Monday, April 11, 2016

Emerald City Comicon!

The word of the week is indelible.


Apr 4 - Putting On The Pressure

It wasn't much of a vacation this week, but that was by my choice. Ah, me sometimes...

I was determined to have my colonial Marine costume ready for the convention this week, so I dove into more preparations today, just as I have for the last three days. 

Every last piece of armor got coated with carefully-placed smudges of toothpaste of varying thicknesses, each creating a spot which will allow the following coats of paint to be removed easily and leave a realistic-looking metal wear point.

It turned out to be much slower growing then I had anticipated. By dinnertime, I had only just completed coating the last sections of the armor with toothpaste. 

One of these two guys spent a LOT of time on his cosplay...

Frustrating. One of the things that I discovered in my research into costuming is that far too few cosplayers go into detail about how long it takes them to complete each step of their costume assembly. As I'm learning, it can take FAR longer than anticipated to get each stage finished.

By the time I went to bed, I'd managed to get the first sections of camoflage on a half-dozen pieces, which was far fewer than I'd hope to have by day's end today.


Apr 5 – Upstairs Downstairs

Today was all about painting, walking and repeating.

By that, I mean that I spent tons of time going to and from the roof of the building where I was airing out / coating all of the costume pieces. I had claimed a nice corner of the rooftop deck where I could lay out all of the various pieces of the costume to dry after I had finished working on them:

Paint, atop toothpaste details

I also realized that I would need help in painting my costume today, as I knew that I would not be able to finish the painting with the necessary drying time in between successive color( five in total, the two coats each ). Fortunately, my mother was able to donate a good portion of the day to painting, helping me put random swatches of camoflage colours on each of the two dozen pieces that comprised the armour. With her help, we were able to get two coats of several colours done overall, far more than I could have managed on my own. Progress!

Plus, by the time my day was done, I had walked nearly 10,000 steps, which is the recommended level of exercise for your average person each day - tiring, but a good thing that the elevator was working as it would have been a huge strain on my legs going up and down all those stairs carrying things!

My sister also came through in spades to help with the painting after dinner, when she was home from work. Much of the work that had been done today was rough, leaving uneven edges between the paint colors. My sister was unbelievably gracious enough to spend a few hours smoothing out all of the rough edges between the painted sections, giving a polished professional look to the camoflage. What an amazing job, and an amazing sibling!

Apr 6 - Scraping By

Would you believe that nowhere on the 'net does it list how long toothpaste takes to dry?

Cleaning off the dried-too-quickly toothpaste proved to be a total pain in the rear, as it was very difficult to remove from some parts of the armor. Using gadgets who was ineffective, as it sometimes scraped away the silver paint base layer along with the toothpaste: unacceptable. I ended up using a slightly damp face cloth rag to pull the pace layer away, exposing the silver painted base layer to give the effect of scratch metal under the paint. While it looks great, I only managed to remove about 75% of the toothpaste before my wrists started complaining of the stream and I had to scale back my efforts.

Details, details...

My parents left in the late afternoon, after putting in hours of solid effort that put me much further along the path toward getting the costume ready before the step of sealing everything with Plasti-Dip for flexibility. I was able to get three coats of Plasti-Dip on most of the pieces, with a couple of hours driving time in between coating. This made me feel more comfortable about the armored being able to stand up some wear and tear, though again I'm new to this kind of thing and I could be completely wrong about how well it will work out.

By dinnertime, everything was proceeding smoothly and I started working on the straps holding the various pieces together. Having my ARMeY mannequin on hand to pin things up on while I made adjustments was unbeliveably useful, as I could see how every piece needed to hang and so could glue the straps precisely. Luck that I had ordered long lengths of the three different strap widths that I needed, as it was a complicated business.

Midnight came and went and soon after, I was DONE!

I crawled into bed feeling satisfied that I had made my maximum effort and that only a few small touches remained to be completed in the morning.

As well as packing for the convention; dead simple by comparison.


Apr 7 – We're off!

Today saw me up early at 6:30 AM, feeling only a little groggy and excited to be heading out on the road within a few hours time.

By the time I'd finished breakfast and a couple of hours had passed, all the finishing touches were done. I tidied up the place, packed my gear for the convention that I'd set out during the week and was ready for my girlfriend arrived by 10 AM: right on schedule.

With traffic, we didn't manage to make the 11 AM ferry, so we ate lunch in Sidney and were easily on board the 1 PM to Tsawassen on the mainland. I'd taken my Gravol earlier and so the crossing was a breeze for me, especially given the calm seas due to the good weather that had rolled in yesterday - blue skies and calm water!

Heading for the border, we passed by the farmland zone where last time we had seen so many bald eagles. I was lucky enough to catch a few on the ground and the shot was perhaps the best of the many I managed to get from a moving vehicle:

Click for full-size: THREE bald eagles!

From there, we made it to and through the border quickly, with the road south to Seattle clear under sunny skies. We made excellent time until we got to the city itself, where a local traffic jam added both unneeded time and urban street confusion to our journey. 

We managed to make it to our hotel shortly before 6:30pm, checking in quickly - what a place! Thanks to Hotwire.com, we managed to score an incredible deal with this gorgeous place called The Mayflower Park Hotel, with a quiet corner suite on the floor. It was everything a boutique hotel should be: 



Yet we couldn't stay longer than it took to throw bags on the bed, as we immediately rushed over to the convention center, which was only a short three block walk away: talk about location perfection!

We were just in time to make the last panel of the day, concerned with the business of writing. It was extremely informative and an excellent start to the convention. 

Heading back to the hotel, we had a local Greek place recommended to us and took our rumbling tummies there to feast on delicious fried skewers and Greek salad before returning to our hotel. There we unpacked, then let our tiredness take over and were soon asleep after a long and tiring journey.


Apr 8 – Convention Friday!

Getting up early wasn't really in the cards for today.

For one, we were too tired and two, there weren't any panels or events happening that we are interested in until around noon. After some costume preparation, we walked down towards the waterfront in Seattle I had breakfast at a little old-school diner called Ludi's, which was full of interesting characters and whose proprietor was a very motherly Filipino lady who looked worried that I wasn't going to finish my sizable breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy.

Then it was on to the famous Pike Place Market on the waterfront, where fishmongers called out to each other in stentorian voices while hurling huge fish for various orders back and forth.

But we didn't stay longer than it took to take in a touch of the ambiance, as the Emerald City Comicon was waiting for us!

Back of the hotel, I donned my costume with only a few small adjustments and the occasional dab of hot glue needed. My girlfriend wore a much simpler outfit, but I think she looked as much the part of Ripley as I did the Colonial Marine: we were ready.

It was a matter of a few blocks and a 15-minute walk before we had arrived at the Washington State convention Center where the con was being hosted. Streams of people were arriving and while it was busy, it wasn't so crowded that we couldn't quickly make our way to the central core of escalators to head up to the convention levels.

There were quite a few cosplayers present, representing many fandoms. There were so many people dressed up that my girlfriend remarked that the people who were not in costume seem to be the exception, compared to conventions that she'd been to previously.

After checking in my M41A pulse rifle to have it peace-bonded( showing it was a harmless prop ), my lady and I had our picture taken by a professional photographer, just so:


I was a little mortified that my costume wasn't quite sitting properly, but those are the breaks. It did need regular adjustment during the day and seeing as it's my first costume I was half expecting such things and learned more about what I need to do for the next time I wear it. As well, the Plasti-Dip doesn't seem to have sealed the paint, so the colour's rubbing off here and there and is tacky to the touch. I will have to fix that before I wear it again.

The convention itself was a blast. So many fans of so many different fictional universes all mingling together meant that there was a shared air of excitement and anticipation. 

One thing my girlfriend noticed was that very few people were walking around with cell phones in their hands, due to how crowded every level of the convention center was. There is simply no way that somebody could be moving forward and looked down at a phone without making it more than 5 feet before they bump into or tripped over someone or something. As in most conventions, people simply picked a piece of wall to the side to claim as their own, in order to sit down and rest or wait for other people.

I also discovered an unused stairwell in the far side of the convention building that was PERFECT for a photo shoot: dirty concrete, poorly lit, with industrial pipes and bare steel, it practically screamed with the Aliens aesthetic! My lady snapped a few dozen shots, some of which turned out great:


By the time the early afternoon had arrived, I was no longer able to wear my costume due to overheating. Even with plenty of water, as well as air channels built-in the front and rear torsos, my back had become one giant mass of sweat that I could no longer bear. I had to spend 20 minutes cooling off in a large bathroom stall in order to get my racing heartrate down and to feel normal again. The experience gave me new respect for the people who were walking around the convention floor in costumes much more confining than mine; I could only hope that they'd managed to build in more effective cooling systems!

Still, I was happy: many people complimented me on my cosplay, as well as the M41A rifle, which got a 'badass' comment from a prop-maker in his booth. Sweet!

I headed back to the hotel, carrying most of my costume instead of wearing it. The weather outside was magnificent, with sunny blue skies and balmy breezes that were so unusual for Seattle this time of year. I took a cooling shower and relax for about an hour before heading back to convention to meet my girlfriend for a 5 PM seminar on Alternative Story Structure. Unfortunately, the seminar was rather dull and uninformative, so we left early to find dinner at a nearby café, after checking out a Lego exhibit and sitting in the Millennium Falcon:


Sitting out on the patio, we were treated to a constant stream of convention goers leaving after the last panels and events had finished. Many were in costume, which provided much entertainment to the both of us. We even had a Robin( the Boy Wonder )sit down next to us on the patio, so we were able to chat with her for a little while about her cosplay experience which mirrored my own: a ton of work, overheating and general tiredness, with the payoff with many fans enjoying the sight of a well-made costume of one of their fave characters.

It was the perfect end to the day, so after a blazing sunset we went back to the hotel to tidy up and hit the hay early, exhausted.


Apr 9 – Seattle Sights!

While we didn't sleep in today, we definitely didn't get up early. The events of yesterday meant that we were both quite tired and so that fed into today's plan: Take It Easy.

Checking out from the hotel was a breeze, as the staff were so accommodating and friendly that they let us leave our car parked there for as long as we needed today for no charge! We happily scooted down to the Pike Place Market to walk around its extensive lower levels, which are bright and covered in vintage woodwork. A great place to explore further and at our leisure next time we're in the city.

It also meant we could head over to the Space Needle at our leisure. We hopped onto the Monorail, which had its terminus in the SAME BLOCK BUILDING as our hotel - super convenient! It was a thrill riding the monorail, which has been in service since 1962 and felt like a blast from the past with it's large curved Plexiglas windows that gave us gorgeous views of Seattle as we headed towards the Space Needle and the surrounding entertainment park.

We disembarked and headed in to the EMP( Experience Music Project )Museum, where they're currently hosting large Scifi and Fantasy exhibits, among others. After managing to tear ourselves away from the extremely cool swag in one of the gift shops( seriously, there was some awesome g33ky stuff there! )we descended into a dark, futuristic space called 'The Space Ark' where all the exhibits were housed.

Wow, what a place! It's chock-full of scifi artifacts, including a full-size endoskeleton of a T-700 Terminator, costumes from The 5th Element, weapons and informational displays from all sorts of scifi movies and shows. 

But by FAR the thing that got me most excited was the actual armour worn by Hicks from the film Aliens! It's JUST what I have laboured for months to reproduce and it was the highlight of my day to see it in the display case:


YES! I feel that I managed to achieve my goal of creating a budget costume that's about 80% accurate to what was on-screen, apart from colour choices, custom decals and parts I couldn't precisely replicate given my limited resources.

Incredible, that feeling of accomplishment. 

After spending a little more time exploring the scifi Ark, my girlfriend and I moved on to the Fantasy exhibit upstairs, which was less exciting overall. However, they did have this:


Again, it was a thrill to be able to be that close to something that mean a lot to me as a fan of Jim Henson and The Dark Crystal in particular. 

We headed back downtown to retrieve the car, then took a short jaunt over to the oldest part of Seattle, Pioneer Square. We registered for the 5pm Undergound Tour of the city and had a fascinating time for the next 75 minutes walking the covered-over old streets underneath the city, seeing sights like this:


Tired from our tour, we ate dinner at the singular Irish pub Fado, sitting out on a pation in the gorgeous weather to watch the city go by. The food, and the service were both superb!

We left Seattle as the sun was setting the sky alight, the perfect backdrop to illuminate the skyline as we departed. In a few hours we had made it to my girlfriend's parent's place in the Skagit Valley, where we gratefully collapsed into a soft bed and slumber after such a busy and exciting day.


Apr 10 – The Return

Staying overnight at my girlfriend's parents raise was the right choice, as we managed to get a decent amount of sleep, though I woke up early as usual well before 7 AM.

Since we had the entire day to get back to Victoria, we decided to take a small detour to go and see the annual Tulip Festival in the area. A Skagit area tradition, it sees millions of tulips bloom this time of year which draws tens of thousands of tourists to see the magnificent colors that the flowers produce.

We wended our way through traffic to find ourselves at the best of the tulip displays, at the Roosevelt Tulip Farm. Along with hundreds of other people, we wandered the gardens, marvelling at flowering displays like this one:


Cool clouds had blown in along with a chill wind however, so we stayed less than 30 minutes before moving on with our cameras full of tulip pictures. It was a spectacular experience!

The rest of the trip back was great, as we moved out of the cool overcast conditions on the Skagit Valley side of things to sunny skies once again when we neared the border. We stopped in the lovely little town of Fairhaven for lunch, dining at the Skylark Café where has the best bowl of chicken avocado soup that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. We also spent a short while browsing through the town's magnificent bookstore, Village Books, which is a delightful experience for any book lover. I managed to escape with only one book purchase( and a used one at that )while my girlfriend picked up three excellent titles.

We also detoured slightly to pick up a few things from a border-parcel holding company I had decided to use to receive the occasional item that I could pick up during my next trip to the US, saving a TON of money on shipping. The cost for holding 2 items for a combined total of 9 weeks at their facility? Less than $9.00 CAN: a bargain, as it saved me nearly $50 CAN if I'd had them shipped to me directly from the USA. Win-win!

There were few bald eagles on the way back, at least none that were willing to stay grounded to get their pictures taken. 

Our timing continued to be excellent, as we were one of the last vehicles on the ferry. We gave each other a high five as the loading door started closing, which greatly amused one of the deck hands nearby. The calm weather meant it was another smooth crossing for me, without the tiniest twinge of nausea from the noticable-at-times rocking of the ship as it manuevered while sailing the channel through the islands.

We made it back to Victoria around dinnertime, where my lady and I parted ways. I grabbed a little sushi for dinner and unpacked, lamenting the utter lack of space in my bedroom to store my things; I really need an office to work in these days.

Maybe next year.



That's about all I can manage to get down on the screen, as it's getting late( past midnight )and I'm exhausted. I've a full work week ahead, including a writing group presentation, so I'll be a bit recovering from the Busy of the last four wondrous days...