Anime Milwaukee (AMKE) 2014

My fiance and I had the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day weekend exploring a convention we had not yet checked out: Anime Milwaukee. Now, my fiance isn’t a big anime nut (he’s more into American comics and the like), but he likes seeing the different costumes and wanted to feel involved with a big passion of mine. And I had heard GREAT things about AMKE from others, so I figured with it being a relatively small size, it would be a great first convention for him and a chance for me to network as a comedian by hosting a beginner’s workshop in improv and sketch.

Boy was I wrong…sorta.

AMKE, you guys REALLY need to get organized. I heard the attendance was around 3,800 people (from their Facebook page). That’s about the size of Anime Iowa, another convention I’d been to. Anime Iowa was well organized, lines moved quickly, and the staff was consistent (as far as my own experience went). AMKE, by comparison, was disasterous in this regard.

I was experiencing problems with organization and communication from the get-go. When I first submitted my panel, it was meant to be a nerd-themed open mic. I told the girl in charge of panel scheduling this could only be successful if we have people participating. I asked her if she’d be kind enough to have it promoted on their Facebook page and maybe their website. She assured me that would be no problem. Weeks went by, I’d seen nothing on AMKE’s Facebook or their website about the open mic. I emailed the panel chair a few times about this. The first time, she responded and told me she had asked the staff running the Facebook to do this. She said she’d ask them again. Still nothing. I knew that with so much inactivity on the forums, and a clear lack of communication between con staff, this panel as it stood would be a flop. So, I rewrote it, and sent the panel chair one more email asking if this change would be okay, and if it would be possible to make a final edit. If not, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But this time I got no response. Not exactly professional on the chair’s part, even if the answer would have been a no.

My panel got a whopping two attendants…20 minutes after it was supposed to start. That was embarassing, to put it lightly. I wasn’t alone though. After peaking in to several panels I noticed most Friday afternoon events were a flop in attendance.  I only attended one panel the whole weekend and it was possibly the worst one – Black Butler Improv (because as an improv comedian, of COURSE I wanted to see this). It was made up of what looked like a few kids in their early teens and a woman I had met in the pre-reg line (I’ll get to my complaints with that in a second) who was almost 30 but acted like she was 14. I had a sense of dread when I asked her how long she’d been doing improv and her response was, “Oh, this is my first panel”. She didn’t even know what improv was.

Now, the group seemed to understand the basics of how improv games work, but they knew nothing about improv itself. That and the “panel leader” had no sense of control over her co-panelists, who would outwardly refuse to do things or run around screaming, making yaoi jokes, and glomping each other while wearing Black Butler cosplays. It wasn’t long before we, and the five others in attendance, packed our bags and left the room. What upsets me about that is that being a panelist means you get a free weekend badge to the convention. So these kids got a free pass to act like asshats for an hour, when I actually worked and prepared a solid workshop for a crap turnout (at least I made the effort, though).

My theory behind why the Friday panels had such craptastic attendance? The registration lines. AMKE does not mail out badges, and so everyone who registered online and was also a panelist had to wait in line to get their badges. The pre-reg line was supposed to open at 11am on Friday, with panels starting at noon. The line didn’t open until 11:30 due to “technical difficulties” (apparently they had no access to wi-fi or electricity when they were told they would). On the plus side, once it did start moving, it moved…kinda. The whole process was haphazard, as we were redirected twice to different lines by con staff who didn’t actually know where to put the lot of us. Along with registration not starting on time, there was also issues with the exhibit hall being behind in set up and opening an hour late, and the Artist’s Alley didn’t seem to be fully set up and in swing until Saturday morning. Overall, pretty rough start to a con.

My review isn’t ALL harsh, though! There were a few things I did really enjoy about AMKE. First was getting to be involved with the lolita fashion show, which, although it had a really awkward start time of 9:30am (and not a big crowd because of it), was a fun event for me to be a part of and definitely lifted my spirits after being down about my panel. Second, the neighborhood around AMKE was lovely, full of good food and warm, welcoming people. I highly recommend checking out Uber Tap Room if you’re a fan of good Wisconsin beer and cheese. Third, the video game room…HOLY HELL. There was an entire WALL of just old-school systems set up, and all of it was free to play! We definitely enjoyed that, particularly my fiance because when he would get bored he would wander in that direction. Lastly, although the exhibit hall was on the crowded side, I was pretty pleased with the variety and amount of vendors AMKE offered. I didn’t end up buying much “con swag” except for an “Attack on Titan” poster and some prints of vintage Disney movie posters, but that is because I save the majority of my con spending for ACen.

On a scale of 0-10, I’d give AMKE about a 5 1/2. While there were some really good aspects to the convention that made it enjoyable, the lack of organization and communication on the con’s part really made the experience go downhill for me. I’m sure, had I JUST been an attendee and not a panelist, I’d be able to give this a higher rating. But my negative experiences in this area have caused me to dock some extra points.

My suggestions to you, AMKE? Please, find a way to make registration less insane, and please PLEASE find a way to monitor your panels for quality. It truly made me sad that a panel so disorganized and awful was allowed to pass through, and that those panelists were given a free weekend badge for not taking their jobs seriously. When I first got home, I was convinced I’d never come back to this convention. I might be willing to give it a second chance down the road, but only for one or two nights instead of three.

Now, enough chatter – on to what you all really want: a PHOTO DUMP:

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Outfit from Friday: Red Ranger Dress (Hot Topic), Black Tights, Black Boots, Beret, and Brown Wig with Green Circle Lenses

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Saturday (morning) outfit for the Lolita Fashion Show: Dress is by Angelic Pretty. Beret, wristcuffs, and tights are offbrand. Shoes are by Bodyline and the wig is by GLW. I’m wearing the Venus Circle Lenses in Aqua.

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Selfie ;P

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Also for the Lolita Fashion Show: JSK is by Mossbadger, a fantastic Indie Brand from Chicago

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My Saturday afternoon cosplay: Rarity from “My Little Pony”. I added the rhinestones to the corset and choker by hand and made the bustle. The rest was ordered online. The shoes are from Bodyline, the wig is by Purple Plum. 

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Just a few of the nice cosplays I saw: Cordelia (American Horror Story: Coven), Demon…thing (Silent Hill???), Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon, Sanouske (Rurouni Kenshin), Genderbend Thor and Loki, Catbug (Bravest Warriors), Female Titan (Attack on Titan), and another AoT cosplayer 🙂

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And a few con snapshots of the video game room, the crazy registration line, and the Black Butler Improv panel.

Photo Set: The Lamp from “A Christmas Story”

Holy Moses, guys, I am so sorry I haven’t been keeping up with this like I should be. Holiday shenanigans and the end of the semester has kept me preoccupied. However, to appease you, I’m posting a few of the best shots from my December photo shoot as the lamp from the American classic, “A Christmas Story”!

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This shoot was SO. MUCH. FUN. I don’t do a lot of cosplay based off of American pop culture icons, but “A Christmas Story” is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I couldn’t pass up to opportunity to do this as a holiday shoot.

The dress I bought for $11 on Ebay, and I altered it by hand sewing the black trim along the bottom. Fishnet thigh-highs and black pumps were purchased. I believe I got the shoes from Target for about $40. The wig is from Gothic Lolita Wigs and I styled it myself by rolling a chunk from each side up into messy buns. Luckily, the wig is so think I don’t have to worry about any of the netting showing through!

I pinky promise a more exciting blog update soon! Hope everyone had a great Christmas and a happy and safe New Year!

Anime That Should Make Your Holiday Wish List

It’s that time of year again where Christmas lists are being made and presents are being purchased and bank accounts are being broken. So you’re probably sitting around pondering on what to ask your loved ones to buy you – why not anime? Even if you…*gasp* HATE anime?

I compiled this Top 5 list with the “normie” in mind, considering I have several friends who aren’t completely obsessed with the otaku subculture. These can be enjoyed by literally anyone, and more often than not are, as these series and movies have been highly rated by both otaku and non-otaku alike.

1. Cowboy Bebop

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“Cowboy Bebop” is the tried and true “anime for people who hate anime”. The series is set in space, centered around a group of people aboard the spaceship Bebop: Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward (who’s a chick, by the way), and the adorable, fluffy, super-intelligent Ein. Each character has their own unique and fascinating back story that is explored in-depth throughout the series as the crew goes about daily life.

Why You Want It: It’s about a bunch of riff-raff in space, which makes it a classic plotline many audiences can enjoy. The soundtrack is incredible (for those of you who are music junkies), the characters are relatable, and the animation is so breathtaking at some points you honestly forget you’re watching anime.

2. Trigun

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LOVE AND PEEEEEAAAAACCEEE *cough, hack* AHEM. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Anyway, “Trigun” is another one of my strong recommendations for holiday wishlist anime, particularly because it follows the “Space Western” theme of “Bebop”, and also for it’s mostly lighthearted and comical plotline. The story centers around “Vash the Stampede”, who is carrying an unbelievably high bounty on his head and is being tracked by two employees of the  Bernardelli Insurance Society, who are mostly responsible for making sure the damages his appearance causes are minimized. The plot takes a more dramatic and dark turn towards the end of the series, making it attention-grabbing and addicting for its viewers.

Why You Want It: “Trigun” is seriously one of those anime series you can’t NOT enjoy. With it’s comic mischief, unique characters, and attention-grabbing plot line, this is something you will be glad you took the time to watch.

3. Princess Mononoke

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I’m slowly-but-surely working towards a blog post SOLELY dedicated to why you should watch this movie at some point in your life. So I’ll be keeping this short and sweet. “Mononoke” is a Studio Ghibli film written and directed by acclaimed anime artist Hayao Miyazaki. Set in the Muromachi Period of Japan, Prince Ashitaka must journey to the Great Forest near Irontown to beg the god of the forest to cure him of a curse he received from a demon boar god. Meanwhile, the leader of Irontown, Lady Eboshi, is attempting to destroy the forest spirits so that she can gather more iron, while San, a human girl raised by wolf gods, attempts to destroy her.

Why You Want It: I’ll be honest – this movie is detail-heavy, long (133 minutes), and progresses slowly. But you WILL be hanging on to every second. If the animation itself doesn’t completely capture your attention, the characters, themes, and homage paid to nature-worship and protecting the environment will.

4. Spirited Away

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Another Hayao Miyazaki film, this one holds a personal place in my heart as my first anime movie, and one of my favorites of all time. “Spirited Away” is about a young girl named Chihiro, who, like most little girls, is mad that she’s being forced to move and change schools. After taking a wrong turn in an attempt to find a shortcut, Chihiro and her parents find themselves in a world of spirits, and is forced to work in a bathhouse in order to save her parents from the evil with Yubaba.

Why You Want It: This movie is a classic fantasy complete with themes of love, friendship, and loyalty. It’s one of those movies that makes you want to cuddle your best friends and eat pizza all night. Seriously. It just makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

5. My Neighbor Totoro

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“My Neighbor Totoro” completes my Top 5 list of wishlist anime. Also a Miyazaki film, a father and his two daughters (Satsuki and Mei) move to an old house close to the hospital where their mother is recovering from a serious illness. After exploring the house, the sisters find that spirits inhabit their area, and befriend a large raccoon-like spirit named Totoro.

Why You Want It: Much like “Spirited Away”, this is just one of those movies that makes you feel good. Although it’s a movie that was made for young children, I feel that viewers of all ages can enjoy the fantastical elements and the adorableness of Totoro (plus the theme song is catchy).

Photo Shoot: Red Ranger Geek Fashion

I’ve been getting back into modeling geek fashion and cosplay under my persona Rein Razer (who you can add on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/rein.razer My big come-back set was a geek fashion version of the Red Ranger from “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”.

Here’s a couple favorites from the set!

 

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Photos are by Alex Haugen.

The Red Ranger dress was purchased from Hot Topic. The boots were found on Ebay, and I am wearing a wig purchased from a wig store.

5 Reasons Why Comedy Is Better Than Sex

A list of my personal Top 5 reasons as to why doing comedy is better than having sex:

1. You never have to be yourself.

Regardless of whether I’m doing stand-up or improv, there is a very different head on my shoulders and her name isn’t Nikki. Sometimes it’s Rein (my notoriously lascivious alter ego). Sometimes it’s Tammy, or Mary, or D’Rangel, or any other number of minds. Doing comedy is a lot like LARPing in some ways, and in the sense of the bedroom, it’s a lot like kinky role play. My audience doesn’t want me to be Nikki, so I’ll give them the person they want, and “spice it up”, so to speak (and if you ask nice, I’ll even wear a costume).

2. Being covered in spotlight sure as hell beats being covered in…

Your disgusting minds can fill the blank in on that one. But it’s true. I’ll take the shine of the spotlight any day of the week, and we performers can’t get enough of it. Comedians as a whole tend to be giant sluts for attention and praise. We’ll take whatever we can get, and we mean that. That “fill in the blank” part? That just tends to be sticky and smell weird.

3. It can be a “team effort”, and you won’t be considered a whore…

Seriously. Improv comedy is a TEAM effort. There is no self, and troupes that focus on the “me me me” fall apart hard and fast for the audience, and the best rush (in my opinion) comes from seeing your teammates rock the stage. Being an excellent improv troupe means being able to think as a unit, and know what your teammates will understand and play right along with. In my long form troupe, M!P!D (https://www.facebook.com/mpdlaughhard), we each offer an incredibly unique personality and set of interests. I know that I can count on one teammate for art references, another for sports, and another still for all things Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the best, like Eiffel-towering 8 of your best friends!

4. …Or go solo without the after-effects of loneliness and shame.

I’ve only done stand-up a handful of times, so I don’t exactly consider myself pro-tier. But my GOD, the RUSH I get from being on stage and in total control of my audience is incredible. And nerve-wracking. And incredible. The second I take the mic in my hand I’m internally (and probably externally) shaking until I get that first laugh. Then the endorphins kick in and I am working that crowd over to the best of my newbie abilities until my set time is up. Getting that final, big, roaring laugh is orgasmic. Sometimes though, I bomb. It happens to everyone. But it’s not as embarrassing as say…finishing too soon, or uncontrollable queefing. Those things get you laughed at by your partner for a while (if they still want to talk to you after, anyway). The nice thing about bombing during a stand up set is that you still had more balls than the audience for getting on that stage in the first place. And there’s always the next open mic to try again.

Lastly…and most importantly…

5. It never gets boring.

If we’re really, brutally honest with ourselves, and look at our partners we’ve spent the last few years with, we can probably admit that SOMEWHERE along the line, sex got to be mundane. You have to continuously work to keep the spark alive and make things interesting, and it’s not always easy. Especially if the things you want to try are a little too intense for your partner. The great thing about comedy, especially improv, is that it never gets old, because it’s never the “same old same old”. It’s ALWAYS a new storyline, ALWAYS a new set of characters, and ALWAYS something to look forward to and get hyped up over.

Hopefully you all enjoyed a post that deviates a little from the norm. I want to try to incorporate some of my comedian life into this blog every now and again. 😉

An Easy Construction Exercise for J-Fashion

One of my favorite exercises for improv is construction – building upon a simple idea or theme, adding details and elements, and then completing the scene or object with something so detailed you can create scenes with it. One particular exercise involves standing in a circle, taking an ordinary object (let’s say a clock), and passing the “clock” around the circle, adding details and history with each pass.

I took this concept and applied it to our review of Japanese street fashion in class today. I absolutely love J-fashion for its elaborateness and intricacy and wanted my students to really understand how much detail goes into the various styles. Here’s a quick run down of the styles we covered:

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Lolita

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Visual Kei

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Otome Kei

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Gyaru

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Manba

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Kogal

I asked students to sit in a circle, and we did a quick review of these fashions, just to make sure they could still remember the names. I then asked for a few volunteers to come up, and imagine themselves as a character dressed in one of these fashions. Describe in detail what they were wearing. I gave an example and said, “I am a Manba. My skin is very dark because I tan every day, and my eyes are covered in white makeup. It takes me hours to do my hair and makeup every morning because my hair needs to be teased so it can be so big. I like to wear neon colored bracelets all over both my arms and wear a lei of pink and lime green flowers…”

After I gave my example, students latched on and volunteered to come up and describe their characters. My first two volunteers were even boys! One described himself as an Otome-kei, wearing a straw hat, open-toed shoes, and a skirt with flowers all over it. Another said he was a Visual-kei, wearing neon green and black, a lot of leather, and having big green hair. The third one who came up called herself a lolita and described the intricate details of her dress, hairstyle, and makeup. Since this group of students tends to be on the shy side, I asked those who didn’t present orally to write out their descriptions and turn them in after class.

I would say this was a pretty successful exercise, and I was able to fuse things I learned in improv with education to help my students understand a new concept. Call that a win-win ^_^