The Only Next Indiana Jones For Me

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Well, after the news about Alden Ehrenreich being cast as the new Han Solo, it’s time for me to accept the fact that this is not going to happen:

I won’t hold a grudge because that would be silly.  Best wishes to Alden and all that.  He got the role of a lifetime.  To be honest, I didn’t really want to see this film (though I’m 100% sure I will) other than to see what Anthony would do with it.  I merely accepted the film as an inevitability and hoped for the best.

But although this fangirlish campaign of sorts is over, I don’t see it as a total loss.  Because there’s another inevitability on the horizon, just past Cinderella’s castle, and it’s one I care about even more.   For now, this is still a possibility:

Writer James Thomas has perfectly laid out my own feelings here as to why we do not need another Indiana Jones.  No one can ever replace Harrison Ford as this character for me.  But in this age of reboots, we all know it is coming.  And if it is to happen, I want it done right.  The only person who should be considered to fill Harrison Ford’s boots is this young Harrison Ford.

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The great thing about an Indy reboot—you know, if it has to happen—is that the Indy films are both timeless (nothing would have to be rewritten for a younger generation as it was always set in the past) and episodic.  They were always stand-alone adventures.  Anything could happen both between the original films and before them, and no canon would ever have to be messed with.  They could put Anthony in the role and the legend could just sort of…continue.  As though it always was.  How very convenient it would be for Disney, and how very fulfilling for us.

I would actually look forward to this.

I’m trying to understand why this is even more important to me than Han Solo, and I think it’s because the young Han Solo was only ever going to be the younger Han Solo.  Pre-Han Solo.  He was always going to be somehow other than Harrison Ford.

But if they reboot Indy with a younger actor, and if they want to do it right, that person is going to have to be Harrison Ford.  Not other.  Not younger (which of course, Anthony has already proven himself capable of, anyway) or pre-Harrison Ford.  Just Harrison Ford.

I still believe only Anthony Ingruber can pull that off.  And with Han Solo decided, that means the movie-making/going world is now freed up to focus on this potential.

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Q&A with Misty Burkett of Jacksonville Zombie Walk

Misty Burkett is the Marketing Director/Event Coordinator for Jacksonville Zombie Walk, an organization founded in 2008 by Jenifer Michel.  The mission of the Jacksonville Zombie Walk, from its Facebook page, is “to raise awareness of world hunger and stock up the local food drives”.  A zombie walk, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is an organized event wherein a group of people get dressed up like zombies and take a walk through an urban environment.

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Carrington:  How and when did you get involved with Jacksonville Zombie Walk?

Misty:  I was introduced to Jenifer Michel by a mutual friend back in 2013.  Immediately a friendship began over our love of zombies, all things horror, anything nerdy, and our interest in cosplay.

Carrington:  How much time and preparation goes into organizing an event of this size?

Misty:  We started this year’s planning back in May 2015 and we are talking about next year starting even earlier due to the enormous amount of time and planning that goes into these walks.

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Carrington:  In what ways has Jacksonville Zombie Walk been a benefit to the city?

Misty:  JZW, for the last eight years, has worked with Second Harvest and Daniel [Kids] for food drives.  This year we are proud to announce we are working with Hubbard House to raise awareness for domestic violence, and we are also doing a food drive for the families affected by domestic violence.

Carrington:  What sort of challenges does Jacksonville Zombie Walk face?

Misty:  Sometimes people can’t get past the zombie part of our walk/cause and don’t want to participate or donate.  It can be easy to lose sight of what the organization/walk is doing, and that is we are helping the community.

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Carrington:  What are Jacksonville Zombie Walk’s plans for the future?

Misty:  Jacksonville Zombie Walk is very excited for this year’s lineup.  JZW presents our 8th annual zombie walk for Hubbard House on October 18th in Jacksonville, Florida, located downtown at Hemming Plaza.  And we are proud to announce that we will be leading Spooky Empire Zombie Walk this year, and that will take place on October 30th in Orlando, Florida.  In the near future, we have started planning for a pub-crawl in February 2016.

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Carrington:  What has been your favorite experience from doing Jacksonville Zombie Walk?

Misty:  Spending time with my family and friends helping the community, and of course dressing up like zombies.

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Carrington:  What are some of your other passions aside from Jacksonville Zombie Walk?

Misty:  I am very big into cosplay; I love designing and coming up with a costume concept and watching it come to life.  I enjoy the fact my boys participate in cosplay and are following in their mom’s footsteps with comic books and art.  As a cosplay mom, it makes me happy when my boys come to me with their own ideas for costumes they want to do or ideas for us as a family.  I am also trying my hand in vending at shows selling my art and purses, so we will see how that goes and where it will take me from here.

Carrington:  What’s your favorite zombie movie (or series) and why?

Misty:  I love Shaun of the Dead.  That and Zombieland are my top favorite basically tied–I love the dry and dark humor in both movies, but I have a bit of a crush on the main character in Zombieland, Jesse Eisenberg.  And falling in second place in my heart of zombie movies is Warm Bodies–what can I say, I am a hopeless romantic and just want to see the zombie get the girl….

Carrington:  If you could say one thing to get people to come out and participate in Jacksonville Zombie Walk, what would it be?

Misty:  The Jacksonville Zombie Walk is a kid-friendly and family-oriented event.  This year we are working with Hubbard House collecting non-perishable items for the families affected by domestic violence.  Come out and see us on October 18th in Hemming Plaza at 1pm.  The walk is free.  Please bring two non-perishable goods to be donated to the Hubbard House.

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I had the pleasure of participating in JZW a few years ago.  Here’s my friend and me with Liane Curtis at the convention where the walk ended.  Good times.

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My First Con, Part III: In Which We (But Mostly Doulgar) Give James a Gift to Remember Us By

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In case you missed them, here is Part I and here is Part II.

Doulgar and I were both sad when we awoke on Sunday.  Yes, we still had until the end of the day, but neither of us was ready to leave Nashville and all the magic that had so far occurred there.  So we booked our rooms for another night and decided to leave the next morning.

We weren’t exactly sure how to carry out our plan for that day.  First thing when we arrived, we walked by and saw that James was not at his booth.  So we headed back near the front door to decide what to do.  A moment later, I saw James arrive with the manager.  “Hey!” he said, smiling as he walked past.  I smiled and waved back, speechless as ever.

“Doulgar!” I said.  “Doulgar!  He’s here!  He just arrived, see?”  I pointed.

“So, should we go present our gift to him?”

I figured we may as well.  It was the last day and people would be leaving early.  We didn’t have a lot of time to squander.

James’s manager had been giving us more and more dirty looks every time we went up to talk to him.  It was getting really awkward.  We knew we totally deserved it.  And yet, even though she glared at us like the creepy stalkers we were, as soon as we got past her to James, he greeted us as warmly as the very first time.  He treated us like guests he had invited to his home; she treated us like Jehovah’s Witnesses at her door.

When we approached, his manager actually said, “You again?”  She wasn’t even attempting to be polite anymore.  It was very clear exactly what she thought of us.  But, seriously–it isn’t like we get to hang out with James Marsters every day!  I think that was one of only two times we went up to him without buying something.  We spaced out all of our autographs all weekend so we’d have legit excuses to go over there.  And still we get the dirty looks!  But like I said, we knew we deserved it.  Scorned though we were, we were allowed to pass through.

“Hi, it’s us, here to stalk you again,” Doulgar said.

“No, it’s cool!  Good to see you,” he said, and turned to smile at me.  I once again found myself without speech, but each time we saw him these moments were more and more brief.

“We brought you a gift,” Doulgar said, and explained about the CDs.

James was very excited.  “You’ve given me the greatest gift that anyone could ever give someone–the gift of music!” he said.  Quote of the day. Maybe, just maybe, come Megacon five months later, he’d still remember us.

We now had no more plans, so we decided to spend the majority of our remaining time in panels.

Billy Dee Williams was…well.  He was Billy Dee Williams.  I don’t know how else to describe Billy Dee Williams, because he’s like an adjective all on his own.  There was some guy in the panel discussion who pissed off his manager, though, and me at the same time, by asking, “How big of a jerk was Harrison Ford when you were filming Return of the Jedi?”  Instantly I bristled.  Like I’ve said before, there is only one celebrity crush above James Marsters, and it is Harrison Ford.  From everything I’ve ever read/seen, Harrison Ford is a really cool guy.  One does not insult Harrison Ford in my presence.  I growled.  Silently.

Billy Dee looked confused and confirmed my own thoughts (here is an article by someone who attended, with the exact quote), and his manager said coldly, “Why would you say that?  Don’t talk that way about people you don’t know.”

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There was another guy who asked Billy Dee if he was aware of the obscure punk rock song bearing his name.  He had the album with him and happened to have a spare copy at home, so he gave his copy to Billy Dee and they read the lyrics out loud.  Then they told him to come by later for a free autograph.  That was pretty cool.

We then attended the Henry Winkler panel, which I found very inspiring, because he talked about growing up and struggling with dyslexia and how his whole life he believed he was stupid, and his parents called him “Dumb Dog”.  All of that really hit home for me.  And he said that his whole mindset changed when he realized what his gift was.  He figured out that everyone has their own gift, and once they realize what it is, they have the potential to be great at that thing.  It was all very uplifting.  Anyway, he had to cut it short because his plane was leaving at 2:30, so he said he was returning to his booth and would only be there for another half-hour.

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After the panel, Doulgar had to use the restroom, so I sat down to wait.  About a minute later, Henry Winkler and his manager came walking around the corner.  Henry looked over and smiled and waved at me, and I called out, “I just saw your panel, and I found it very inspiring!”

Henry stopped walking.  He said that he couldn’t hear me and asked me to come closer.  I went over and said, “I found your panel discussion very inspiring.  Thank you!  I have ADD and my whole life I always believed I was stupid, too.”

“And when you grew up, you realized you were brilliant!” he said.

“Well, yeah!”  I smiled.

His manager was hurrying him along.  Henry started speeding along beside him, but he turned back to me and held out his hand.  I hesitated for the merest of seconds to glance over my shoulder; Doulgar was not out of the restroom yet.  My phone was in the car so I would have no way of reaching him to let him know where I was.  I could be lost for a very long time in that building.  But The Fonz wanted me to walk with him, so walk with him I did.  I took his hand and on we went.  He kept trying to make conversation with me, and his manager kept interrupting.  Twice he asked me what I do, and twice I did not have a chance to reply.

We stopped at a drink machine.  “Do you like coffee?” he offered.

“Not really,” I said, feeling rather rude, but I didn’t want to accept a drink and put it right in the trash.

“Oh, okay.”

“…But I will have a smoothie!”  I smiled very widely.  I love smoothies.

“That’s my girl!” he said.  “What kind of smoothie?”

Normally I would stop and consider ALL the smoothie choices.  Every single one.  But sensing the urgency of the situation, I just said, “Strawberry!”

The smoothie was taking forever, and his manager was rushing him along again, so he paid for my smoothie and went along.

“Is he a nice guy?” said the drink stand girl.  “He seems like he’d be a really nice guy.”

“He’s a total sweetheart!” I said.

I turned and saw Doulgar approaching.

“The Fonz just bought me a smoothie,” I said.

“You know, while I was in the restroom, I was asking myself, who is she going to pick up for the minute or so that she’s by herself?”

“The Fonz.  I picked up The Fonz.”

We decided to go catch him at his booth before he left so I could thank him once again for the smoothie.  When he saw us approaching, he put his hands on his hips and opened his mouth in mock surprise.  I grinned and said, “Thank you again for the smoothie!”

“You are most welcome, my dear,” he said.

While Doulgar paid for a photo, Henry asked me, “So, are you two brother and sister?”  (Yes, this was the second time he had asked us that.)

I glanced at Doulgar, knowing he was listening.  I grinned.  “Yeah,” I said, “yeah, he’s my brother.”

“Oh, good!” said Henry Winkler.

I made sure the smoothie was visible in the picture.

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We said goodbye to The Fonz, and I suggested we go tell James about my smoothie before departing.

James’s manager was certainly not thrilled to see us again.  But at least I had an opening line again this time.  And each time we saw him became easier and easier for me to speak to him.  He was just so nice.

“Hi,” I said, “we just came to say goodbye.  We’re about to head back to Florida.”

As I waited much too long to write this entry, I can no longer recall what was said immediately after that.  Doulgar was saying something while I sipped my smoothie.

“The Fonz bought me a smoothie,” I said nonchalantly to James.

“What!?  That’s AWESOME!” he said, and his whole face lit up.  “Is he here?”

“Yeah…do you guys not know beforehand who’s going to be here?” I said.

“Well, I knew at one point he was supposed to be here, but I wasn’t sure if he had canceled.  I haven’t seen him anywhere.”

“Oh, he’s been hitting on her all weekend,” Doulgar said, and James laughed.  Doulgar explained about how in his panel discussion, Henry Winkler was talking about his parents wanting him to go into the family business of buying and selling wood, and he didn’t want to do that because he wanted to be an actor.  “Well, I’d say he’s been selling wood all weekend!”

James laughed so hard he slapped the table with his hand.  He told us that when he was growing up, he thought Henry Winkler was just the coolest guy, and was so disappointed to learn he was such a goofball offscreen and not really anything like the character of The Fonz.  But then when he got the role of Spike, he was also a goofball offscreen.  “I’m nothing like that character,” he said.  “He’s a total badass and I’m a really nice guy.  So I realized, in a way, I’m kind of like The Fonz of Buffy.”

Now that I had finally found my tongue, there were people behind us in line again, so finally it was time to say goodbye to James until next time.

“We’ll probably see you in Orlando in March,” I said.  And he shook our hands and I stared into his eyes one last time, and…that was that.

There wasn’t a whole lot left for us to do, so we looked at what panels were left and decided to go see Ray Park, and after that, we called it a day.

We found an awesome British pub in Printer’s Alley (that you had to go downstairs to get into–nothing like that in Florida, of course) to eat, because we figured there at least we wouldn’t be surrounded by country music.  That place would totally be my hangout if I lived in Nashville.

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Afterward we went to walk around the city until it was dark.  The weather was absolutely exquisite.  The whole weekend it was exquisite.

I stepped over one of those grates where there’s steam coming up from it.  It totally took me by surprise when my skirt blew right up like that famous picture of Marilyn Monroe.  That doesn’t happen when I walk over grates in downtown Jax.  I giggled with excitement at getting to play Marilyn for a moment and made sure to hold my skirt down when we walked over the next one.

We went to the Capitol building to watch the sun set over the mountains and the entire city of Nashville.  Sweet, fancy Moses–so gorgeous.  I hadn’t seen anything like it in years.  We waited until there was zero color left in the sky before leaving.

Oh–important note.  At the Nashville Capitol building, there’s a mock-up of the Liberty Bell.  I laid down on my back, stuck my head up in there, and licked the inside of it, out of respect to one of my two favorite How I Met Your Mother characters.  I knew if I did not, I would always regret not having done so.  And it was legen–wait for it–dary!  It also coated my mouth with nastiness.  But it was so worth it.  Anything for the story, I always say.

We couldn’t freeze time forever.  Morning came, we ate our complimentary waffles, and it was time to go.  Along the way, we stopped and got some peach cider, some pumpkin fudge, some alligator jerky…all that kind of stuff you can’t get unless you’re on the road.

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And then we were back in Florida, and it was very sad, but only because we had a totally epic adventure!

Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it before, The Fonz bought me a smoothie, and James Marsters told me I was very beautiful.

Some last day sights:

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My First Con, Part II: In Which I Approach James Marsters With a Plan

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Here’s Part I, in case you missed it.

The next morning we again arose cool, bright, and early.  The day before, after meeting James Marsters, we had attempted to get our photo ops in, but we headed over to the booth ten minutes after it had begun and it was all over.

With that in mind, we decided to wait an hour in advance for everything else we didn’t want to miss, which included the James Marsters panel early in the day for which we had paid good money for guaranteed seating.  So the schedule for the day was:  Arrive Super Early; Wait One Hour For Panel; Panel; Wait One Hour For Photo; Photo; Let Me Talk To James.  There was no real goal apart from that.

Here are some of the costumes we saw that second day:

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We entered the tail end of a panel about Doctor Who, and found seats in the front row.  As soon as it was over, while people were still standing up and wading through the chaos, we claimed seats front and center.

We were soon joined by a girl on Doulgar’s side who smelled too strongly of perfume, and an older woman on my side who knew everything there ever was to know about James Marsters and flaunted it.  As soon as she sat down she was spewing facts like she was teaching a class.  This woman went on and on, inputting into everything that was said and even answering for James on several questions.  That got a bit tiresome.

Here are a couple of links to videos JeanBugC took at the panel:

James talks about supervillains.
James talks about Leonard Nimoy.

And here are a couple of shots we took:

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Afterward, we had about an hour before photo ops, so we went to stand in line.  These two really cool girls were standing in line behind us, so we passed the time with them.

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James remembered us from the day before, even after all the people he must have met since then, and of course I started blushing.  And then…then James put his arm around me and pulled me all close to him, and I went totally weak at the knees.

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We headed then for a Superman panel.  Dean Cain was present.  At some point he mentioned that most of us in the audience were probably seven years old when Lois and Clark was on TV.  Somebody later said that he had actually been thirteen.  At the end, I went up to Dean Cain, shook his hand, and said, “I was seven, and my mom had the biggest crush on you!”

He laughed and said, “I like your mom!”  He then attempted to amend that statement to something less…something.  But all I heard was, “I mean–” before someone jumped in front of me to shake his hand, and I never got to hear what Dean Cain really meant to say when he told me he liked my mom.  I couldn’t wait to tell my mom!

At last we decided it was time to go back to James.  I asked Doulgar to let me do the talking.  Doulgar still didn’t know what I was about to do.

I gave James ‘Love Me’ Face once again.  We can just assume I was unwittingly giving him ‘Love Me’ Face all weekend long, but in this moment I played it for all it was worth because that was all I had going for me and, well, I was totally feeling it, anyway.

So after a brief moment of that, I said, “Since I’m too shy to talk to you, will you just talk British to me?”

He didn’t even hesitate; he just grinned at me and said the following in Spike-voice:

“If you want me to talk British to you, love, you don’t have to ask.  You just paid $40 just to come up here and talk to me, so I’ll say anything you want.”

“Thank you–that was AWESOME!” I said, trying not to giggle.

And then…THEN he said, “Thank you; you’re very beautiful.”

I must say, I did not expect that.  I had high hopes for the weekend, I really did, but nothing could have prepared me for that moment.  That moment when Spike himself looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said, “You’re very beautiful.”

Okay, I’ll stop acting like a schoolgirl for a few paragraphs.  …Eh…nope.  No, I won’t.

So Comic Con is totally awesome!  It was like I was drugged for the entire weekend.  For the rest of that second day, I’d just sort of space out with a big grin on my face and Doulgar would be like, “Aaand you’re not listening.  I know where your mind is,” and I’d be all, “Yes…I was just remembering that time a couple hours ago when James Marsters told me I was very beautiful.”

Afterward, we stopped at this little Greek restaurant for dinner, where something really weird took place.  The whole place was packed, so after deciding what we wanted to eat, Doulgar asked me to go save the one empty table while he ordered and whatnot.

I sat down, and very quickly got that weird feeling that everyone was whispering about me.  (After many, many years of bullying, it’s a very well-developed sense.)  I looked up to see what was going on, and determined that the 14 guys spread out over several different tables were all there together as one big group, and at that moment, all of them were focused on me.  Several of them had their phones up like they were trying to take pictures without acting like they were taking pictures.  So, to show that I knew exactly what was going on, I turned and smiled right into one guy’s camera phone.  Everybody started laughing.

Another guy called from across the restaurant, “What’s the relationship here?” and pointed between Doulgar and me.

“We’re friends,” I said coolly.

So that guy got up and brought me his business card with his phone number on it.  They asked what I was doing that evening, and I said we were going back to the hotel to sleep.  He asked if he could have my number, and I said he could have my email address.

Doulgar sat down, shaking his head.  “I can’t take you anywhere!” he said.

When they left, the owner was very apologetic, and I laughed and said not to worry about it, because no one had bothered me and I was flattered.  (I like attention.  I know; I guess I’m kind of stuck-up.  I admit it.)  But when he offered to do anything for me, I mentioned that I was still considering whether or not to try the baklava….

Without a word, he got a piece of baklava and put it on a plate for me.  Score!  I felt a bit guilty, but Doulgar and I were sure that baklava would have just been thrown away, anyhow.

That night, Doulgar came up with a plan for the next day.  That band he told James about on the first day…he had several of their CDs in the car and decided that James could have them.  He wrote out all the track listings and everything.

So on Sunday, we would present James with a gift to remember us by.

Other interesting sights from that day:

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Continue to Part III.

My First Con, Part I: In Which We Go to Comic Con and Meet with Epicness

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My first ever Comic Con—Wizard World Nashville, 2013–was totally epic!  I’m almost afraid to put words to it and detract from the epicness, but I must attempt, because my memory just isn’t that great these days, and I need to preserve these moments forever.

Even the drive up there was pretty cool.

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I went with my (now former) friend—let’s call him “Doulgar” to protect his privacy—in his car, which, fortunately, got us there and back in one piece.  It had been 10 years since I’d been up “north”–well, north of here, anyway, because Nashville is definitely in the South.  Even so, it was autumn and there are actual seasons up there.  And it had been 14 years since I’d seen the “north” in autumn.  So I was pretty excited about the weather and the view.  It had been so long since I’d seen actual hills, I wasn’t even sure they were hills at first!  I was suspicious they were the big fake hills we have here that are made out of garbage.  But gradually, things started to change over our 10-hour drive.  We were escaping a heat wave in Jacksonville and going into crisp, cool mountain air and beautiful, clear blue skies.  I got excited when we stopped at a rest stop right outside Tennessee and I saw the grass.  “Look! This is good grass!  Not like the shite grass we have in Florida!”  I had to lean down and run my hands over it, and pick it up and tear the little strands of grass apart like I used to when I was little.  You just can’t do that with Florida grass.  At another point I flipped out over a leaf on the ground.  “Look at this leaf!  We don’t have trees in Florida that produce leaves shaped like this!  All we have are stupid, ugly palm trees!”  I was like a little kid at Christmastime.  Or, more accurately, at autumn-time, I suppose.  It was ridiculous, but what can I say?  I hate Florida.  In Tennessee in October, I could have stood outside all day huffing that cold air and staring at the mountains under the pale azure sky.

But the purpose of the trip was to meet James Marsters, so we went to the Music City Center.  Nashville, by the way, is a gorgeous and lively city, far more so than Jacksonville.

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It would have been awesome were it not for all the country music and cowboy boots everywhere.  Neither of us could tolerate much of that.  But inside the Music City Center was a whole different world:  Wizard World.

It was the first time either Doulgar or I had been to a Comic Con.  We weren’t too sure what to expect, apart from at some point we were going to meet James Marsters.

Here are a few of the things you can expect from Comic Con:

Star Wars displays!

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Giving the bunny ears to R2, and look at this adorable Jawa!

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Donations to worthy causes!

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Zombies!

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The Dude selling his wares to…wizards?  Siths?  Everyone’s welcome!

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Bootlegs!

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Cardboard!

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Famous automobiles!

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Costumes!

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Anyway, having now met him a few times, it feels totally awkward saying this in a public place, but James Marsters is my second-biggest celebrity crush (after Harrison Ford, of course).  I have way too many celebrity crushes, but somehow these two are in a place of their own that no others have been able to quite reach.  So, knowing that James goes to these conventions, I went online, found one that was within reasonable driving distance and leaving me ample time to prepare to take off, and I bought my ticket.  Doulgar, being a Buffy fan, had no objections to buying James Marsters VIP tickets.  We went all out.  There was no way we were not going to see James Marsters.

But for the first half of the first day of Comic Con, I avoided James at all costs.  I just didn’t know what I was going to say to him.  I didn’t know that I would be capable of speaking to him.  Talk about starstruck!  I had forewarned Doulgar that I knew I was going to be weird, that it was just unavoidable.  So we talked to some other people first, and I had absolutely no problem with that.  I’m an outgoing person and I can talk freely to most anyone I meet.

We met Lou Ferrigno first.  As Doulgar is a mumbler and Lou is part deaf, that was a little awkward.  I wanted to hold my hand up to Lou’s to compare because his hands were enormous!  Well, like the rest of him, really.  Doulgar, who at first claimed he could not be guilted into buying anything, was guilted into buying a DVD.  And I did not let him forget it for the rest of the weekend!

Doulgar wanted to talk to this female wrestler who was there.  I had no idea who she was, but we talked to her about working out for a moment.  She told us that Ernie Hudson, whose booth was right next to hers, was pretty built underneath his Ghostbusters uniform.  So we went to talk to Ernie.  Doulgar repeated Female Wrestler’s comment about his uniform, and he said, “Well, I’m just getting ready to take it off in a few minutes.”

I said all flirtatiously, “Ooh.  Can we watch?”  He laughed.  Ernie was really cool and friendly.  I liked talking to him.  I still had game, still felt like myself.

Obligatory shot of a tiny Ghostbusters display from the event.

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I was able to talk to Henry Winkler with as much ease as I spoke to Ernie Hudson.  More so, actually, because he started hitting on me right off the bat.  Not in an offensive sort of way, but more like he was doing it for laughs, as though his shtick is to be ‘on’ all the time and to charm everyone.  It was pretty adorable.

We said hello, and then Henry asked, “Are you brother and sister?”

“No, we’re friends,” Doulgar said.

“Oh, good,” said Henry, smiling at me.

I said, “I bet I’m the first person to ask you if there’s going to be a Season 5 of Arrested Development.”

“Well, you’re the first person today,” he said.  And it was toward the end of the day at this point.  I’d had a feeling everyone else would have been talking about Happy Days.  “Yes,” he went on, “at this point it looks very much like there’s going to be a Season 5.”

I told him it’s one of my favorite shows because you can watch it over and over and not get all the jokes.  “I don’t know how many times I’ll watch Season 4 before I get everything.  Do you guys get all the jokes when you’re reading it?  Do you know what’s going on beforehand?”

“No,” he said, “we just say what they tell us to say.”

Doulgar tried to interject here and there, but Henry only had eyes for me.  I even heard Doulgar mumble something about having a poster of him on his wall as a kid, but Henry didn’t really look up from me, which was kind of hilarious—to me, anyway.  We talked a little bit more about what a genius Mitch Hurwitz is, and then there were people behind us so Doulgar and I shook hands with him again.

“It was nice to meet you,” he told Doulgar.  “And it was very nice meeting you,” he told me, playfully nudging me with his elbow.

We still had not seen James and it was really late in the day, so we decided it was time.  I swallowed my fear of approaching him with nothing at all to say other than, “I’m completely in love with you, please come home with me,” and hoped Doulgar would find something to say for me while I communicated in code with my eyes and smile.

“Just ask him to come back with you,” Doulgar said, clearly trying to get me all stirred up.  Probably it was revenge for me laughing at him being guilted into buying Lou’s DVD.

“I’m not going to hit on him; he’s married!” I hissed back, horrified by the thought of anyone at all overhearing this exchange.

“Oh, he is?”

“Of course he is!”

We stopped talking for a moment because now we were right there and I didn’t want him or his manager to hear me talking about whether or not he was married.

Doulgar nudged me and dropped his voice.  “There’s a ring on his hand.  Sorry.”

“I told you!”

Doulgar laughed while I selected an 8×10 to have signed, and then there we were.  And I had forgotten how to speak.  So instead I gave James my very best puppy-eyed “love me” face.

James greeted us like we were old friends and saved me by instantly going into the story behind the photo that I selected.  They had asked him to pose in a certain way that made him feel awkward, so he reached down to adjust his clothing and they snapped the picture, and it actually turned out well.  Apparently most people choose that one for him to sign.

And then Doulgar saved me by telling him we had listened to some of his music on the way up there.

“Oh, yeah?” James said.  “Have you heard Murphy’s?”

I stuttered, “I…got…it,” and then decided not to try speaking again for a moment because *fail*.  (But the actual answer is, yes, I have all your albums, of course I do.)

Doulgar said, “We listened to your solos on the way up here.  I haven’t heard any of the group yet.”

James said that he felt going solo was a mistake.  He said he enjoyed doing it, but the real magic was in the group, where everyone was collaborating and it wasn’t just him.  “Take the Beatles,” he said.  “They’re great by themselves, but together…they’re the Beatles.”

I gave him ‘Love Me’ Face again.  “Aw, but I like your solo stuff, too,” I said.  Okay.  Score one for me for actually getting out a complete, adorable sentence.  He smiled and thanked me and I blushed again.  I’m assuming I was bright red every time I saw him the entire weekend.

Then Doulgar mentioned The Infidels, a group from Youngstown, Ohio that James had not heard of.  Doulgar told him he needed to check them out because they’re amazing, and I added, “Yeah, they’re really good.  We listened to them in the car on the way up here.”

James turned back to me and said, “Right on.”  I swear, every time he turned to acknowledge me with a smile, I melted again.  It was really hard to maintain eye contact because my defenses were down and I was so sure he could read my very soul.  I kept telling myself, ‘Stop looking at Doulgar.  You can see Doulgar anytime.  If you can’t speak to James, at least keep smiling at him.  Be strong!’

We departed much too soon, but we would see him again the next day.  That night I went to my room to strategize.  When I saw him again, I would be prepared with actual, intelligible speech.

Continue to Part II.

Do You Like Harry Potter?

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Once upon a time, when LiveJournal was a thing that I was very, very into, I joined a Harry Potter role-playing community.  I had never heard of role-playing comms before, but it sounded like the next-best thing to actually attending Hogwarts, so I was excited about it.

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To join, n00bs were required to answer a handful of questions with as much detail as possible so current members could Sort them into one of the four Houses.  So, after writing a series of essays and receiving the results from what was essentially the first Sorting quiz I ever took (22 votes for Gryffindor, 20 Slytherin, 2 Ravenclaw, and 0 Hufflepuff), I went to join my fellow lions in the Gryff common room as a bright-eyed First Year.

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I won’t discuss the role-playing itself in great detail because, as anyone who wrote fan-fiction in their angst-ridden teen years knows, What Happens In Fan-Fic Stays In Fan-Fic.  But I will say that friendships, enemies, and allegiances were formed both in the comm and for real.  Hogwarts and what happened therein was only limited to our imaginations and to the rules of the comm, so we were really living the dream.

Apart from the role-playing, there were various activities to gain House points, like writing and art projects such as creating LJ icons.  Having no artistic skills, I stuck primarily to writing projects, but some other members came up with some great stuff.

gryffindor   chocolatelupin   harryhedwig - Copy   catwalksnape

marysue   waxonoff   lucius   stupidscar

Okay, that’s enough icons for now.  (And I have so many more still!)

But for those of us in Gryffindor, and for a select few of our allies in the other Houses, it wasn’t so much about the projects or even the fan-fic.  For us, the most important thing we got out of it all was our nightly Gryff Chats.  It was the early 2000s, when Facebook was new and not widely-used, and AIM was still very much a thing.  It was in the Gryff Chats that the real friendships came to be.

In those days, my schedule four days a week was class, then work, followed by an all-nighter of homework.  Much of my homework, being an English major, involved writing, so I would head straight for the computer after work, when most of the household was just heading to bed.  I would sit down with my books and wait for my nightly invitation to the Gryff Chat.

The nighttime, once a place of dreams, now held the key to a secret world filled with characters who came to life only when the clock struck midnight.  There was a definite air of magic to the Gryff Chats, which often ran all the way until dawn.  They were friends, certainly; we talked, as girls do, of all the melodrama in our young adult lives.  We knew all the gossip about one another, and yet we were separated by hundreds or thousands of miles and at most, we had maybe seen one or two photos of each other.  I shared the Gryffs with no one.  My family in the same household and sometimes the same room with me knew nothing of the faceless friends who kept me company through the long, studious hours.  It was as though each night I climbed through the looking glass into an alternate universe where my Gryffindor classmates joined me in conquering the Jabberwocky that was college.

Before long, a divide happened within the comm.  It became infested with elitist h0rs who didn’t care for pranks.  They did not care for pranks at all.  Our House was all about the pranks, and we knew there were several people in other Houses who appreciated them, as well.  After all, we were there to have fun.  Soon, pranksters were punished with harsher and harsher consequences, up to and including expulsion from the comm.  There was an all-out witch hunt (pun intended) for anyone plotting or speaking out against the mods, and this sparked the second internet community rebellion I had ever had the pleasure and the privilege of being a part of.  (The first was a couple years previous on an Indiana Jones fan forum, when forums were still a thing.)

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A new Harry Potter RP comm came to be, and we started leaving for the new one in droves.  Some left immediately, never to look back.  Some held back for a while to spy and report on the hilarity to those who were already blocked.  Two members of the Gryff Chats left a homemade swamp in the Great Hall, Fred-and-George-style.

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And then came the night when we discovered we had a snitch in our midst.  One of our very own chat members had ratted us out to our worst enemy.  What ensued was one of our greatest chats of all time, wherein we spent six hours reviewing a previous chat that someone just happened to have saved from which certain words outlining a forthcoming exodus from the comm had been quoted verbatim to our nemesis.  This resulted in the premature banning of several of our Housemates.  It took all six hours, but in what came to be known as the Detective Chat (which many of us, including myself, saved to laugh at later), we did eventually determine who the snitch was.

All good things must come to an end, however, and our time in the old and the new comm reached a gradual conclusion as more of us sacrificed journal time to have real lives.  Unfortunately, in those days, I hardly used Facebook and didn’t even think to friend any of my Gryff Chatters there.  LiveJournal felt so permanent, I was convinced we would be friends there forever.  And before long, I lost touch with all of them.  I tried to find them, but not knowing anyone’s full names, this proved, sadly, impossible.

TEN YEARS LATER

One day, while reviewing the files on an old CD, I came across the Detective Chat.  Feeling nostalgic, I sat and read the entire thing.  It read like a regular Whodunnit with mystery, intrigue, and many laughs.  And I thought, This could make an excellent stage play. I immediately set to work editing and planned a date with a theatre friend to do a read-through and see what she thought.  I divvied up the parts and told her all I knew was I wanted to read Becca, because it was Becca who made me laugh the most, and I really felt I could do that part justice.  After a couple hours of giggles, my friend told me she agreed that this could really work as a play.  So I continued with the edits.

A couple weeks later, I sat down to my desk at work and found an email from an unfamiliar name.  I work for a large, multi-national company, so this is nothing out of the ordinary.  But what did strike me as strange was the subject line, which seemed oddly personal.

“Do you like Harry Potter?”, it read.

I opened it.  It said nothing inside.  I wasn’t quite sure how to reply.  It was from an address within the company.  Perhaps my friend and teammate had given another nerdy friend my name, knowing that we would get along because of a shared obsession with Harry Potter.  Not knowing what else to say, I attached a photo of myself in Hogwarts gear and said, “This should answer your question.”  I hit ‘Send’.

I waited a few moments for a reply, studying the name, trying to figure out what it meant to me.  It did seem oddly familiar, like something I had seen somewhere years before…perhaps in a LiveJournal screen name.

A chill ran through me.  It couldn’t be.  That was impossible.  …Wasn’t it?

Immediately, without even caring about the possible awkward consequences, I sent another response.

“Wait…is this Becca?” I said.  “The Becca!?  FROM THE GRYFF CHATS!?!?

Moments later, the reply came back:

“I KNEW IT WAS YOU!!!!!  I saw you in the restroom just now and I recognized your face from that old profile photo!!  I stole a glance at your nametag and I thought there just can’t be that many Carringtons out there!!!  So I looked you up here and thought I’d take a shot!!”

I thought back to the restroom and suddenly remembered holding the door for a girl I’d never seen before who had confused me by staring a moment too long.

“OMG!!!  WE MUST MEET!!  NOW!!!” I said.  We exchanged a few more “OMG”s until we were both able to get away from our desks, and then we met back at the door to the restroom.  We hugged and screamed and jumped up and down and generally made a spectacle of ourselves.

So, had I not stopped to be a Gryffindor and hold the door for someone, she might never have seen my face or my nametag, and we might never have discovered that we work on the same floor of the same building.  And what’s more, Becca (who lived in Pennsylvania at the time I knew her) was still in touch with everyone on Facebook.  They had their own group.  She added me that night.

And that’s the story of how Harry Potter and LiveJournal brought me the best “small world” story of my entire life.

harryginny   luscious   werewolves2   messrs

aaroncarter   buckbeakdie   fly   heroes

Chreon Takes Aim at the Dark Side

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With my friend’s and my help, her husband became Pastor of Video Games at Chreon Ministries, and it was so rad.

We were discussing the fact that her mother had just been made a deacon at their church, and her husband made a sly remark that he would like to be a deacon as well.  What could he be a deacon of?  Well, they decided (and I have no clue what the differences are between deacons, ministers, pastors, preachers, whatever, so I had no input) that you could be a deacon of pretty much anything these days.  He stated that he would like to be deacon of video games.  No, he said, after more consideration, he would like to be a minister of video games.  No–better still–he wanted to be Pastor of Video Games, with capital letters.  And he wanted business cards to prove it.

At that moment, he was playing Resident Evil 4, and she was inquiring about the game a bit.  Who was that guy?  (It was Leon.)  Is he in all the games?  (No, Chris is in Resident Evil 5, but he hasn’t played that one yet.)

“And,” he said, “in Resident Evil 6, they’re combining Chris and Leon.”

“What, they’re making a–Chreon?” I said, confused.

He explained that, no, they were not combining the two into one unstoppable super-soldier, but pairing them up.  He had just used the wrong word.  But my friend and I, after much laughter, decided that Chreon simply had to be a thing, and that we would make it ourselves.

“Baby, that’s what can go on your business cards!  Chreon Ministries!” she said. And we headed instantly into the other room to begin work on it.

It took about four hours in all. First we found the most similar (front-facing head shot) images we could of both Chris and Leon:

Chris

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Leon

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We then “combined” the two into one unstoppable super-soldier:

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Lastly, we made the business card itself:

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The quote we got from various Resident Evil titles–“Deadly Aim” and “The Darkside Chronicles”.  Also, it sounded weirdly appropriate.

At the end of those four hours, we were extremely proud of ourselves, and all of us are very excited to actually hold the final product in our hands.

Also, in my opinion after looking at hundreds of pictures of them each, Chris is totally hotter than Leon.

Q&A with Jeremy Spicer of Germ Spider Designs

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Jeremy Spicer, a.k.a. The Toymaker, is the creator of the edgy, horror-themed dolls and plushies known as Infected Toys, and owner of Germ Spider Designs in Jacksonville, Florida.  Jeremy travels to various conventions and art shows, and you can contact him on his Facebook page to inquire about his work.

Carrington:  Where did you get the inspiration for your first piece?

Jeremy:  Well, I first got the inspiration to do my Infected Toys while at a yard sale, oddly enough.  Before that Germ Spider Designs was just my paintings.  But at the Yard Sale I saw three vintage dolls in a box for a really cheap price.  So I thought I’d buy them and see what I could come up with.  I always thought dolls and plushies had the potential to be really creepy, so I thought it’d be fun to tap into it and try to express the kinds of things that go on in my head.  I didn’t expect it to catch on, but it surprisingly did.  And thus the Infected Toys were born.

Carrington:  How do you select a new project?  Does anything go?

Jeremy:  I mainly just go with what would be fun to do.  To me, if you’re not having fun, it isn’t worth doing.  Especially with art.  Otherwise, anything goes.  With art, few things should be off limits.  Whether someone adores it or it offends someone, either reaction is integral to you as an artist.

Carrington:  In what ways have the Infected Toys and your creative process evolved since your first piece?

Jeremy:  Oh, many ways.  I’ve become MUCH MUCH MUCH better at making teeth.  Ridiculously so.  Haha.  The originals looked like little chunks of gum.  It was awful.  I’ve also found ways to make the mouths and eyes look wet, while still being dry to the touch.  And the blood…the blood is SO much more realistic now.  I hate seeing images of my original Infected Toys.

Carrington:  What does it feel like to transform something old and unwanted into something new and desirable?

Jeremy:  Rewarding and very cathartic.  Not only does it just feel good to cut off the face of a teddy bear (and I know how incredibly creepy that sounds), but it genuinely feels good when someone then purchases something you’ve put time and effort into to totally warp.  I’m taking something that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash at, and making it different and unusual enough where they either want to at least come and stare at it (in adoration or disgust, as mentioned earlier) or even purchase it.  That’s an awesome feeling.

Carrington:  What can you tell me about your process without giving away any secrets?

Jeremy:  Well, first I have to get a liter of virgin blood.  Now, this is a pretty large feat, as we’re in 2015 and virgins are almost endangered.  After that I usually have a requirement of removing my pants.  This is for two reasons:  1. I don’t want to get fake blood or slime on my pants.  2. Pants suck.  –After that, it’s all just making the teeth by hand and forming the shapes I need to for the different designs.

Carrington:  Which final product has been your favorite so far and why?

Jeremy:  Hmm.  Well, I have four.  The first is the Hello Kitty (Killer Kitty) with a mouthful of fangs that went viral a while back.  I was really proud of her.  An absolutely GIGANTIC bear that I did for Gary Barnidge of the Cleveland Browns must have a place on this list, due not only to the immense size and incorporation of it eating other smaller bears…but also because I had so much fun making it.  I’m also a big fan of Chronos, a bear that had a working clock for a face.  Burlesque performer Ruby Tesla actually ended up purchasing him.  Finally, Horrific Harry, a bear themed after The Thing that I did for The Horror Show is definitely a favorite that I did recently.  They even took it to the Phoenix Comicon to show it off!  …Yeah.  I have a lot of favorites.

Carrington:  What would you do if someone requested you to work on a piece that was very valuable or collectible?

Jeremy:  I would ask multiple times, then send a final a photo with the last chance to change their mind.  That way I have proof that they requested I did it and had plenty of time to say no.

Carrington:  What challenges have you had to face specifically as a horror artist?

Jeremy:  Well, when I first started off it was hard to find my footing in Jacksonville as an artist, let alone as one that solely does horror art…nontraditional horror art, at that.  Eventually I met with other artists (some horror, some otherwise) and with a lot of patience we’ve become regulars for shows and events.  Patience was definitely key.  As for recent challenges, I definitely come by someone every couple of shows that doesn’t like my work or doesn’t understand it.  Usually this doesn’t bother me.  Art is interpretational, so some people will like it while others won’t.  However, a recent issue with a convention (who I won’t name) that determined my art was “too scary” for their event which also houses a zombie walk, zombie MMORPG, and the fully dressed cast of a local haunt, did admittedly hit me hard.  Germ Spider Designs is my baby.  I started it by myself and pride myself on slowly shaping it into a recognizable brand, so to be turned away so abruptly (and without a true reason) hurt my pride considerably.  Now, I was approached later by someone else who worked there and was told that I could set up, but by that point I was so burned out on the concept that I no longer had any desire to take part.

Carrington:  How have you had to deal with people trying to steal your work and pass it off as their own?

Jeremy:  I’ve had a number of people on Instagram share my photos and claim they made it.  Thankfully, I have eyes and ears everywhere, so it’s usually handled quickly.  Now, however, I constantly use watermarks on all of my toys.

Carrington:  What advice would you offer to artists who are just starting out?

Jeremy:  Stick with it.  I can’t tell you how often I see new artists set up for one of their first shows, not do as well as they had hoped, and just give it up right then and there.  As an artist, you’re not guaranteed anything when it comes to shows and how well you do.  Perseverance is key.  Also, learn to promote yourself.  Use all of your available researches for promotion–Facebook, Instagram, live promotion…etc..  Don’t JUST be an artist, be a brand.  Make yourself and what you do an entire artistic brand that people instantly recognize.  NO show is too big or too small for you, as you never know who you may meet at a show.  Every pair of eyes that sees your work is absolutely integral to spreading knowledge of your work.  Another tip is to socialize with people who are admiring your work.  People don’t just buy art for the artwork itself, but also for the person behind the art.  If you ignore someone who approaches your table/wall/message board/whatever, it puts people off.  Make eye contact and recognize each person.  Don’t have to be a used car salesman, but definitely talk to each person.  If you see them zoned in on one particular piece, tell them a bit about it.  Charisma isn’t a requirement for being an artist, obviously, but it does help.

Collective

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Last weekend Jacksonville held its very own Collective Con for the first time.  I got to go for free to help out a friend from Students For Choice selling buttons and bumper stickers.

Because I was helping out and I didn’t go until midway through the last day (which is typically the time when most cons are winding down), I didn’t really get to see much of it other than one quick walk-through.  Jacksonville has a few smaller cons, but never anything major, so I wasn’t sure how popular Collective Con would actually be.  I was pleased to see lots of people in costumes, though!  From what I could tell, people were really into it, so I’m hoping this will become a major annual event for the city.  Goodness knows we could use it!

I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I normally would at cons, unless they approached my table.  Got a lot of that whole, “I’m going to look through you as I walk past so you can’t guilt me into buying something.”  I did, however, get to talk to some people from the 501st Legion who were there with Roxy the Rancor.  I recognized one guy from photos my friends and I took at the John Williams concert at the Times-Union Center two years ago because I had just seen him again at Megacon, so I went to show them all the concert photos on my phone.

Okay, since I barely got any pictures from Collective Con, here you go, here’s the John Williams concert from two years ago:

501st 1 501st 2 501st 3 501st 4 501st 5

I will say it can be traumatic being trapped alone behind a table with money and wares that you can’t just get up and run away from when you have to.  I was already suffering through the first hour of a massive heartbreak, trying desperately not to think about it and to look approachable so I didn’t frighten off any potential customers, when the last person I wanted to find myself trapped in a room with appeared.  I did not know what to do, because this wasn’t my business I was supporting so I couldn’t just be downright rude to the customers if I wanted, and my friend was loading things into the car and was therefore nowhere around to help me deal.  Yikes!

The media guests at these events must deal with a lot of creepiness sometimes when stuck at a table and faced with…certain people.  But at least they have managers to usher those people away when things go too far.

The Too Long Con (copy)

This was actually the first time I’d stayed all the way through to the very end of a convention before.  Being a vendor, we waited until there was no one left to make a sale to.  I therefore got to witness the disassembly and loading into a truck of Roxy the Rancor, and that I did get photos of.  I wondered how she got around!

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In case you haven’t seen Roxy whole before, here are some pics of when the best friend and I had a bone fight in front of her at Megacon 2014.  Yes, a bone fight.

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I also watched the disassembly of the TARDIS.  There are some people here in Jax who, as I understand it, just go around building TARDISes.  So that’s cool.  I should totally build one.  Or, you know, pay for and supervise the building of one, because I don’t have skills.  But I could use one in my backyard.

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I also have photos of the TARDIS fully assembled from the last season finale of Doctor Who, when a bunch of people showed up in costume.

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Overall, though I didn’t get the chance to enjoy it much, I hope Collective Con sticks around.

Now I’d better get to sleep, because I’m waking up before dawn and heading down to Orlando for the last day of Spooky Empire.  I really, really want to meet Lana Parrilla!

How To Throw The Best Hogwarts Party Ever

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If I was Jay Gatsby, I would constantly be throwing lavish, themed parties for everyone I know.  I am not Jay Gatsby, however, so for my last birthday I went all out as cheaply as possible for one amazing Hogwarts-themed party.  Several people told me it was without a doubt the best birthday party, their own or otherwise, they had ever attended.  Ever.  I had to agree.  Really, it couldn’t have gotten much better unless I’d held the party in the actual Hogwarts at Universal Studios.

hogwartspartyedit

One of my best friends assisted in getting a room reserved for us, and I set to work planning four months in advance.  I began by creating the sorting quiz.  Everyone who attended was required to first be sorted, because I seated everyone with their houses for authenticity and so we could see how well J.K. Rowling’s houses would work in a real-life setting.  What actual interpersonal dynamics would be created by putting together a group of strangers who answered a bunch of multiple-choice questions similarly?

Rather than have everyone make a Pottermore account, I chose to sort them myself based on the actual Pottermore questions.  For the answer key (since obviously no one knows how JKR actually gauges the answers to her own questions), I relied on this thorough assessment of the questions by a random Gingerbread Witch on the internet.  I told everyone that if they wanted to, they were welcome to go and take the actual Pottermore quiz and bring me back their results if they were different from what I gave them.  No one did; they all just trusted me and the random Gingerbread Witch on the internet.  Anytime there was a tie, like at Pottermore, I gave them the choice between the houses.  Everyone actually sorted pretty evenly, and when I finally had all the confirmations for the party, we ended up with slightly more Gryffindors than average and slightly fewer Hufflepuffs than average.  (A friend who is a bit older than me pointed out that all the “grown-ups” ended up in Hufflepuff—himself and all the parents.  That was unintentional; it just worked out that way.)

I created a Facebook group and sorted people there, then posted house-related topics to boost morale and let the houses have a chance to get to know one another before the party.

All the party supplies came from Party City:  I bought red, blue, green, and yellow tablecloths—one for each table.  I got gold paper plates and some fancy silver plasticware.  They had these cool plastic “goblets” I used for cups (I think they called them wine glasses), and I bought some in gold, some in pearly white, and some in blue, because I just like blue.  We got some gold and silver stars to hang from the ceiling, and a starry sky backdrop that we hung across the wall (since the ceiling of the Great Hall at Hogwarts is enchanted to look like the sky).

Food was an extra expense I really didn’t think I could afford, and I can’t cook, so I decided to make the event a themed potluck. I posted a link to recipe ideas.  I suggested if no one could find any ideas they liked here or elsewhere online by Googling “Harry Potter recipes”, then to just make something traditionally British.  Not at all to my surprise, we ended up with three different types of shepherd’s pie! Everything was delicious.  Nice job on the themed potluck idea, me.

I did, however, provide homemade pumpkin juice!  No butterbeer, though; I’m not really a fan because butterbeer is basically cream soda and whipped cream, which are two things I hate!  But I love spicy, Christmas-flavored things like pumpkin and cider, which is what pumpkin juice basically is.  According to the books, you can drink it hot or cold, and it is delicious both ways…surprisingly refreshing when it’s cold.  I like it best hot, though.  My friend and I found a recipe online that was supposedly the leaked “official” recipe from Universal, and then we tweaked it until it tasted like we were drinking pumpkin pie.  When I finally got to go to Universal, I determined that, while still tasty, ours is much better.  More spicy and less sugary.  Here’s how to make ours:

Pumpkin Juice Recipe
– 16 oz apple cider
– 6 oz apricot nectar
– 6 heaping tablespoons of pumpkin pie filling
– 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
– 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
– Blend the ingredients in a blender to properly incorporate.  Serve hot or chilled.

As incentive to actually bring food, I announced that prizes would be awarded for the team that won the house cup, and 50 points given to the house that won the vote for Best Dish.  (Up until the very day of the party, I was a little anxious about the fact that I had heard practically nothing, despite my constant reminders and prompts, from anyone about whether or not they were bringing food.)

Other points were awarded pre-party for completing various tasks for me, like getting the room, helping set up, and making this double-sided photo booth:

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This guy’s portrait seriously belongs on the wall at Hogwarts.

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I warned everyone about what could lose them points, like trying to bring up politics/religion and starting drama.  Most importantly, I told them, this was a numberless birthday party, and they were not, under any circumstances, to mention the Number Which Must Not Be Mentioned.  Doing so would reset their house points to 0.  Any further mention would result in negative 10 points until they stopped mentioning it and started earning points again.  No one mentioned the number.

Costumes (or at the very least, house colors) were required.  Anyone showing up without lost 10 points.

There was also trivia, with each question worth a certain amount of points.

And there was a Snitch hidden somewhere in the building that was worth 150 points to the team of the person who found it, and they’d get to keep the Snitch, too.  My friend and I made the Snitch ourselves.  It was pretty awesome.

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It even opened at the close.

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My friend and I also spent a great deal of time making the party favours.

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I told everyone to show up as early as possible because there would be a better selection of one-of-a-kind party favors.  We put them all in a paper bag and as each person arrived, I had them reach into the bag without looking, telling them to select the one that “felt right”, because the wand chooses the wizard, you know.  If they absolutely hated it, they could put it back in and try again, up to three times, and then they were stuck with the third one.  After all, the first wand Ollivander pulls off the shelf isn’t always the right one.

Originally I had intended to buy the cake, not having any idea how expensive cake was.  After looking at various prices, I went to the Facebook group and announced, “I’m ordering cake tomorrow.  Cake is damned expensive.  If you haven’t confirmed with me by tomorrow, you’re not getting cake.”  I thought it was pretty reasonable considering most everyone had known about this party for four months already and had been given a confirmation deadline of the week before.  But then my other best friend offered to make the cake, and what she made was so fantastic.  Almond-flavored (because it’s delicious), four-layered (with each layer having a different Hogwarts house-ish color), and topped with Harry Potter Legos.  Look how awesome this is:

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Finally it was time to set up.

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I bought a throw blanket with the Hogwarts crest from Universal and draped that across the gift table.

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The Snitch was very carefully hidden in the women’s restroom.

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We set up a table for the CD player and decorated with random other British-y things, like this random British soldier dog statue and the album I made from my first trip to Harry Potter World.  I also placed a sign-up sheet on the table announcing the next couple conventions I was going to so I could invite everyone to join me.  That poster there was my best friend’s awesome birthday present to me.

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Here’s a close-up of the poster.  She also gave me a smaller version to keep on my desk at work.

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So much awesome.

The houses all hit it off pretty well!

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Slytherin is looking all dour.

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Ravenclaw was perhaps the most successful grouping, as they all exchanged contact information and requested a photo taken of them together.

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The same friend who helped make the wands and Snitch made her husband’s Quidditch robe.  Just look at this costume.

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Romance!

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Duels!

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Utter creepiness!

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Best recipe was won by Hufflepuff, because my parents brought one of my favorite dishes and it went over very well with most everyone.  It’s a family recipe my grandfather used to make, so we call it “Dad’s Pork Chops”.  It isn’t necessarily an Irish dish, but Grandpa’s side of the family has some Irish blood back there somewhere, so we just said it was.  You can have the recipe for that, too, if you’d like:

Dad’s Pork Chops Recipe
– 1 pkg pork chops
– 1 large green pepper
– 1 onion
– 1 small can whole tomatoes
– Oil
– Salt
– Pepper
– Italian herbs
– Brown pork chops in small amount of oil in skillet.  Drain excess oil.
– Add tomatoes, green pepper, and onion.
– Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian herbs over top.
– Cover and let simmer 30 minutes.

Gryffindor found the Snitch, of course.  In fact, Gryffindor was doing so well and had so far surpassed every other house in a number of points not possible to catch up to, that at some point someone decided we had Infinity points.  And I was being totally fair, too.  I tried to write out trivia questions pretty evenly, with a fair number of specific ones that I thought individuals from each house would get.  I split trivia into three categories:  Harry Potter, Carrington, and Random Stuff Carrington Knows About.  Ravenclaw was really disappointing me in their answering of trivia questions.  Really, really disappointing me.  They even missed the ones that I thought they specifically would get, like subjects I had discussed with them personally and questions that were actually about Ravenclaw House.  Come on, Ravenclaw.

The rules of trivia were that each house had to choose one team captain (and I gave each house my recommendation for team captain based on who knew me the best from each one).  Ravenclaw was mostly newer friends and friends I had only recently become reacquainted with after several years, so I merely wished them good luck in the choosing of their captain.  But that only affected the Carrington category, and at least one of the questions in that category was definitely aimed at specific people on their team who should have known them, so…no excuses!

Everyone had to wait until I had finished asking the question before responding.  Then the team captain, and only the team captain, could reply by making the call of their House Animal (since I couldn’t get four different-sounding buzzers).  I told them to be creative.  My mom over in Hufflepuff solved the problem of no one having any clue what the badger says by calling out, “Badger badger!”  Heh—that worked.  At one point Hufflepuff called out an answer out of turn, and we had to pause the game for a while to determine how to deal with that.  Because they are Hufflepuffs, just and true, they freely admitted that they had made a mistake.  So I said, “Here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to deduct 10 points from Hufflepuff for calling out the answer.”  I changed the number in their cup to reflect it.  “But I’m going to award 10 points to Hufflepuff for being honest about it.”  And I changed it back.  Okay, I really enjoy being the center of attention and getting to entertain everyone.  Trivia was so much fun for me.  Haha!

Slytherin came in dead last.  It was sad.  Poor Slytherins.  And again, not planned that way.  I really wanted to know for sure.  Turns out, even in real life, Gryffindor wins by an absurd amount of points and Slytherin just slithers along way behind.  Hi, Slytherins!  I see you back there!

Prizes were mini boxes of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which I got in bulk for cheap from Amazon.  I gave a box to each Gryffindor, and then I went around and gave boxes to everyone else, too.

Here were the final scores:

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Oh, I created a party mix, too.  Check this out.

Hogwarts Party Mix

1. “‘Arry!” – Advanced Potions-Making

2. “Do The Hippogriff” – The Weird Sisters

3. “Ode To Harry Potter” – Switchblade Kittens

4. “Sorted This Way” – Not Literally Productions

5. “Gryffindor Rally Cry” – Ministry Of Magic

6. “Double Trouble” – John Williams

7. “Strange Magic” – Electric Light Orchestra

8. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – The Police

9. “You Can Do Magic” – America

10. “Harry’s Wondrous World” – John Williams

11. “Magic” – The Cars

12. “Ravenclaws” – Ginny DiGiuseppi

13. “Do You Believe In Magic” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

14. “Magical Mystery Tour” – The Beatles

15. “Magic Works” – The Weird Sisters

16. “Love Potion No. 9” – The Clovers

17. “Werewolves Of London” – Warren Zevon

18. “We R Slytherins” – Not Literally Productions

19. “Gryffindors” – Not Literally Productions

20. “Magic” – Stimulator

21. “This Magic Moment” – The Drifters

22. “Little Miracles” – Tim Noah