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wondercon 2013: my trip abridged

1 Apr

I had the chance to go to Wondercon last Saturday and Sunday. I braved through the narrow aisles and the occasional body odor, and avoided accidentally photobombing other people’s Kodak moments with well-dressed cosplayers.

On Sunday, yes, I cosplayed for the first time (i.e. wearing a costume that’s not on Halloween). It didn’t feel like I was since I was just wearing a white shirt, green vest, khaki shorts, and a pair of red shoes. (You fans of Nickelodeon ’90s shows will pick up on this fast.) It was a nice feeling of few people’s eyes lit up and asked, “Are you what I think you are?” One of them surprised me saying my character’s full name including “Yancey.”

I came across some great artists and books, and here is a list of what I saw. Consider it to be an abridged version of the event, but I promise you won’t sniff any b.o. (if you did, you know who to blame):

One Piece Strong World Art Book: I stopped by Animebooks booth, which sold Japanese art books and comics. On the website, it also sells figurines and apparels. I only recently became a big fan of One Piece, about few months ago, and thus am on the look out for One Piece items.

Melody Wang: What drew me to this artist’s booth are her illustrations of Korra and Lin having this tense (yet humorous to the viewer) moment. Her Deviantart page features more lovely illustrations.

Nico Harriman: I browsed his booth and his self-published Next Step to Nothing caught my attention. On a whim, I purchased it. A story about a twentysomething going through a breakup.

Tom Beland: Few years ago, I came across his graphic novel True Story Swear to God: Chances Are… at the library. One of those “whoa crazy how they met” romance stories, but actually happened. I didn’t see him in person, but I saw his work “True Story Swear to God, Archives: Vol. 1 on sale at one of the booths selling graphic novels and comic books.

Sebastien Millon: At Millon’s booth, there was two collection of posters to flip through. The simple graphic style drew me in, and don’t let its style fool you because its punchlines can be razor-sharp. Felt like being hugged by a grizzly bear while it’s gnawing your arm off, but you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Capacity for the Fantastic: Writing for Teens and Tweens: Besides attending a screening of some random anime episode that didn’t make much sense, I attended this program with a panel of authors for the youth. Below is the description of the program listing the authors who attended. (In case the link to this goes out.)

Given their flexibility and ability to embrace the fantastic and wondrous, what can’t one write about for middle graders and up? LeAnna Herrera of Mysterious Galaxy bookstore queries the limits with authors Jenn Reese(Above World, Mirage), Jessica Brody (Unremembered),James Morris (Skybound), Nancy Holder (Wolf Spring Chronicles), Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts), and Greg Van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World).

I must admit it is hard to remain enthused throughout the whole event. After I find the interesting stuff to browse and buy, I feel the urge to call it a day. Probably it was the b.o. talking.

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alone in the crowd

9 Mar

I was on the WordPress Reader, browsing the tag for “blogging,” and found a post entitled “Blogging at the Coffee Shop.” I scrolled down in the comments and Closet Strategy wrote: “Can totally relate — I love being alone in the crowd!”

I also share the sentiment of being at coffee shops and being alone in the crowd. There’s this strange yet peaceful feeling of being together, alone. Being a creative type, I enjoy my little makeshift office at a table as I let my ears be enveloped in the multiple conversations, the hissing of the espresso machine, and the music flowing from the speakers. I could save the four bucks, record these sounds, and play it at home to try and simulate the experience.

But it would not be the same. Well then, how about I buy an espresso machine, hire a barista, and list my house on Yelp as a cafe? Bring the experience home. No, then I would probably violate some city ordinance for running a business without a license and earn a one-star rating for not cleaning my room.

*

I like to consider myself the extrovert because I can be outgoing, but somehow my introvert tendencies show through as my mind starts to wander. It’s hard to describe what my mind really does think. Kind of like trying to describe a dream, the details quickly fade out into the back of my mind as I become fully conscious.

Gone are the days of neighbors bringing Jell-o to new arrivals and borrowing a cup of sugar, but here are the days of visiting a local cafe and enjoying the company of others sitting nearby as you are writing a blog post, reading a book, or just thinking.

wandering in big tokyo

2 Feb

When it comes to going to sleep, I find myself making a conscious effort. I try to imagine some action flick playing in my head with me as the protagonist. If that doesn’t work, then I try reading a book. If that doesn’t work, I try lying in bed longer and close my eyes by applying the right amount of pressure (present but gentle). If all that fails, then log onto the Internet.

Usually, I would be able to fall asleep within fifteen minutes when my brain finally comes to a restful state. Reading a few pages of a book, entertaining a self-indulgent fantasy, and closing my eyes in the right position usually does the trick. Only one extreme case was that I drove out to 24/7 Del Taco at 2 A.M. and bought myself a chicken soft taco and mini quesadilla. Other than that, I never used sleeping pills before, but I did use ear plugs before.

*

My family was part of a tour group during our trip in Japan last December. On the second night at Tokyo Inn, I had trouble sleeping. Sharing the room with me was my brother, who was snoring. I was able to sleep through it the previous night, but his cold amplified his snoring. I had to sleep because I needed the energy to keep up with the tour the next day. So I decided to do the crazy thing and buy myself earplugs at Family Mart, which was about a fifteen minute walk from the Inn.

It’s not so crazy when you consider that I’m a grown man in my mid-twenties, and somewhat capable of handling any Japanese thug’s karate with my half-baked Tae Kwon Do¹. It just seemed so strange to wander off to a local convenience store late at night in a foreign land. Being part of a family trip, I felt a childlike urge to hand over a permission slip for them to sign.

I donned my charcoal college sweater over my long sleeves, changed into my pants, wore a gray beanie, and put on my shoes. I placed the key into my pocket and slipped out the door. The lobby, as expected, was empty except for the clerk at the desk. I asked him if they had any earplugs by gesturing my fingertips toward my ear. Perhaps they happened to have some and it could spare me the trouble of going out. The clerk signaled that he understood by mouthing “ah” and then shook his head. I thanked him and walked out.

The air was cool and refreshing. The windows in the buildings around me were dark like the two a.m. sky besides the Tokyo Inn’s first floor and its white letters glowing at the top. Nearby there was road work being done; orange cones formed a line along one blocked part of the road. What caught my attention was the electronic sign. The ones back in California are the blinking sideway V’s warning drivers to merge either left or right. Instead, what I saw was a picture of an orange pixelated Japanese construction worker waving a flag tirelessly.

I had seen it when I explored Tokyo with my family explored earlier, but it felt eerie for the sign to still be on. An unexpected midnight guest, waiting endlessly for cars to pass by him.

I crossed the street and walked down another street. The buildings I passed by weren’t anything of interest. Just like the rest, they were unlit and quiet; however, there was one building where its light was still on the first floor. I took a closer look and it seemed there was some construction going on judging by the empty floor. Some shoes were visible by the door, but I didn’t hear any voices or shuffling. So I continued walking and passed by two vending machines, lit and humming. I turned a corner and finally arrived at Family Mart.

Under the store’s fluorescent light, I browsed an aisle containing medical supplies: cough syrup, bandages, and arm straps. Then I finally found a blue and white box with a set of small illustrated instruction printed on the back of the proper way to insert the ear plugs. It was expensive, about five bucks for just two pairs of ear plugs and a case.

I paid the cashier, who didn’t seem surprised though bored, and walked back to the Inn. I took another glance inside the lit building, but saw nobody except the shoes parked outside.

Absurd this may seem, this walkabout is one of my favorite moments of the trip. Yes, the Kaminarimon temple is impressive with its grand red paper lantern and countless stands nearby selling souvenirs and snacks; the Tokyo Sky Tree allows me to see the city from almost 1,200 feet above ground; the volcanic valley in Hakone overwhelmed me with its never-ending large billow of steam sprouting from the earth’s surface.

So how could wandering through the deserted streets of Tokyo late at night in search of earplugs compare to these mentioned sightseeing spots (or as cynics would like to say, tourist traps)?

In his book The Art of Traveling, Alain De Botton writes that “if we find poetry…despite their architectural compromises and discomforts, despite their garnish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.” While he is referring to services stations, motels, and airports, there was this surreal calm I experienced while walking on the sidewalk.

I didn’t feel being sucked into the beat of the marching crowd of pedestrians like I did earlier in the afternoon. Instead, my mind took luxurious backstrokes in the pool of its thoughts without being concerned about the traffic signals and Dad hurrying the family from tourist trap to tourist trap.

It was a little world I had to myself.

¹I took Tae Kwon Do when I was in elementary school, and I was one rank away from getting a black belt. My mom made me quit and later I found out that she didn’t want to pay the extra money for the belt and some additional costs that followed.

poetry reading on a cold january night

14 Jan

On a peaceful Sunday morning, I was relaxing at my favorite independent cafe, drinking a cup of mocha and reading a few pages of Your Republic is Calling You and Sputnik Sweetheart. A typical bohemian moment. I glanced at the counter and noticed a piece of paper attached to the register. Poetry Reading were the only words I could decipher from where I sat. On closer examination, the flyer goes on to inform me that it’s held every second Sunday of the month, and that day happened to be tonight.

I inquired the cashier more about the event. He told me it began recently and while there was not a lot of people reading, a good number of people came out to support it.

I hesitated. Yes, I used to have attended a few poetry readings and read some of mine. Even though the cafe was nearby, I felt bothered by the idea of driving back and spending more money. Nevertheless I made a mental note in case I did plan on going.

*

I arrived to see the cafe was packed with customers there to meet with friends and have their own bohemian moments. In the back, a group of people huddled where there was a tiny stage, enough room to support the loudspeaker, a microphone, and a chair. The MC was playing a few tunes from his guitar. I bought myself a two-dollar macaron and joined the group.

I didn’t want to perform for a few reasons.

(1) I would spend most of the time preoccupied at the thought of me reading instead of what the poets are reading.
(2) I didn’t have any poems I have that are ready to be read. Last-minute-poem? No thank you.
(3) I wanted to first observe the scene of how this monthly event plays out. Be the observer.

Some of the poets there were clutching onto pieces of paper and others their smartphones. The MC had already stopped playing his guitar; he was now holding a pad of paper. From there, he called out the name, the poet came up and performed, and this went on for an hour.

Despite the difficult of hearing due to the barista shouting orders, the chatter from the other side of the cafe, and some of the poets speaking softly, there were some memorable poets at the event.

A girl shared a poem about an aspiring standup comedian she was seeing. A guy rambled about a hard-to-follow story involving the Red Cross, but got booted off for dropping the f-bomb. Another guy did a spoken word piece about his Chinese-American identity, which I found to be moving and powerful.

When the event concluded, I was glad to have driven on a cold January night to see people brave enough to share their words not in status messages and tweets to their friends and fans, but to a company of strangers, face-to-face. While we listeners had our own aesthetics, we soaked in the moment of where the poet and his work were one.

Now that’s what I call instant bohemian gratification (feat. snapping fingers).

in the search of edible paradise

20 Nov

Out of the blue, I had a mad craving for Twinkies. It was the news about Hostess going bankrupt that got me longing for that snack. Bittersweet indeed.

The last twinkie I had was one year ago at a county fair. And yes, it was deep-fried and delicious.

So I embarked on a quest of finding myself some Twinkies to devour.

From my house, I walked to a nearby liquor store and found there was none. Hours later, after running an errand, I visited Target. Nothing. Albertsons, nothing. Then a Rite Aid, where I never felt so insulted when I saw packs of Zingers (not made by Hostess) were on sale. No way I’m going to settle for a horrible substitute as that.

And I figured, 7-11. Of course, that place must have them. I went there and browsed through the aisles with the hope of finding them. Some packages of doughnuts, but no twinkies.

During my search thus far, I had asked twice if the store was carrying Twinkies. What an unusual, desperate request of me to make.

Before grabbing dinner at a diner, I walked over to a nearby liquor store. Like the past clerks, the woman behind the counter greeted me. And as I browsed through the aisle, I found it, a box of Twinkies. I was anxious as I walked over to the box, but then I was crestfallen: the box was empty. As if its voidness was there to mock my whimsical consumerism bent on instant gratification. It did a pretty good job doing so.

I asked the clerk about the twinkies and she said that they sold out; however, she did console me by telling me that tomorrow she will be buying some more from a distributor she knows.

I ate a turkey burger, and drove to another liquor store; there was Hostess-made, orange-frosted cupcakes. I felt uneasy. It had similar spongy texture and the cream-filling as the twinkie. I was about to settle on them until I saw the 56 grams of sugar in the nutrition facts. So okay, not much of an excuse, but it got me thinking: why compromise with a unsatisfying substitute? I left the store empty-handed.

On the drive home, I decided to stop by another Rite Aid with the thought of settling for a pack of non-Hostess Zingers. I know, but after driving around for over an hour, I needed a sense of closure. So as I was in the store weighing the package in my hand, someone passed by me and said something. I don’t remember his exact words, but something in his amused tone told me that he was being humored by my twinkie fix. Like how the nutrition facts snapped me out of settling for less, I decided not to buy the Zingers.

So instead, I got myself a hot churro from Del Taco on the way home. It may not have been the spongy snack I was craving for, but it was far better than a wanna-be twinkie.