her gams and boots; she gets an A+ in Blondie and Bubble T's book for paying attention to detail and having her shoes match her outfit. All too frequently the last piece to add to an outfit have been shoes and far too frequently, whether it be for comfort or forgetfulness, have we seen people wandering around in sneakers or flip flops, ruining the overall effect of their outfit (if you hear a Ringwraith-like scream at a convention, it's likely Blondie yelling in horror at a shoe-faux pas).

A prime example was encountered by a run in with the Riddler aka. Danny. His second year at NYCC (apparently everyone was dressed in regular clothes last year, this seemed to be a running theme), Danny took a year to prep for his role as the Riddler. While the cane was a hard to come by, he wasn't about the shell out for the piece, he confessed. Side note: For those DIY individuals, the RPF has loads of forums open to any and all questions and encourage collaboration on items that might not be found in stores nor are able to be readily purchased. In addition to prepping himself, Danny enlisted the help of his then girlfriend, who actually took it upon herself to color in all the question marks on his jumpsuit (talk about dedication!). Complete with dying his hair (yes folks that is his current hair color) and some green face paint to double as a mask, we actually appreciated his overall effort. However, the black socks and sneakers ruined the overall effect. Note Mr. Scott Summers a la Steampunk lurking in the background with a poorly placed (and colored) wig… he at least took the time to pick out some appropriate shoes! We do have to give Danny props for his frugal find, the jumpsuit was a previous Halloween clearance buy, including the face paint and hair dye, his entire outfit cost under $20 and he didn't even have to do the majority of the labor. Well done, he definitely get a vote for our biggest slacker of the year award. Maybe if his ex had actually stuck around he would have had an entirely complete costume, shoes, cane, and all. Thankfully there was a run in with the Joker, which gave the dynamic duo their opportunity to escape back to another section of the Cultyard to do some seeking out of much coveted mangas, comics, and hard to find prints.

So dear readers, what say you about your very first con? Did you dress up? If so, as what or whom? What suggestions would you give yourself now if you intend to venture to another con in the future? For those of you that will be attending for your first time this year, what questions are seething in the back of your minds about costumes your like to attempt and trip ups that you're hoping to avoid?

Catch you on the flip-side for part two of the NYCC First-time Con-Goers Costuming Guide!