30 December 2011

2012: The Year of the Con

2012 is going to be a kick-ass year. I'm excited! I have so much planned for this year and I can't wait to hit every goal on my list!

Notice these are not resolutions, but goals. My mentor Scott A. Johnson wisely wrote in his blog that resolutions beg to be broken, so it's better to call them what they really are: goals. Goals are solid and unbending. and life-changing. So here's what's brewing for 2012...

2012 is the Year of the Con!

Conventions are a big deal. It's not just for fans to attend, but for artists and authors as well. My mentor Tim Waggoner told me in one of our very first meetings that conventions are a way of life for published authors, and that I need to go to them to see what it's all about. Of course, there's exciting programming and the potential to meet some very talented and famous people there (you can also make big strides for your career like fellow author John Dixon did at Thrillerfest), but it's also a learning experience...who knows, someday I may have fans, or may host a panel, or be invited as a pro/guest of honor. Right now I'm happy to call myself a fan/student in the convention world until I make a name for myself as a writer/artist.

The convention world indeed was a shadow-world to me until 2010, when The World Fantasy Convention was held in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Me and my friend Drew Brigner attended--both our first conventions, I think (it was mine, anyway). I attended a few panels, was gobsmacked by all the authors who attended, and delighted by all the books and swag we got. And Drew and I spent a good deal eating good food and talking good storytelling--it was a nice intro to the convention world.

And then I didn't attend any after that. What's wrong with me? Nothing in 2011? Whaaaaat?

So...to make up for that dry spell, I'm going to four conventions this year (Ohio has waaaaaay more cons than I expected, and they attract some pretty big names). Here they are:

OHAYOCON January 27-29, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.

TYPE OF CON: Anime, Manga, Japanese Art and Culture

I have never been to a convention like this before...and I still consider myself a newbie to anime and manga, so I will either love this convention or feel totally out of place here. Likely a mixture of both. Since this is my first anime convention this is a 100% learning experience...and that also means I'm not cosplaying at this one. Instead I'm probably gonna walk around with my mouth hanging open, snap pictures of bad-ass costumers, and attend a bunch of how-to panels. Still on the fence about whether or not to stand in line for autographs and/or photos, 'cause I only recognize two names on the guest list and that's only because of FMA Brotherhood. Hmmm....

Anyway, this con is just around the corner! Expect some reportage on this event soon!

MARCON April 6-8, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.

TYPE OF CON: Fantasy and Science Fiction

This isn't just sci-fi and fantasy fiction...more like sci-fi and fantasy everything. Film, music, television, fiction, gaming, anime, manga...everything. I'm really excited about author Tamora Pierce being one of the guests of honor. Since this con is less specialized, I'm sure if I feel out of place and inexperienced in one field (like gaming), I can just hop over to something familiar (like literature). Should be good.

COLOSSAL CON June 7-10, 2012 in Sandusky, Ohio.

TYPE OF CON: Anime, Manga, Japanese Art and Culture

Um....uh.....heh heh.....I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I mainly want to go to this 'cause of this actor. *blush* Actually, there's a decent chance I may not be able to attend this convention at all if it conflicts with my summer residency at Seton Hill University. I won't know my June residency dates until a week or so after this January's residency ends. So I'll keep you posted.

CONTEXT September 28-30, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio.

TYPE OF CON: Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction

This convention is a bit more literary, but there's still room for games, anime, manga, comics and graphic novels,  films and more. One thing I'm looking forward to are the writing workshops...always room to keep on learning, that's for certain!

 These are my convention goals for 2012. Of course this is contingent on the following:

1) The world cannot end

2) I have to have money

Barring the above, it looks like nothing's standing in my way. I'm looking forward to attending these cons, learning as much as possible from them, making beneficial and fun connections, and getting my geek on a bit.

Maybe I'll be brave enough to cosplay at one of these...gotta be fit and fabulous for it, though.  If I do get brave enough to cosplay (and hopefully with a group of friends; I won't do it by myself 'cause I'm a wuss) I may consider this character, seeing how we're both  monochromatic, with long, wavy hair, and, yup, I'm saying it, a bit on the busty side.

But she's a babe, and uh....I haven't been close to being a babe for a while. I think any potential babeness I had went into retirement around the year 2005 or 2006.

But that's another goal I'm looking forward to writing about in an upcoming post: the return of good health in 2012!

25 December 2011

Happy Holidays

(cc)  Photo by Jeff Weese   
Wishing everyone a warm and fuzzy holiday season...


This year I'm very much on the poor side of things, and I've had to really downsize on who gets presents this year (immediate family only, sorry everyone else) and the type of presents they're getting (homemade! free samples!). And I'm not really done with one of my biggest homemade presents yet (for my Mother).

So guess who'll be up late tonight painting, gluing, and wrapping? I wonder if someone will take pity on me and leave me cookies and milk tonight. Hmm...
    The Phoenix by
Friedrich Bertuch (1747-1822)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the end of this year and the beginning of a new one. I'm optimistic it will be a great year, with projects completed, goals met, new opportunities, and deepened perspectives. And yeah, it's supposedly the end of the Long Count, and perhaps the end of the world, but that's not really true. An ending, whether happy or sad, is just another beginning... or, as Schmendrick the Magician would say, "There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."

GOODBYE 2011....

...WELCOME 2012!

08 December 2011

Ivan Reitman's "Ghostbusters"

The 1984 film poster.
GHOSTBUSTERS!!!!! The last required film of my horror genre class and it's the crown king of blog assignments.

The Ghostbusters franchise is my childhood. Seriously. I am unable to come up with anything critically valid or academically sound because its awesomeness and nostalgic happiness has blown my mind. Everything in this post will have a strict bias and some form of personal attachment.  Huzzah!

And I couldn't watch the first Ghostbusters film without watching Ghostbusters II right after it. And then, if you have the gift dvd box set, you can watch the little episodes of the cartoon series they include in the bonus materials (I wish there were more included)!

Not only is Ghostbusters  one of the most quotable movies on the planet (Try to go through life without shouting "Don't cross the streams!") but it's really the series that introduced me to the supernatural, and more importantly, the horror genre.

IMDB lumps the film under the fantasy and comedy categories. Sure, it fits the bill for both, but for a kid like me who was born in the 80s and grew up with the franchise, Ghostbusters also introduced me to the paranormal, supernatural, metasciences, psychology, etc., and therefore I'd call it science fiction...and yeah, I'd still call it horror. The films scared the crap out of me but also made me laugh ("Cats and dogs living together!"). The cartoon series (when it was The Real Ghostbusters and before they kiddied it up with a lot of Slimer) scared the crap out of me too (as it did for many others)...remember the Boogeyman and Samhain? I still do. And I haven't watched those episodes since the series ran....so that's like twenty years ago or something. Holy crap.

Ghostbusters was released in 1984. I was born in 1983. So...I was too young to remember the movie when it came out, obviously. I have to admit, I've seen Ghostbusters II more than the original (that came out in 1989, so I was six at that point and could live the phenomenon as it was happening) and have a better quote-memory for it ("Two in the box! Ready to go! We be fast and they be slow!") and a bit more of a personal affinity for it (the movie is a weird love letter to New York City, and I'm from Queens originally.). However, I love both movies.

I'm sure nothing like Ghostbusters ever existed before in the world of film, and Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis penned such an awesome, unique screenplay. Ghostbusters introduced me to the wonder that is Bill Murray as well, and I had a fascination for Ernie Hudson (especially in the second movie. "WIIIIIIIINSTOOOOOON" in the subway, oh my!) too.  And for some reason, when they show reruns of the movies on TV, I will always sit down and catch at least some of it. I don't tire of the films at all, no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

And Ghostbusters is kind of inescapable. In 2004 when I lived overseas, me and a girlfriend spent a weekend in Paris and when we'd wind down in our hotel room, the only thing on television we could somewhat comprehend was the cartoon series Extreme Ghostbusters, even though it was dubbed en francais (kinda neat to hear Garret and Kylie and Eduardo and Egon speak French!).

So yeah. I think I've seen every incarnation of Ghostbusters imaginable, and I'm a dork for all of it.

Besides being fun and hilarious, it really is a gateway drug into the world of the supernatural, the occult, parapsychology, and weird mythology. Watching these movies and cartoons showed me that it is fun to be scared, and it's fun to explore what it is exactly that scares me (and the list is looong). And before things got too dark or twisted, something awesome and funny would happen to temper the paranormal weirdness. Things would get spooky, but never too bad that it would scar me for life. It would just turn me on to horror for the rest of my life.

Now let's hope that Ghostbusters 3 comes out and won't suck.

Ghostbusters. Dir. Ivan Reitman. Perf. Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Columbia Pictures, 1984. DVD.

03 December 2011

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

The 1996 Illustrated Edition.
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The last ghost story we have to read for my horror genre class, The Haunted. Just in time for the holiday season, now that it's December...

And I really did not want to read this book. Call me a humbug, but every year I celebrate Christmas (which used to be my favorite holiday), the harder it gets for me to celebrate it.

And since every year we are inundated with different versions of Dickens' classic, and I've had to read it for school a few times in the past, I just didn't want to bother with the story again.

It's only December 2nd and I am Christmased out. Christmas commercials started October 31st this year (hello, Kmart layaway, I'm talking to you) and every year it seems to come sooner. Every year my ears bleed from all the radio stations that play nothing but horrible Christmas songs for 24 hours a day (do we really need to hear a song about "Hee-haw! A magic Christmas donkey!" ?) And I normally wait to put up the Christmas tree (I refuse to put it up before December 1st) but because we had family visit for Thanksgiving (and we won't see them for a while again) I thought it would be a good idea to put the tree up early so they could see it. Now I kind of want to punch the tree, even though it's pretty. I regret putting it up so soon.

Pretty tree? Punch in the face!
Charlie Brown got it right all those years ago (in 1965!) about how horribly commercialized Christmas has become...(funny enough, Wikipedia says Coca-Cola sponsored the animated special, so I guess not even the Peanuts gang is immune to corporate commercial crap)...and things are sooooo much crazier today with all of that stuff.  It's a sad cycle--stores push us to shop for presents to "stimulate the economy" but not too many people can really afford to shop for presents; and since people aren't buying like they used to, stores are pushing harder for people to buy with crazy sales and hype and discounting and layaway and blah dee dee blah dee blah.

So, yeah. Long ramble about Christmas being difficult to deal with. And that is too sad, because it really did used to be my favorite holiday. I got warm fuzzies back in the day, and all into the spirit of giving, (and I even celebrated it for its original religious purpose) but over the past few years it really has been getting tougher each year. Yeah, a lot of it is related to finances (and I definitely cannot afford presents this year, so it's a homemade gift/Vista print free sample Christmas), but I think it's also harder for people who suffer from mental illness...just a lot of stress and pressure. I should know. I tend to dip into an irritable/depressive cycle around this time of year, despite all the things for which I should be happy and grateful.

Maybe in a weird way, then, I needed to reread A Christmas Carol just to kind of go back to some of the original points Dickens was trying to make when he wrote the novel.  Basically, instead of it being "Tis the Season" for charitable giving and selflessness, we really should be like this every single day of the year, in our hearts and in our minds. If you haven't lived or thought this way before, Christmas just happens to be a great time to start--it is the ultimate enabling holiday for the virtues of charity and love for your fellow man.

If we want to get back to basics with the holiday--as in, back to its original purpose for existing--this is the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and in that way, it can be viewed by those who believe that Jesus is God's gift to mankind, and is therefore the ultimate act of charity, sacrifice (considering Jesus dies on the cross for our sins later in order to save humankind), and love. So....we are supposed to emulate these things: charity, sacrifice, and love; we do it at Christmas time to honor Jesus (if you believe in it); and if you aren't Christian, that's okay too, because charity and sacrifice and love is contagious (another reason why Christmas is considered a national holiday of American Civil religion, where everyone can celebrate) and one of the best things about being alive and being human (also a cause to celebrate).

Of course.....the best thing for all of us is to be loving, charitable, and selfless every day of our lives. As Dickens' tale suggests, we are to live our lives for others in this world and will most certainly be judged in the next (if you believe in it) for how we've lived. As Marley's ghost says to Scrooge, "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business" (Dickens 61); and this is to be our business, too.

Sometimes it's difficult to do the right thing all the time. We are human, after all. But it never hurts to start over after we fail, and, given the nature of the Christmas holiday season, this is the time of year where we can pick ourselves up and try again once more. We can't allow ourselves to be haunted by our failures...like Ebenezer Scrooge, we are lucky: as long as we are alive, we still have time to live for others.

Dickens, Charles, and Gustave Doré. Charles Dickens' a Christmas Carol: with 45 Lost Gustav Doré Engravings (1861) and 130 Other Victorian Illustrations ; Introduction by Dan Malan. St. Louis: MCE Pub., 1996. Print.