Year of the Monkey

January went by quickly but has left me in a pretty good place, with most of my settling in processes sorted out including UK banking and NHS, and with a job on the horizon. I also got my computer repaired and my room somewhat set up, and less productively played about a zillion hours of Pocket Mortys.

During the month I also got some more exploring done in Southampton and John took me to his favorite burger places, a Vietnamese restaurant with good pho in our neighborhood, and an excellent Mexican place in Portswood. We also found out that the kebab place nearest us is actually really good, which is super handy. His brother visited and I joined in a Star Wars roleplay which I admittedly didn’t hate and may even have enjoyed.

We went into London to see the Cosmonauts exhibit at the Science Museum and a recording of the John Finnemore Souvenir Programme at the BBC, both of which I really enjoyed. Later in the month we joined his family to see Cirque de Soleil’s Amaluna at the Royal Albert Hall and had really good American style barbecue.

All in all well done January.

So far February is doing its level best to keep up the excitement, and not only by hitting the country with Storm Imogen. We spent this past weekend in Leicester to see some of the Leicester Comedy Festival. I really enjoyed both of the comedians I saw; Sophie Hagen and John Robertson (of Dark Room fame) and John also saw a third show on the Sunday. It was nice to spend some time in Leicester again, the city is looking great and has a few new cocktail, beer, and food places so I’m looking forward to showing people around in May.

 

Southampton

I’ve been in Southampton for about a week and a half now and am slowly getting acquainted with it. It’s less picturesque than Leicester, though it has an old town area with remains of some city walls, Tudor buildings and so on. World War II wiped out large parts of the city and it retains an industrial character that Leicester seems to have mostly left behind. It also feels more spread out, but that may be due partly to our apartment not being as central.

Still, there is a fair bit to explore; I spent two hours wandering in a wide circle from home and back around the city, and didn’t cover nearly all of it. There are pockets of potential interest outside of the major shopping areas and some intriguing looking food options in addition to the excellent list of burger joints that John has accumulated. There’s a nice pho place near the house plus a little Portuguese lunch place that resembles what I would expect the Spanish equivalent to look like, also a surprisingly great kebab place that also does a nice pizza. The city is chock full of polish delis as well, and I found a bakery that makes sourdough bread. So at any rate I won’t starve.

English Holidays

After landing in England there was a mad dash to drop off my suitcases and pick up my residency document from the local post office in Southampton. I had ten days to do so after which there would be a significant fine. Ten days would have been plenty of time except for a couple of things. First off, when I selected the pick up location back in September I had obviously chosen the office closest to John’s flat, but here in December John’s plan was to spend the holidays with his family in Peterborough several hours away. A second impediment was that being the holidays the post office would be closed for three or four of that ten day window. Luckily my plane landed nearly forty minutes early and we made it in plenty of time to get everything done, enjoy a kebab, and have a relaxing evening before setting off to Peterborough the next morning.

The Coxon family Christmas is very cozy and involves a house full of people, lots of great food, plenty of wine, and board games. We spent last year there as well, which is when John proposed, so it was a nice anniversary as well. We spent about ten days there eating mince pies, seeing The Force Awakens (again) plus also a pretty great pantomime version of Aladdin, and playing Articulate, Codenames, and The Resistance. All in all it was a good way to start my time in England. After the new year we took a quick trip to good old Leicester to visit folks there and then it was finally time to head back to Southampton and get started.

UK at last

The last few weeks have been a bit of a mad rush.

On December 10th I received an email letting me know a decision had been made regarding my visa application but of course not giving any clue as to what that decision might be. On December 14th I got my passport back with the entry visa inside it and a letter telling me the entry stamp was valid for 30 days. Great news! Except the 30 days started November 27th, meaning I had less than two weeks to give notice, get my plane ticket, and fly out.

Christmas is not the ideal time to travel in a rush but a quick google suggested that attempting to correct this alarming error was risky and could be expensive so I found a plane ticket for the 22nd out of LAX and packed my bags!

In spite of the rushed timeline things worked out pretty damned great, my work was aware of the situation so were very understanding and got me my last check processed just in time. Our company holiday dinner doubled as a goodbye party and the next day was my last so some of us hung out and finished off a bottle of wine which a grateful customer had dropped off. This left me with one full day free to pack everything, clean out my room, cuddle the cats, and hang out with Palle for some Flash and Arrow binge-watching.

The next day was Saturday. Palle and I packed my suitcases into his car and we drove to San Jose to celebrate Mette’s birthday. Again the timing worked perfectly, I would have hated to rush off without saying goodbye and this was the perfect way to leave the Bay Area. The evening started with an awesome burger at Cafe Stritch followed by a Psychi donut and Comedysportz. Afterwards we headed back to the house for Cards Against Whomanity and (in my case) mixing too many liquors. I did not cover myself in glory on either front but had a great time and managed not to end up hungover despite certainly deserving to be.

I had planned to catch a bus or train south but Leigh Ann was having none of that and declared we would have one last road trip to send me off. We stopped at Casa de Fruta, as you do, then drove listening to the requisite Indigo Girls and Greek Suite, arriving at my sister’s house in Santa Monica on Sunday right as the sun set. I’m going to miss those drives but at least I have a playlist to remind me of them when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Sunday I just chilled with Ashley, we had a drink with Leigh Ann before she took off back to the Bay Area then watched the latest Almodovar (very silly) and had some of the marionerry pie from Casa de Fruta. Monday I finally went to see Star Wars with Andres and Isabella, I loved it and managed to enter the theatre almost entirely unspoiled. On the way home I bought a second suitcase and repacked my stuff so I wouldn’t have to leave much behind (I still left a pile of books for family members to bring when they visit). That night Raul came to Santa Monica and along with Ashley we went to see the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters, which was silly, raunchy fun. We finished the evening with some beers and conversation.

That was my last night in the US but next morning we fit in a short visit to see Pat, Rebecca, and Alma. Rebecca seemed to enjoy showing us all of her books and we hung out for about an hour before piling into Pat’s car and heading at last to the airport.

The new international terminal at LAX is much better than I remember it being and I got through check in and security with an hour to spare before boarding. Norwegian is a budget airline but very civilized and friendly so my flight was as pleasant as one can really expect a transatlantic economy ride to be, especially since Ashley managed to get me an aisle seat instead of middle. I arrived to a cold and rainy England on December 23rd just in time for the Coxon family Christmas!

New Laptop

My poor old laptop gave up the ghost leaving me with only my phone to get online for a few weeks there, meaning little posting and no podcasting. But the new one is here and after a couple of days of set up and updates (man Windows 10 is a bear of a download) I’m back online properly.

Thanksgiving came and went with no news on my visa, but I did get to spend time with Ashley. She was in town for a few days and we toasted goodbye to San Francisco repeatedly and at several places that I hadn’t had a good excuse to check out before. Among them  the Starlight Lounge at the top of the Sir Francis Drake (not what I expected but surprisingly fun), the Redwood Room at the Clift (fab, and so much friendlier that I would have expected), Hogwash (delicious, cozy, and friendly to boot), and the Library at Bourbon & Branch (so fun!) all in all it was a very fun visit and a good send-ff. Hopefully.

Meanwhile I continue to wait. Will obviously be spending the holidays here, but expect to hear soon and be able to plan 2016.

Netflix-o-rama

There is so much genre television right now that it’s hard to remember how sparse the landscape once was not all that long ago. And how it seemed like you could only really have one subgenre at a time, horror or science fiction for example, but not usually both. Now there’s plenty to chose from, ranging in style, flavor, and quality. No longer do we have to sit through a craptastic hour of television just because it’s the only thing on the air with superheroes or vampires or whatever your favorite is.

Which is a roundabout was of saying I’ve been watching a fair bit of Netflix lately.

Person of Interest is my current obsession, basically taking the spot in my heart previously occupied by Fringe. The two series are very different in a lot of ways but both fill that action-thriller spot, have interesting explorations of ethics and morality, and manage to build a strong ensemble cast with excellent female characters. They also both share a clever approach to ideas that are not entirely novel but haven’t been explored quite so well previously on television. I do hope POI stays on target better than the latter seasons of Fringe did, though.

In superheroics Arrow has built from a workmanlike action hero series to a pretty decent comic book series, allowing itself to relax into the inherent absurdity of its genre. It’s still serious and angsty and often soapy as hell, but they seem to be having more fun with it and expanding into a shared universe both internally with more heroes and villains and externally with crossovers.

The Flash needed no long build up, maybe because of the groundwork already laid down by Arrow, and has more great comic book stuff per episode than you can count. The other thing it has going for it is a much lighter tone and a solid sense of humor, which is appropriate to the title anyway but has also always felt more like DC’s strength anyway. I loved the Mark Waid era of the comic back in the nineties and am enjoying the fuck out of the series so far.

Gotham is a bit more frustrating. I loved the first half dozen episodes; a little grotesque and a little weird but mainly focused on the story of the struggle to control Gotham by criminal syndicates, the corrosive effect of that struggle on the city’s public servants and citizenry, and the start of a crusade to clean it up by Gordon. It’s not quite in the superhero genre as we now know it more in that pulp era masked crime fighter sensibility of The Shadow or Dick Tracy. But towards the end the season there seemed to be a loss of focus, some clumsy writing in regards to several female characters, and just a general loss of focus. Hope they get back on track next season.

 

Con-volution: Legion of Fandom

Convolution was excellent, everything you could want from your regional convention. I was not the only one to remark that it felt a lot like Baycon did once upon a time. Convolution is still relatively new and not yet as large as Baycon at its height but it certainly had that high energy,  the evening scene in particular, and that feeling that everyone you know is there.

Comparisons aside here are some of my thoughts on the convention, in no particular order;

The theme. This is a place Convolution excels. They come up with a theme and then use it as a guide to build their guest list, programming, and so on. Legion of Fandom was a “big tent” appeal and meant good representation of various fandoms and fun stuff like the Ambassador’s Ball. Part of that is the effort the con puts into decorating the space thematically, I’ve said it before and will say it again; more conventions should really do this.

The Art Gallery was very well run. It looked great, the staff was on the ball, and a concerted effort had clearly been made to make things run smoothly but also to bring folks in and encourage participation. There was a lot of good art ,including some really fun new pieces by my friend Bryan Little, who needs a damned website or something already.

The dealer’s room had a nice variety of vendors including at least one who mentioned that they normally sell at Anime Conventions. Fitting given the theme, but also just a good idea generally; cross-pollination!

PARTIES. This was a highlight for me, obviously. The hotel is a good one for parties, with wide hallways, large rooms, and none of that depressing plastic-wrap nonsense. There were four or five parties each night, which is not a huge amount but seemed to be the right number for a convention of this size. San Jose in 2018 (and its Barbarella-themed Saturday incarnation) was of course at the top of the list and packed from beginning to end, but the Red Room Twin Peaks party was a nice surprise, BASFA was the last to close on Saturday I think, and the always reliable Klingon Black Hole plied it’s trade nicely. The Firefly LARP had a nerf-war room that I didn’t go into but sounded amazing as well.

There were a lot of great hall costumes,including some excellent Fury Road cosplay.  There were some Convolution 2015 masquerade entries but I didn’t see any of the skits performed since Jade Falcon and Bill Howard roped me into being a warm body for their Hawkeye entry. It won Best in Show: Presentation though, so it was totally worth it.

One thing that bears mentioning even though it happened “offstage” so to speak from my personal convention experience is that the convention handled a Code of Conduct issue expertly, without hesitation or undue fuss. This was not for something that happened during the con but rather for a persona non grata who showed up despite being banned. So often we only hear when conventions drop the ball, not the least because a well-handled situation of this sort is practically invisible. So well done Convolution!

As with any convention there were one or two areas that could use improvement, these were pretty small in my experience.

First one was the lack of a printed pocket program. Yes, the guidebook app is cool but not everyone has the best phone (or any, kids for instance?) and keeping your phone charged in a con/hotel environment  isn’t the easiest. I missed having a newsletter as well, I still feel they add to the sense of community and are useful for party info.

Second was the television in the consuite. The spread and volunteers were great, but where at most conventions the consuite serves as a social space to chat with folks, this one had a TV tuned to science fiction programming on television (commercials and all). So of course there were always people watching and no chance of talking with them, the staff, or your friends except maybe about the movie. Perhaps a TV with subtitles (which worked nicely in the Twin Peaks party) would have served better?

But these were the only things that I could point to offhand from my weekend. I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I had conversations with people I’ve seen around over the years but never really spoken to at length, and I met entirely new people. Which is to say it was a damned fine con.

Arting

Convolution is this weekend, so I’m busy getting art done. Since I don’t have most of my supplies I indulged myself in some new pigma micron pens on the basis that those are always good to have more of. Luckily I’d also bought a small watercolor set to do a dinosaur poster Sasquan’s fanzine lounge, so that’s handy.

Unfortunately the scan of the Sasquan piece has some issues (I’m told the poster looked better) but in any case here is a hastily edited jpeg until I get a chance to clean it up further.

Sasquan-Lounge

GGC Episode 84: Favorite Animations

In our latest episode we talk about recent animation that we’re digging on the small screen and the large, plus of course Jade and Sandy discuss their latest crafting projects.

Download links, shownotes and more over at the Geek Girl Crafts Podcast website.