Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A reflection on favoritism

Please excuse the length, but I promise I have a point.

I started running costume contests in 2009. I did it because I had entered a contest in 2008 that, I felt, was judging purely on visuals and not on craftsmanship. I learned that several of the winners hadn't made their costumes and that one of the judges was there to 'get some action' from one of the contestants (who did indeed place). This made me angry. So angry in fact I sent a letter to the con chair and told him how I felt. His reply?

"If you can do better then come and prove it."

So I did.

I won't say it was the bestest contest EVAR!! however I felt that my 4 year run as the Contest Director (CD from here on) made a good impression with the costume community. I brought in judges that I knew wouldn't be swayed by pretty faces and pretty lies. We attracted craftsmanship contestants because they knew they would be judged fairly. That's not to say it wasn't an extreme learning experience. I said and did things I would NEVER do now (standing on stage for the entire contest when I wasn't the emcee, making very very odd comments to the audience, etc). Yeah I was young, dumb and all that jazz.

Over the years I've been the CD at 6 different cons, ranging in size from a 300 people one day con, to the massive Dragoncon. Combined I'd have to estimate I've run 20+ with a majority requiring sign-ups, pre-judging, and general contestant wrangling. I'm not even going to count the times I was a runner, lackey, and all around helper for other cons' contests. Because I have run as much as I have, entered at cons I don't work, and been as involved as possible I've met a lot of people. Other contestants, judges, and members of the costuming community have, over the years, become friends of mine. Just as someone would gravitate to people who like the same author or fandom, costumers tend to hang out with costumers. It's natural and it has, apparently, made me a target.

Recently I, or more precisely a contest I have been with since 2010, has been accused of only giving awards only to friends of the judges. (Note: I'm not always a judge but this year I was because we were one short) This came to my attention through post-con reviews and comments in open forums. I take this very VERY personally. I put my whole heart into running a fair event. I have been on both sides of the judging table and I have lost far more contests then I've won. When someone says something that goes completely against the personal goals I have set....well it hurts. So why would someone say it? Anger, hurt, and disappointment are the biggest factors. These people put their soul into their work and to have someone that they personally feel got it 'for the wrong reasons' can cause someone to lash out. I get that. What I don't get is why that same person doesn't go 'what I can do better?' and instead thinks that going online and putting the contest on blast is more effective.

So in order to add more clarity to those who don't have experience with the other side of the contest, here's a few things they should know.

All judges and CD's know a lot of costumers. It's just the way it is. You either know them from when you wore costumes or if the person enters at the same con every year. It happens. It's nearly impossible to not have at least one person that you know in a contest. I would probably have to go to the Midwest or West Coast before I'd find a con where I knew no one.

Judges aren't mythical creatures. You can talk to us. I and many of my fellow judges make a point to talk to contestants both during and after the contest. There are many times when a costume won't place, but the costumer has potential so we let them know what we think and where the can improve. On the flip side, the contestants are welcome to ask us questions. If you didn't place and you want to know why then ASK. Now there are some snooty ones who won't answer, but if you're at a con where that happens then you need to talk to the CD or the ConChair because that is shady.

Judges are usually 100% harder on friends then on strangers. Now I'm not saying that favoritism doesn't exist. It does, but not at my contests and not at the contests of many of the people I know. When someone we know walks in it's all smiles, but we are also sizing them up in a way a fresh faced new person won't get. As soon as they leave it's either "I've seen them do better." or "I know she got a serger for Christmas so why isn't she using it?" We are complete dicks to our friends. On the flip side, it's also easier to recognize improvements however that doesn't mean they get an automatic pass.

Different cons often have the same judges because no one else is willing to do the job. Usually the only people who put in more time and work then those with the contest are the high-ranking staffers. It's not unusual for me to put in about 15 hours of contest time. At my last con I did 3 hours of pre-reg on Friday, worked from 9am-7pm on Saturday for the main contest, then another hour on Sunday for the fun one. There aren't many people willing to put in that much time, especially when your only kickback from the con is often a free badge, which almost ends up being useless because you have no time to see the con. It's also incredibly stressful. By the time the actual show comes around the judges and contest staff are damn near dead and dream only of food and sleep. It's a relatively thankless, but rewarding job.

The craftsmanship pool for Journeyman and Master is incredibly tiny. This is the one where I can honestly see why people cry foul and I think it's because they don't understand how the divisions work. Anyone can enter any division (I generally use Novice, Journeyman, and Master) UNLESS they have placed a certain number of times. This is to prevent someone who should be competing as a Master from entering as a Journeyman (commonly referred to as 'sandbagging'). Generally, but not always, a costumer's path goes like this: they start as a Novice, earn 3 or so place awards (1st, 2nd, 3rd, Best in Show). They then become a Journeyman and again earn 3 or so place awards, at which point they are considered a Master. Again you can start in any division you want, but this is the way it happens for about 80% of the contest population. That said, it means that the people in the higher divisions have, for the most part, put in a LOT of hard work. And this is done with a wide variety of costumes because reentering with the same costume (barring major alteration) over and over isn't allowed at many cons. It takes YEARS of practice, man hours, and disappointment. You would also be seen by the same judging pool because, as mentioned above, there aren't many of us. So knowing each other is just the way it is. Which leads back to the perceived favoritism. The judges have seen these people before and there's fewer contestants to chose from. So while it may look like Girl A gets special attention from the judges it's more likely that there's only Girl A, Boy B, and Girl C to chose from.

I'm sure this doesn't explain everything and I know there will still be people who will be upset over the way things are. So to those people I say this: If you don't like it, change it. If you think the contest is unfair, talk to the con. If you think you deserve to place, then make a costume so flawless the judges will have no choice but to award you. The answer is not, and never will be, to go online and cry foul. Good luck, and I can't wait to see what you make next time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

And now for something completely different

Sooooo apparently I haven't posted since April. I won't give any lame excuses (school) or make any promises for future posts (lol lie), but I do feel guilty that I haven't done more with this space. I think by making this a Crafting Only blog I've limited myself. Surprisingly I do like other things. Video games, classic movies, decorating cakes, etc. I don't plan on changing the name because it took me FOREVER to find one that I liked. However there's nothing wrong with a little diversity, right?

Future Posting Plans!! (told you I'd lie)
A Month of *blank*
Over the weekend I watched a very interesting documentary on the National Film Registry. It talked about how it came into being and how the 25 films a year that they've been saving get picked. It's really interesting if you're a fan of the silver screen. One point they make is that they try to not only chose movies that have lasting value (The Godfather, Superman, Fargo), but also are significant in their own way (Zapruder film, Popeye the Sailor, The Negro Soldier). After looking through the list I realized that while I knew of many of the films I had seen only a small few. It was a shock since I consider myself reasonably well viewed. So in order to improve my own noggin as well as my own blog (and therefore you!) I'm going to review several pieces a month. I'm going to attempt to stick to a theme and I will put the super star films last, if at all. So you'll see things like The Bank Dick instead of Gone With The Wind. I want to get a rolling start on writing so this won't begin until January so I can get a backlog going.

PS, if you're a fan of 'behind the scenes' documentaries like I am, you'd enjoy This Film is not Yet Rated. It's a peek into the American rating system and why it's a giant pile of steaming poop. Poop I say!

A Piece of Cake
It won't always be cakes, but I have a butt-ton of Wilton products going to waste. Might as well put them to good use! It won't always be cakes, but so long as I do something creative then there's no harm (well except to my waist line). Also? Don't expect a masterpiece. I kind of suck at this, but practice makes perfect. I also plan on throwing in my cheating tips to make box mixes taste like they're from scratch (cheat on the cake but never on the icing!)

I'm sure I'll think of some other terrific idea that I won't follow through on, because that's how I roll. ^_^

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

(Maybe not so) Obvious Tip #2

Need to wash that pesky corset? Cover the stained/discolored spots with a baking soda paste, then wash it down with vinegar for some hot bubbly action. Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub, then hand wash it thoroughly. Use an old towel to absorb water but don't ring or squeeze the corset. (thanks to Starlit Creations for reminding me about this tip)

Now hang that baby up. My preferred method is to use the same hooks you use to hang up your shower curtain. Metal is fine so long as there's no rust on them, otherwise use plastic. Put one through the last grommet on the top and bottom of each side of your corset (assuming you took off the lacing)*, then hook over the shower bar. Remember to move the bar back a little bit so the water doesn't drip on to the floor. Unless you have a crazy thick fabric it should be dry overnight.

*Personally I replace the lacing/cording every time I wash my corsets. However I also wear a corset sock so mine don't get dirty too quickly. What's a corset sock? Basically it's a cotton tube that you put on before your corset to absorb sweat and make the corset a little more comfortable. If you don't have the time to make one or the money to buy one, just get a tight fitting cotton tank top. Put it on, then your corset, then cut off the shoulder parts that stick up (or don't if something will be covering up that bit).

Miss Klingon Empire 2013 and Trek Trax Atlanta

Reposted from Livejournal

This past Saturday (4/20) I packed up my car and headed to Atlanta. My main purpose was to compete for the first time in the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant (MKE), however it had the supreme added benefit of letting me see some of my good Trek friends.

About 2 hours out of ATL I started getting nervous. Very nervous. I knew it had to do with MKE since I had put a lot of work into my performance, but it's not like I've never entered a contest before. I tried to ignore it with music, which helped.

I got to the hotel around 1. After a quick check-in Theresa (my roomie and all around awesome lady) found me and helped me schlep my stuff upstairs, then it was off to panels and all around fun.

I started getting ready around 5, which was quite early since the contest didn't start till 8:30. However I get hot easily so I wanted to give myself time to prep and cool down before I hit the main floor. At around 7:30 I slipped on my heels, tried to fight my nerves, and headed down. Immediately I was getting compliments, which gave me warm fuzzies. I knew that Kligons in fancy dresses was a rare sight, but it was still nice. I saw Eric, head of the con and emcee, so I said he. He mentioned that what I was doing was what he had always hoped a woman would do. I was SO GLAD to hear that because my biggest concern (other than my talent) was if my costume would be acceptable to enter the contest with since I'd never seen anyone else in fancy dress. Note: Even though Eric is the top nut, he in no way influences the judges. In fact the only time I saw him talk to them was when they gave him their decision.

While I was milling I saw Theresa, who had a shot of honey rum for me. Girl knows what helps! :D I also saw Keela, who was wearing her crown as last year's MKE Queen. She gave me a hug and rooted me on. I'm hereby stating that hugging the previous winner is clearly good luck!

A little before 8:30 I took my seat by the stage with another contestant and waited. Waiting while nervous is BAD. I'm glad I had water with me because I was starting to get acid burps. I tried to read over my recitation for the talent portion (a Klingon-ized version of Henry V's 'Once More Into The Breech'). The other contestant was incredibly sweet and talked me down a little. We also traded boyfriend stories, which was really cute. Finally the last 3 women showed. Omg did they SHOW! They were equally very pretty and very Klingon.

I'm skipping a full breakdown because I'm fairly sure a video will be popping up on youtube soon.

All in all every lady did a bang-up job. The audience ate up every moment and it was clear that they loved what they saw. The best part was the catfights. I can think of at least two times we all got on stage and hissed at each other. Not going to lie, it was hot. There was one moment though where one of the ladies nearly knocked my wig off. XD

Finally the time came to pick the winner. It all happened so quickly I don't think I really registered that I'd won till I was mock-fighting again. lol! I was, and still am, incredibly honored to be chosen. Ever since I found out about MKE seven years ago I've wanted to compete. In fact I came up with the idea for my costume nearly a year ago (although I didn't start working on it till January). To say I've been lusting after the crown would be an understatement...

Now I need to start plotting for Miss Star Trek Universe...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ichibancon 2013 - Charlotte NC

(note: this was originally posted in my Live Journal. sorry for all the personal comments!)

Ichibancon was held in Charlotte again this year (although rumors have it going to Concord next year). It's actually over two weekends with the second coming up on the 11th, but finances and desire kept me to the first weekend only.

I headed up with Owen on Thursday and stayed with Tohma, Ally, Laura, and *memory blank*. It was a suite so there was plenty of space for all of us and our assorted costumes. Thankfully Owen and I scored bed space. :) Thursday night and Friday morning was very relaxed and fun. I hung out with my buds. Friday I got a special surprise from my bestie Kim. She made me a HUGE Pinkie Pie plush for Christmas. SQUEE! I'll post pics on my Facebook. I adore both Kim and my Pinkie to pieces! <3

The con started late afternoon on Friday. There were only a few I was really down for and aside from the Prosthetics and Sailor Moon ones they were a bust. No one showed for the Tamago making panel, and I had some douchebaggery at another. Ah well. The good ones were AMAZING so it's no real loss. Mina's SM panel was fun, but next year we're going to 18+ because Brittany and I couldn't stop being pervs. lol! Kelly's panel was fun as always. Hopefully next time I can help out more then just bringing candy. ^_^ The Prosthetics panel was superior and I'm a little sad I won't get to see the second half.

For the Friday night panels I did a costume quick-change that I'm pretty proud of. I got into Myu Jupiter for the SM panel (wig malfunctions everywhere!) then raced upstairs to change into Telma. I did a quick photoshoot with Kim which turned out well considering it was very spur of the moment. After that it was maxing and relaxing up in the room.

Saturday was mellow then crazy then mellow. I helped Tohma out by watching her dealer's table while she did the Costume Contest. It was kind of cool in an odd way. It also made me wish I owned a Kindle. lol! I'm very jealous over Laura's jewelry making skills. She does chain mail and it's beautiful. I'd compliment Tohma (and my badass custom Jupiter towels) but she already knows she kicks ass.

That night I got a sweet present from my cousin Angela. She got me a very nice set of travel makeup brushes which I've already used. Later we all headed downstairs for some Cards Against Humanity and drinks, otherwise known as Boozy Cards. We didn't play too long I think? Well...maybe we did. We started around 11pm and I think I went to bed around 1am. Either way it was hella fun. While we were there I passed out some Fun Shit (aka candy and mini Christmas toys) and gave Matt a One Direction toothbrush set. Insert dirty jokes here. XD

Sunday was rather quiet. Owen and I packed up, said our good-byes, and left a little after noon. By 4pm we were home and resting.

While it wasn't 'omgbestestEVAR' it was still incredibly more fun then the last Ichiban. I'm fairly sure I'll go again next year, but it will take a while to get the bad taste from years' past out of my mouth.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obvious Tip #1

When doing needlepoint, always iron out the creases from your fabric before you start working. There's nothing uglier then crushed stitches because you had to press hard to get lines out of a piece.

I've been doing cross-stitch for years and I never remember this until it's time to wash/iron a finished piece for framing. The washing helps, but seriously ironing beforehand saves a world of frustration and curse words.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Banzaicon: Columbia, SC

(note: this is a repost from my personal blog)

Banzai was a first-year con up in Columbia this past weekend. Originally I was only going to go up for Saturday, but after some cajoling from friends and a free pass thanks to Nashicon I went the whole weekend. 

Friday I worked until 4pm, then bopped on up with Owen. We got there about 7 due to some CRAZY traffic. Three accidents on the interstate all within a mile of each other. Feh. Anyway, after a quick unload we headed to the room only to find our roomies were out at dinner. >_< Thankfully some sweetie friends let us stash our stuff until later. I claimed my badge, regged for the costume contest, then hung out with my beloved Owen and some friends at The Whig. It's a cool dive bar that in an old underground bank. We somehow scored seats in the Vault. It took me a second to realize it was an old vault, but the door was a dead giveaway. XD The food was good, Shirley kept me in booze (apparently I'm quite entertaining when drunk), and I had an amazing time with my friends. 

Saturday dawned awkwardly (surprise guy in underwear O_O), but I ponied up and put on Pinkie for the Ask-A-Pony panel. I took with me a giant bowl of candy and yelled 'Trick or Treat!' every time I saw someone. It worked really well till someone took the entire bowl. *le sigh* I got most of it back, but after that I wasn't too keen on continuing. Moving on. I had lunch with Ally, Kat, and Tohma in the hotel bar/grill. It was funny because we were sitting in front of the glass wall that opens to the con floor, and since we were all in costume it felt like we were on display. lol! During lunch Ally and I traded stickers from the ooold Sailor Moon pull packs we both bought in the Dealer's Room. They even had these long bookmark-ish ones that I'd never seen before. It was a bit of a shame to open them, but we're both the kind of collectors who buy for own enjoyment. ^_^ I also snagged a NRFB SMR Jupiter from the Bandai Asia line for $35. Squee!! 

(note: The costume I won with is Telma, pictured a few posts earlier)

(Skipping the pre-judging shenanigans) The contest started promptly at 7. I was hella nervous. It's been a looooong time since I'd been on this side of things, however I knew going in that I had a snowball's chance at winning anything. I was seated with the Beginners. I entered in that category, but I also told the judges they can bump me up if needed. The stage walk-on was very easy. They kept us to 30 seconds and three poses, which worked out well. Then came time for the awards. I knew I only qualified for a few so when those passed and I wasn't called out I started to calm down a bit. Again, I really didn't think I was going to get anything, but goodness knows we all get that little adrenaline push when the time comes. :) So next was the Advanced winners. John (wearing a GORGEOUS Sailor Cosmos fuku with staff) won Runner Up. I remember thinking this odd, but didn't have a chance to ponder it further because the judges were announcing the winner of Advanced. It took me a second to realize that they were possibly talking about me, but my brain kept going 'nopenopenope'. There's no way! I was completely and totally wrong. 

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. It took me FOREVER to get to the stage because I was too surprised to move quickly and it's kind of hard to see where you're going when you're crying lol. I do remember Matt saying 'I think we broke her' to the audience, lots of cheering and hugging the judges. On my way back to my seat there were even more hugs, fistbumps, and so many of my friends congratulating me. It took me a good 20 minutes to stop sniffling. :)

After a quick change I headed out with the Girls (and Owen) to the Ramen House a few blocks from the hotel. Much deliciousness was obtained. Then it was back to the hotel bar for BOOZE. Shirley kept me quite lubricated. Hehe! We played Cards Against Humanity until about 1am. Then it was bedtime for me because I was 100% wiped out. 

Sunday was mellow. More hugs, nummy crepes (thanks Shirley!!), and good-byes. We were home by 3 and napping by 4. :D

Overall it was a good con with good friends. TBH the con was really just an excuse to see my besties. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun at a con! Almost no stress and unlimited hangout time with my friends. Can't be beat! Although I did have a WTF moment involving Vic Mangina. We were waiting for an elevator right after the contest. He happened to be coming down/out. We didn't even move to get in (because hey we all know elevator etiquette damnit) but his PA threw out her elbows and started saying loudly "Let us through!" as if we were mobbing the man. *rolls eyes* Yes we were totally throwing ourselves at him. *facepalm* Oh! Bonus! Sunday morning Owen was waiting for me outside the restrooms. Apparently Vic was in there as well because his PA asked Owen if he wanted an autograph. I guess she assumed Owen was stalking Vic. O_o Talk about ego! 

The End. <3