Nothing lasts forever — DeepWalker Lives

Nothing lasts forever
Deep Walker Lives

       My good friend Richard Gurley used to make fun of people who insisted that if you were big and strong you had to be stupid.  He was a computer programmer who used an over-sized keyboard.  At conventions, when we weren’t involved in a game, we would sit and talk about strategy, tactics, philosophy, the relative value of different kinds of blade, etc.

So many times I saw him acting gruff and laying it on thick to trying keep from bursting out laughing.  He did not always succeed.

If I had not met Richard Gurley back in in 1982 he would’ve been dead by 1984; instead, he helped develop the MRI as their main test subject.  We have been gamer friends since we met at a party Jerry Collins (a local artist) threw.  Not long after we met I took him aside at the party (well, actually, we were talking and went outside) and I told him, “You have acromegaly.  It is a serious health condition.  You need to see a doctor immediately.”

On my prompting, he immediately went to a doctor and was diagnosed with pituitary cancer.  Unlike most cases, his pituitary was fully functional and the size of a golf ball.  Very quickly it was found that his bones were too thick and too dense to use x-rays on him so he got referred to the people who were trying to develop a device which has become known as an MRI.

I remember one time we were at ChattaCon sitting in some chairs near the hotel elevators talking about how great it would be to get to colonize and explore alien planets when some kid came up to us and asked if anyone had a knife.

Richard pulled out a tiny penknife opened it and set it on the table in front of us.

I then pulled out a pocket knife opened it while saying, “That’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to the penknife.

Then Richard pulled out a tanto while saying, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to my pocket knife .

While saying, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” I pulled out a Marine survival knife approximately 1 inch longer than the tanto and set it on the table.

All the while, the kid’s eyes just kept getting wider and wider, while a crowd began to gather.

With a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” Richard pulled out a foot long, double bladed knife that I think was a Scottish dirk but in his hands it still looked tiny and delicate, and tossed it down on the table.

At that point I reached into my jacket and pulled out my machete and dropped it on the table with a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife.”

Just then, the kid started waving his arms back and forth saying, “Wait a minute!”  He reached down and picked one of the knives up, pulled out a string, and cut it.  He then put the knife back down, looked at both of us, and said “thank you” while backing away slowly.

I know what you’re probably thinking, if you’re a con-goer. “What about the weapons policies?”  First off, there were no weapons policies in those days.  They were not needed. Second, both of us were probably staff and on top of that at least one of us was probably security.  I say “probably” because it was a long time ago and I don’t really remember anymore.

For years, Richard and I had each other’s backs.  After his pituitary grew back and he had to have it surgically removed a second time, his bones became so large that his vertebrae locked into each other and he could barely move.  Since that time Richard has not been able to get out so much and I have been struggling and did I have the money or time to spend that much time with my good friend, but we never ceased to be close.

On Facebook, a lot of people have been talking about how important Richard was to them. They have been getting a lot of sympathy.  I can’t really tell you how important Richard was to me and I have not been getting any sympathy.  Richard was one of my two friends who have died in the last four years who I really expected to outlive me for the longest time.  Jimmy Wheeler was the other one.  Most of these people who have been talking about how important Richard was to them and how close they were to him would never have met him if it had not been for me.

The really frustrating part for me is that I had just figured out how to get his legs to uncramp just before he had his initial heart attack.  I was planning to go up and see if I could get him walking again when he had the heart attack.

I remember one time back when he was being treated, Richard was walking across the street from Lenox Mall to the Marta train station when he was hit by a car that ran the light.  I should stop at this point and mentioned the fact that Richard’s femurs by that point were already as big around as my upper arm.  If you don’t know, the femur is the bone in the upper part of your leg.  There was no time for him to get out of the way, so he hopped up an inch off the pavement so the car would not shatter his leg, and he shoved his elbow as hard as he could into the center of the car hood with the momentum created when it hit him.   The result was that he shoved the car hood into the carburetor of the vehicle, totaling it.  He then got up off of the hood when the woman stopped her car.  He growled at the lady in the broken car and walked off into the Marta station while the lady cop who had witnessed the accident stared at him with her mouth open.

Massive destructive power with a twisted, sick sense of humor was in many ways a hallmark of Richard Gurley.  He liked to act gruff and found it funny that a lot of people were afraid of him, but down deep he was a gentle and caring soul so long as you did not try to hurt him or those he cared about.  Like me, you hurt those we care about and, well, ever seen a cat hunt and kill something?

Richard was one of the main forces helping me maintain optimism about humanity.  He always had a sense of humor.  He wanted me to make sure that he was remembered the way he was before he ended up in a wheelchair.  I am glad that I let him know that his memory will be preserved both in the game that I’m designing and in several of my stories.  Richard was always a good friend.

I keep asking myself, “What’s the point of saving people’s lives if you end up watching them die later?”


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Strong Arm Tactics

               As an internal art, Chi Ping Tao stresses correct body position over less controllable aspects like relative size, reach, heaviness of build, size, and amount of muscle mass.  While these things can be useful, the truth is that, nine times out of ten, it’s the small man you have to worry about, because he will have concentrated on correct technique rather than relying on his size.  The small man knows how to fight; the large man knows how to look scary. 

               The center line is stressed very heavily in internal arts, many of the better Kung Fu styles, and of course Judo and Aikido.  There are two aspects to Center Line Theory, and a third, less known, aspect that connects the other two.  Grapplers know, of course, that if you can break a person’s center line, for example by getting them to twist or bend at the diaphragm, they can be thrown with one of your fingers.  Pugilists know that strikes are taken towards the center line, and defended by moving them away from the center line.  Advanced martial artists know that if your center line is properly aligned and your arms and legs are properly positioned, energy can be generated by the entire body and transported to a single point.  Conversely, it is possible to take energy from an incoming strike and redirect it wherever you want.  This can be into the ground, or even back into an opponent.  For several years, I had an ongoing argument with John Hill, who insisted that, with the sword work, one was supposed to lean forward.  To no avail, I explained to him over and over different aspects of what was wrong with this approach until one day we were watching the Grand Master of Kishima Shin Ryu giving a demonstration.  As soon as I pointed out that the Grand Master was ramrod straight, he changed his tune after mumbling something about not being good enough to do things the way the Grand Master did them. 

                When I talk online, I frequently talk about the importance of balance and the center line, but in class I also spend a lot of time talking about the importance of proper arm and leg positions.  Proper leg position usually refers to footwork, which I consider to be the basics, along with breathing.  If your stance isn’t good, and you’re not breathing correctly, then it doesn’t matter whether you know how to throw a punch or not, because it’s unlikely to land, and if it does it will have no power.  If you go to deliver a strike, or even a block, and instead fall down, at best you will appear comical, and you may even fall into an opponent’s strike or hit an obstacle on the ground, like a curb or a rock. 

                What I really want to talk to you about right now, though, is Immovable Arm.  There are two immovable arm positions.  The easiest one to describe involves having your elbow one fist away from your abdomen in front of you and bent at a 90 degree angle, such that you could put a board across your fingertips and shoulder, leaving it level.  If you make a small circle with the palm of your hand, starting facing you, through Willow-Leaf Palm, to a Palm Heel Strike, your arm should be in the other immovable arm position with your elbow pointed at your knee and slightly bent, but the arm almost straight.  I had another student (interestingly enough, also named John) who was an SCA-er and a Kali practitioner from Florida.  Although twice my size, his strikes with the Kali stick had less power.  He also had the problem that his Kali sticks were splintering, the way most students of Kali complain about.  He had been practicing on a telephone pole for several weeks and never left a dent on the pole, but every time he struck it he ended up with more cracks on the end of his Kali sticks.  If he had continued this way, he would pretty soon have been able to use them as paint brushes. 

                After working with him for several weeks, one of which was mostly devoted to showing him why what I was doing was better than the Northern Mantis and Kali he was already performing, he had gotten down moving the arms while keeping them in the first of the two immovable arm positions, which is a prerequisite for techniques like the Cannon Punch.  After he had gotten over the tendency to move the elbow any time the shoulder or wrist are moved, he decided to try his Kali strikes on the telephone pole again.  The sound alone was enough to let you know that there was a lot more power involved.  This time, chunks flew off of the telephone pole every time he struck it, but his Kali sticks did not splinter.  If the force is going into your target, rather than into the end of your weapon, or fist, then all the damage is received by the target itself.  I still have my first Kali stick.  It’s barely dented.  The ones that I share with my students have numerous dents, but none is splintered.  Not even the peeled ones.  To save my vanity, I will not tell you how long I’ve had these Kali sticks.  Let’s just say that my first one came from the first half of the 1980s.

                While it is a useful skill to learn to isolate different parts of the body musculature, the harder and more useful ability is to learn to have the whole body work or move as one thing without interrupting the flow of kinetic energy or, as they say in China, chi.  In this process, frequently arm position is overlooked.  That, of course, results in injuries to the wrist, shoulder and elbow, as well as broken bones usually in the hand or wrist.  Both the hand and foot need to work with grace and power, and the Dan Tien must be perfectly coordinated.  If, however, the center line is broken, the train derails and it all falls apart.  Wherever the chi stops, it explodes.  What this means in a Western sense is that wherever the kinetic energy stops, it injures the surrounding tissues because it suddenly and violently transfers from its source to its target.  This is the true danger of Fa Jing.  Any explosive release of power is going to cause damage somewhere.  If properly applied, then that damage won’t be in you.  It is said that the wrist should align with the ankle, the elbow with the knee, and the shoulder with the hip. 

                I understand that I have people of a variety of different levels of understanding who read my blog and, for some of you, this won’t be particularly useful or may even sound like gibberish.  There are others of you who’ve been sitting there saying, “Yes, exactly” over and over again, and thinking of better ways to say some of this.  Personally, I am aiming for those people in the middle who will get a lot out of it, most especially the one or two who will find that this puts all the pieces together for them.  Certainly, there are lots of other analogies I could make, but ultimately in this format, without even pictures, I have to rely on what you already know.  Certainly, that’s easier with things like horse stance because that’s used by basketball players and pro golfers, but it is hard to find good examples for immovable arm and, even if I could, making the transition from unmoving immovable arm to moving immovable arm requires a lot of practice, and for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, even saying that is confusing.  There are specific positions of proper bone and tendon alignment for every joint in the body that allow you to be immovable in certain directions.  Of course, there are no positions that will prevent you from being moved in every direction.  Every position has weak points that can be taken advantage of, but the positions of proper alignment have fewer than any other positions.  

                Thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog.  I hope that you find it very useful. 

—  Reid Sifu

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Martial Tourists Need Not Apply — “Don’t Try to Rob or Rape Me Today; I Am Depressed.”

Martial Tourists Need Not Apply

“Don’t Try to Rob or Rape Me Today; I Am Depressed.”

             A martial arts master named Bilal who is a friend of mine said, “… What do you think that a rapist or a mugger, or someone who means you harm will understand your depressed, what are you going to say to them ‘ don’t rob or rape me today I’m depressed?'”  I know this may come as a shock to many people, but if I am in a lot of pain, feeling bad, or depressed it would be the worst time to try and attack me.  A lot of people take feeling bad, being sick, or even something as little as rain to be an excuse not to practice martial arts, but I used study while sick in the rain.  I still love practicing forms on top of roofs or in the woods.  I have practiced in the desert, on mountain tops, and up to my neck in water.  I pride myself on the fact that I have never seriously injured an opponent.  All that being said, if I were in a very bad shape, in pain, depressed, sick, and generally feeling hopeless and someone were stupid enough to try and attack me, it would actually make me feel better.  Unfortunately, as the exhilaration of combat took hold I would transfer all of my pain and all of their attacking Chi into what would most likely be a lethal counter-strike.

             When I play kung fu, it is life.  There are always people who just kind of dance around with it.  They only come to class if they feel good and the weather is nice.  I have worked out so hard that it knocked illness out of me before, but at this point I use my knowledge of herbalism to get rid of illness before I even start to work out.  Recently, I had a student drop out of class making excuses, but it amounted to me expecting him to live up to the martial ideals in his daily life and show up for classes regardless of how he felt.  Since that time, his weight has doubled or at least that’s how he looks.  If he had had the discipline to practice when he wasn’t in class, he would have lost weight instead.

             That being said, martial arts is not about suffering, it is not about hardship, and it most definitely is not about fighting.  In fact, it is about minimizing suffering, decreasing hardship, and avoiding fighting.  There is a saying in yoga that pain is nature’s way of telling you that you made a mistake. There are way too many “martial tourists” in classes today.

             Ultimately, martial arts and yoga are things that you have to love in order to be successful with them.  I don’t mean what most people mean by successful however; I mean if you want to master them.  My friend was talking about the importance of consistency, especially consistency in coming to class and that is important.  Another thing that most people talk about is self-discipline, and that is useful too.  I will frequently talk about the necessity of feeling that your life depends on learning martial arts.  I myself started learning before I can remember and practice became a daily thing at the age of eight.  I became very proficient.  Proficiency is not enough.

             My martial arts and my yoga did not translate outside of my life with the exception of the breath control discipline I learned from meditation and yoga.  I had severe asthma and that was the only thing that got me to the hospital alive on a number of occasions, and it kept me out of the hospital on even more.  Most of the time, my martial arts knowledge showed up nowhere else in my life.  I had acquired a degree of proficiency, but they were not part of my life and I acquired no amount of mastery.

             I did meditate in class during high school, out of boredom.  I believe I was 15 when I had the sudden realization that I actually loved yoga but hated being told to do it.  I started doing yoga during my spare time.  It wasn’t until I was doing yoga when I wasn’t being told to that I wasn’t being controlled in relation to it.

             After learning nothing but strikes, kicks, and weapons techniques for years and being told that it was about learning to fight, I had no interest in martial arts.  My first class of kung fu at 18 changed all that.  My instructor emphasized the importance of learning to avoid fights, had us constantly doing stance work, and put me to work doing forms and sets.  Suddenly, when all the parts were put together, it made sense and I felt like I was remembering something I had forgotten.

             Don’t get me wrong.  I knew somewhere between three and six ways to kill a man by hitting him in the face when I was 6.  That might be fighting, and it might even be martial arts, but it sure as hell isn’t kung fu or self-defense. 

             I was very clumsy as a child because I had a lagging eye, pressure on the inner ear, and club feet.  Despite yoga, I fell down between once a day and once an hour until my second lesson of kung fu.  Once I realized the stances were the ones from yoga, and I was learning how to move in them, I immediately stopped falling down.  To be honest, I fell down once a year after that for the first five years, and after I realized the importance of horse stance, I stumbled once a year for two or three years, and then I didn’t fall down until after I was in a car wreck, having been a passenger in a vehicle hit by a drunk driver going at least 75 mph while we were stopped.  With whiplash of the entire spine and brain damage, I would pass out at random intervals for the first two or three years.  Still, falling practice was so well ingrained in me that when I woke up I never had sustained additional injuries.  The reflexes trained into my spinal column didn’t care if my cerebral cortex was shut down. 

             The day I fell in love with kung fu was the first day of class.  It was then that I started putting together the parts of my life.  It was as if there had been one missing piece.  From that point on, martial arts informed every move I made.  A martial master once commented that he had never met anyone whose every movement was an integrated martial movement until me.  I consider this one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  As the martial philosophy and movement brought together every aspect of my life, I found that I became one-pointed.  Unfortunately, that only lasted four months until I had to have emergency surgery to remove my appendix the day after John Lennon was shot.  The Filipino doctor at the hospital in the rural Georgia town where I was shot me full of drugs I was allergic to (yes, they were all on my chart) and looped stitches through my intestines.  He also damaged several internal organs in the process.  It took 14 years for the drugs to entirely get out of my system, and I started trying to put my life back together again.  And in all that time, the martial path guided my progress.  In all the intervening years, it has kept me safe, whether sliding down iced-over stairs or being unexpectedly attacked, it, whatever it is, has kept me safe.  Martial arts are the only reason I’m alive today.  Kung fu is my life.  It is not something I do.  It is something I am.  I am certainly not well today, but I was not supposed to live to be 18 and in the more than thirty years since then, I have had injuries that would kill most people many times over.  It’s not so much that I am in some way special; it’s that the path is, and to walk the path you must achieve balance.  To maintain balance, you must dance so as to remain at the eye of the storm.  A tourist can’t do that.  You must live the Path.

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We interrupt this blog . . . . .

. . . . for a botanical orgy.  Seriously, if you have allergies, which our Vulcan Jedi Timelord indeed does, the past few weeks have been exceptionally . . . . pollinated.  As a result, our intrepid blogger has not been sleeping and therefor has not been writing.

This blog will resume as soon as the plant festival is over and he can sleep through the night again.

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Blogger’s First Rant

                I really hate treating people like they’re stupid.  The problem is that seems to be what they want.  I prefer to treat people like they are intelligent, but when I do, they complain that I’m talking down to them.  Smarter people will complain that I’m talking over their heads.  I must admit that this is probably the biggest force that keeps me going back to science fiction conventions, where people just take it as an excuse to unleash their entire vocabulary.  Of course, while some of us can’t get away with that even at cons, the fact of the matter is that you start to get comfortable with the idea by Sunday, and then you have to go home.  Now, at this point, I have to warn you that this is not one of my typical blogs about conventions so much as a rant about stupidity.  You might say that this is a free range rant.

                Your typical essay consists of an opening paragraph, a series of supporting paragraphs, each paragraph supporting an individual point, and a closing paragraph for the conclusion.  It’s basically, “Tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, and then tell me what you told me.”  In writing, you’re supposed to repeat things that are important three times in different forms.  The problem I have with this is after about a paragraph, I feel that I’m beating a subject to death and treating my readers like their stupid, and I hate doing that.  As a result, my blogs will typically cover all of the various aspects of a particular subject one point at a time.  When somebody posts a blog that’s similar, I will find that they have written on just one point that I have addressed, but they’ve done it for three or four pages.  I’ve even seen entire books that could be summarized in a sentence.  Whenever I read something like that, I feel like the writer has gone out of their way to waste my time.  If they also did not write well, and I feel like it was a tragic waste of the life of a tree, I want to hunt them down and beat them with the book until they repent.

I remember back during my twenties, on occasion I would get really annoyed and tired of dealing with stupid people and would talk down to people.  They would eat it up.  I would talk down to people in the most demeaning way that I could imagine, treating them as if they were four-year-olds, and they would eat it up.  They would literally thank me for treating them like an equal while I was talking to them as if I were talking to me at the age of four, only patronizing.  I felt really bad about it at the time, but I also saw that if I could do that all the time people would like it better, and like me better.  I just couldn’t bring myself to be that insulting.

Eventually, I took speech class and learned that you were supposed to keep it straightforward and simple; the burden of being understood was on the speaker, and no, everybody in the world does not know as much as I do and no, not everybody in the world is as smart as I am.

Fortunately, after years of menial jobs and accumulating brain damage from such things as being hit by a drunk driver, being exposed to neurotoxins, and being bitten by a black widow, I’m just not all that sharp anymore.  I find as long as I do not obfuscate my speech with pedantic obscurities, that the only real problem I have is with my brusque speaking style that arises from a desire for efficiency.  Of course, my mother was very blunt, and I did not learn to be subtle as a child.  When I am subtle, I find that people just don’t get what I’m saying, and my ex-wife made me feel like it just wasn’t worth the effort to find that middle ground or, honestly, give a shit.

If there’s more than one side to an argument, I do generally try to present both sides, if there are actually two sides.  Most arguments in our culture come from the fact that people haven’t thoroughly analyzed things and have been offered two incorrect options which they believe demonstrate every possibility.  There are a lot of things out there that are being touted as if they were truth that look more like the rantings of an ignorant, uneducated, mentally deficient spider monkey with brain lesions, and I just don’t feel like I have to give that crap equal time.  By the way, I feel that I am being kind about some of the things people believe.

So, in short, I choose to think that you’re intelligent, and that I’m intelligent, because it makes me feel better about the world.  As long as you allow me to, I will continue to treat you as if you are intelligent.  The other option is to think of myself as stupid and the rest of the world as a dung-heap, and I really don’t see any value to that.  I know that there is a really good chance that if you are someone who reads my blog that you have felt this way yourself at some point.

So I apologize for the fact that this particular post is somewhat off topic, and is really more of a rant than anything else.  A year and a half ago, I worked myself to the point of physical collapse and passed behind the wheel while drinking an energy drink.  About a month ago, the same thing happened metaphorically speaking with regards to my writing.  About a week ago, my Tibetan doctor told me to get less stress.  Therefore, blowing off some steam really is a health necessity at this point.  Of course, it does not particularly help that most of my friends that are on my Facebook page, when I get together with them and we’re talking, are not aware that this blog, which I post every week on my wall, even exists.  I only have 17 followers so far, and I want you to know that I appreciate every single one of you.  Please remember, if there is a subject that you would like me to discuss, I would like you to feel free to let me know, and I do intend to go back to the Con Goers Survival Guide.  That will probably be next week, unless I get another guest post.

Good night, and good luck.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Guest Post by The City Druid: The Story of the Wandering Lobster

As the title indicates, I’m not the Vulcan Jedi Time Lord.  I am the City Druid, and he has asked me to sit in for him, since he has been writing so much the last few weeks that his brains are starting to leak out his ears.  So I’m here to tell you a story of an adventure that he and I, and another person, had many years ago.It was December of 1988, and he and I were staying with his girlfriend at the time.  I worked as a legal secretary for my father, he kept house, and she was a college student.  Since he cooked for everyone, he and I had gone grocery shopping at Kroger.

It was a Wednesday, and payday was on Friday, so we were there to get a few necessities for dinner.  While we were shopping, we stopped to watch the lobsters in the tank.
Mostly, they were ordinary lobsters, either sitting in the corners or sparring with their rubber-banded claws over territory.  However, there was one that absolutely got our attention.
It was blue.  Have you ever seen a blue lobster?
We vowed to come back on Friday after I got paid so that we could buy that lobster.
Well, Friday rolled around, and I got paid, and we went to Kroger to look at the lobsters.  Much to our disappointment, Blue was gone, off to boil in a pot for someone’s dinner.  However, we found another lobster in the tank that was nearly as remarkable: it was mottled green and blue/brown in a pattern very much like hunter’s camouflage, and it had a barnacle growing where its nose would have been had it had one.
We bought it.  We also bought a bag of ice and put the ice, and the live lobster, into my red Igloo cooler, and put the cooler into the back of my little Ford Festiva.  Then we went to the apartment where we lived in Inman Park, I parked the car in front of the building and kept the engine running while he ran in and got his girlfriend.  When they came out of the front door of the building, she was reading a book, and he led her to the car and helped her into the back seat.  She didn’t say a word, just kept reading.
He got into the passenger seat, and I started out.  We went downtown by way of Edgewood Avenue, and headed south on the Downtown Connector.  We talked, she read, and we generally had a very pleasant drive.  At some point, around about Macon, we switched drivers (his girlfriend didn’t have a license, so she just kept reading), and we continued on our way down I-16.  Shortly after that, she realized we weren’t in Atlanta anymore, and asked where we were going.
Our goal, since I haven’t mentioned it yet, was to take the lobster to the ocean at its closest point to our home (in this case, Tybee Island, Georgia, home of Savannah Beach) and release it into the water.  We felt it should have a chance to influence the gene pool.  We told her that as we drove.  She was interested in the adventure, and at that point it was getting dark so she joined the conversation.
It’s been a lot of years, so I don’t remember what we discussed.  I do remember stopping at a rest stop to get out of the car and stretch.  It was just an area for tractor-trailers to park, and it had no street lights, so we got out and lay in the grass to look up at the sky.  Since we were in the middle of nowhere, there was a vast expanse of bejeweled sky, and the arm of the Milky Way was clearly visible.  We lay in the grass and talked for a few minutes, about the stars and constellations, and got back on the road.
Once we reached Savannah, we ate and drove on out to Tybee Island.  Our biggest challenge, since it was December 2nd, was finding a hotel that was open for business.  We ended up at an Econolodge on the beach.  Since it was out of season, it was affordable.  We all went to bed.
At dawn, we got up and hauled the cooler to the water’s edge.  As planned, the giant bug was hibernating due to the ice, so we were able to safely take it out of the cooler and put it in the shallow part of the surf.  Then we waded a little  in the water that was the temperature of iced tea, and stood on the beach to make sure the lobster went to sea.  It took a while, since we apparently got out there at low tide, or at least as the tide was coming in, because the waves kept pushing the poor, sleepy creature further up on to the sand.
Eventually, it woke up and actively worked to swim out to sea, and we left the beach.  Of the three of us, I was the only one who had been to Savannah, so I was the “native guide”; he gave his girlfriend a driving lesson on the driveways of Fort Pulaski (one of my favorite places to go) after we toured the fort.  Then we made our way to River Street and had breakfast at Huey’s, then took a river boat tour of the port.  Then we headed home,
It was a memorable trip, and one that has been published before.  If you’ve ever read a story called “The Great Lobster Liberation”, that was written by the girlfriend.
And now you know….the rest of the story.
Copyright © 2013 Cynthia Middleton

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Con Survival Guide, Post #16: How to Treat People in Costume Or Excuse Me, Flash, Could You Hurry Up?

Con Survival Guide, Post #16: How to Treat People in Costume


Excuse Me, Flash, Could You Hurry Up?

                People who are dressed in costumes at conventions are quite different from people who dress strangely in public places.  Okay, there are exceptions, like you can generally assume that adult women who dress like Sailor Moon frequently (and by frequently I mean there may be an exception somewhere) take themselves too seriously and at least seem to be somewhat unhinged.

               Con-goers, on average, are more intelligent and more educated than the general population and therefore have more of a sense of humor.  A few years ago, after Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace was released to menace us all, there was a line of Princess Amadilas waiting to be in the costume contest at DragonCon.  By a line I mean somewhere between 50 and 400.  Since I was walking through that section anyway, I was looking at the various costumes, including the one Jango Fett, when I noticed a six-foot-five, burly man with a cigar sticking out of his bushy beard dressed as the Princess.  I immediately burst out laughing while about fifty people around me stepped back, looking scared.  He reached up one meaty hand, pulled the cigar out of his mouth and in a booming voice said to me, “Thank you! I worked hard on this outfit and you’re the first one to laugh!”  The crowd around me let go a huge sigh of relief and several people immediately admitted that they thought it was funny but were afraid to laugh in case he was serious.  He couldn’t believe anyone could think he could possibly be serious with the huge beard and cigar.  After that, everything went much more smoothly and everybody was happy.

                 Most con-goers are sane.  I mean there are the exceptions like Miss Marvel/ Rocker Girl, but even most of those are harmless.  The truth is that fandom is full of people who are just bad with names, so generally speaking it is usually acceptable to call someone by the name of the character they’re dressed as (especially if they’ve done a good job of it) or the name that’s on their badge.  It’s always good form, however, to call someone by their own name once in a while if you can remember it.  The good news is they probably don’t remember your name either.

                 This generally applies as long as they don’t think that you think that they are that fictional character.  In fact, it is generally not acceptable to either believe they are a fictional character, or that you are a fictional character.  While there are some people who are not sane who go to conventions, and they are generally tolerated, and some are genuinely liked, it is not the best way to make friends.  Over the years, some have been viewed kind of like mascots so long as they weren’t causing any trouble.

                 It is generally never acceptable, however, to call an actor by the name of the character they play or act like you think they actually are that character no matter how incredibly cute Kaylee might have been or how hot Ivanova was.  Girls, this also applies to anyone who has played The Doctor or John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack.  While Amy Pond was hotter than a summer day in Georgia, I have to admit that I don’t remember the actress’s name.  Those of us who are bad with names, of course, have strategies for getting around that kind of problem.

                While it is perfectly acceptable to call someone by the name of the character that they are dressed as and compliment them on their costume, interacting with them as the character should be done with some caution.  If you happen to be dressed as another character from the same story, then this can be extended somewhat as long as they’re willing also.

                Costumes can be as subtle as wearing a shirt, a pin, or a hat that identifies you as a part of a particular world to a fully detailed 7-foot tall costume of an alien with or without Sigourney Weaver.  I once wore a sheet over my head with two eye-holes cut in it and a sign on my back that said Ghost Writer to a convention.  Unfortunately, nobody took me up on it.  Some of the subtlest costumes consist of having the name of a particular character as a badge name. Generally, the person’s real name is underneath the badge name in small print.

                A number years ago, there was a big movement for a small number of near-professional level costumers to enter contests with costumes worthy of movie sets, and while I don’t know if this helped any of them ever get a job, it did scare off the amateur costumers.  As a result, there are a lot fewer people in costume these days than there used to be, except at anime conventions. I personally don’t think that these people should be judged in the same category as everyone else, and I honestly have greater respect for a creative or original costume than I do for a well-made knockoff.

                Another sad loss to costuming has been the virtual disappearance of the costumed skit. I and others miss this wonderful aspect of conventions.  Certainly they provide great memories for those of us who were lucky enough to see the Dead Perry Sketch (yes, a Dr. Who/Monty Python crossover) and the Star Trek Red Shirt Zombies.

                You don’t have an automatic right to take someone’s picture and monopolize their time without asking.  Most people are more than thrilled to get their picture taken in the costume with you if you ask, but if they’re trying to get to the bathroom or last call for the costume contest or, God forbid, their diabetes kit because they’re about to have a problem and you’re demanding to take your picture with them and won’t let them go, then don’t be surprised if they have the Hulk throw you off the balcony or security eject you from the convention.

                Now, if you see things differently from them you may feel compelled to go up and make a comment on how you would have done one or two things differently, which is understandable, and goes over much better if it includes a compliment about something they’ve done that you wouldn’t have thought of, but unless they’re a costuming geek who is getting into the conversation, you might want to limit it to that.  Let me just say on their behalf: “Well if you think that you can do so much better of a job, then shut up and go do it yourself.  Did you go around and critique the other kids on Halloween, too?”  In fact, how good your costume is isn’t really the point.  Whether you’re at a Ren Faire or a convention, the real point is to have fun.  Different people have fun in different ways, but ideally we can all have fun together.

                So until next week, have fun.

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