Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Bookworm: the last dragonlord by joanne bertin

The Last Dragonlord (Dragonlord, #1)The Last Dragonlord by Joanne Bertin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My younger sister, who was crazy about this particular series, has spent years attempting to get me to read this book. I've always been a bit wary of my sister's recommendations however, given her general aversion to fantasy novels.

I wasn't entirely wrong with my doubts in the end. This book isn't a classic or a straight up fantasy novel.

This is a romance novel set in a fantasy world.

Nevertheless, I found once I started this book, I couldn't put this down.

Don't get me wrong: a profound and thoughtful reading pursuit this is not. At its very core it is a shallow book with very little real depth and fairly cookie-cutter characters built around a cookie-cutter romantic notion that lacked personality or strife. Real character imperfections were few and far between.

Also the layout style the author chose to pursue, in that the reader knew of and were far more aware of the interactions and plans between the protagonist and antagonist certainly made supposedly dramatic points in the novel a rather frustrating or tiresome experience as it led one to question the general intelligence of the characters as a whole. It also made much of it much too predictable.

And yet, I found the pacing of the storytelling engaging and the characters enjoyable despite the lack of depth, to the point that I struggled to stop reading it at points. And I thought the world's mythology as a whole concerning the dragons to be a rather clever concept.

So despite all its short-comings, I gave it five stars, simply because it was a read that I did enjoy and in the end, a delightful breath of fresh air from the more heady material I tend to consume on a regular basis. There is nothing wrong with a light read, and it was on that basis that I rated it.

Did I take much away from the novel? No.
Did it make any real emotional or mental impact on me? Nope.
Will I read it again? Yes.

Because it's a very easy read.

With that said, I wouldn't really recommend it to serious fantasy readers... or most men for that matter. It's a little too voyeuristic (and therefore, unrealistic) for most and is more sappy than adventurous as well.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Experiment: balea skin firming peel-off face mask

About a week ago I started a new skin care regime, a regime that now requires me to wash my face and put serums and stuff on every morning and evening.

Now, I don't have bad skin. It isn't overly oily and it doesn't have any weird bumps or ridges or anything. The worst thing that can be said about my skin really is that it tends to scar easy. But the skin on my face is not used to continuous use of serums or formulas every day, morning and night.

This, plus the stress and constant running around that comes with preparing and going to a fan convention (of which I'm still filing stories on) has actually started to make my cheeks feel dry and rough after a few days.

I have cut down on the use of the products to once a day for now and am now in search of a good facial mosturizer. But until then...

It is now the Monday after the madness, and I decided this would be a good time to try this product that I picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart about two weeks ago for about $2 dollars.

Pictured here, it is a product by Balea and is a skin firming peel-off face mask that is hypoallergenic. It is made with caramel and a "fresh honey scent" that "looks and feels like real honey." And when dry, it peels away to reveal "firmer looking skin that feels soft and supple."

Looking at the ingredients though, caramel and honey aren't even one of the primary ingredients. In fact, alcohol denat., polyvinyl alcohol (a type of wood glue of all things), propylene glycol (oil), vp/dmapa acrylates copolymer and caprylyl glycol all list before honey does. And the honey isn't even natural honey, but hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, something used in a lot of Burt's Bees product.

The ingredients aren't too comforting, but none of them are actually toxic by looks, so I decided to go ahead with it and try it.

After cleansing as instructed (I used Shiseido Benefiance creamy cleansing foam) and pulling back all my hair to keep it from my face, I applied the product to my face.

After a few minutes, I felt a slight stinging sensation, especially on my cheeks.

And before you jump and claim it's an allergy reaction, it wasn't. Just the chemicals.

I don't see that as a particularly good sign about the product as I usually attribute that to chemicals reacting and drying out the skin on my face, in this case, the alcohol, which is the exact opposite of what I want happening to my cheeks especially.

Anyway, it eventually cooled down and began to harden (that would be the wood glue) after about 10 minutes. I waited the maximum 20 minutes before peeling it off, cleaning my face with some tepid water for the final effect.

The good news is that my skin looked softer and clearer after I pulled it off. There was less discolouration and my skin looked light.

But my skin still felt rough and dry. Actually it felt rougher and, upon closer inspection, drier than it did than before I used the product.

Overall, I probably won't buy this product again. It didn't feel very good while applying it and while the fact that it minimized discolouration on my skin, I didn't like how it seemed to dry out my skin.

Overall Score: 2 out of 5 stars

This post was written without sponsorship or encouragement.

FANeXpo 2012: the doctor who society of canada

Over the years at FANeXpo, official fan societies have increasingly demonstrated a strong presence there. So much so that they now have designated spots for fans to learn and maybe even get involved with the execution of various events with the convention.

First it was 501st Legion, a Star Wars fan group based on players representing the Empire that now has one of the most prominent presences at the convention.

Then there is the Ontario Ghostbusters.

And of course, Steampunk, the alternative lifestyle based on steam-powered technology in the 18th and 19th centuries.

And now, so it seems, there is now a Society for Doctor Who (henceforth known as the DWSC)

The story that tells of how this society was created is actually quite interesting.

Apparently (and as I was told by one of the supervisors at their table/booth at the convention) last year at FANeXpo, a group of Doctor Who enthusiasts were attempting to round up individuals dressed in Doctor Who costumes for a fan photoshoot of costumes, walking around the floor and informing every and all who were in Who-themed costumes about the gathering.

When the time came for the photoshoot, this group of people that began the search were staggered by the number of fans that had shown up. They had never before realized or imagined the sheer number of fans for Doctor Who in Toronto.

And these were just the people who had chosen to cosplay Doctor Who, nevermind those that were there but not in costume.

Even the media took notice of the turnout, with CTV News interviewing them as part of their coverage of the genre fan convention in Toronto.

Afterward, the group of now friends realized that this shared interest in all things Who was large enough and popular enough to support a club of sorts in Toronto. They met so many people who loved the show and wished for an opportunity to gather and meet others who feel the same way at continuous events both large and small in which to share in their interest.

And so it began...

The Doctor Who Society of Canada (DWSC) is a not-for-profit organization that is run by unpaid volunteers. It advertises itself as strictly a social group of fans from coast to coast, building friendships through social interaction, intelligent exchange and commonality.

As all things seemed to today, it began on a Facebook page as a means to post social gatherings and ideas. It has now expanded to organize a monthly social gathering for its members and those interested that is either a cosplay, screening or pub night as a reason to get together.

The "flagship" chapter is based out of Toronto, but they have other chapters in Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo and Halifax, with plans to eventually head westward, following genre conventions there to build a greater following and support.

The group incorporates a variety of  individuals with different skill sets in which they express through their love of Who.

Of course, there are the cosplayers, fans who as a means of expressing their fandom create costumes and dress up based on their favorite Doctor or Companion or even race from the Who series both old and new.

But then there are the artisans, particularly those with metalwork and electronic skills who then use these skills to build and create such things as robotic Daleks.

There were two of those running around FANeXpo, taking part in an event they called "Dalek Exterminations" - which shares a similar concept to the 501st Legion's "Find that Drone" activity.

The Who versions though involved fans who have the chance to track down and avoid being "exterminated" by the Daleks and of course, take a picture with these creatures.

 To officially become a member of the DWSC requires an interest in Doctor Who and a willingness to show up and take part in their social gatherings.

Because the DWSC is not-for-profit, there is also a yearly membership fee, but at a reasonably low price as a reflection of the fact that it is first a foremost a social group. For those aged 13-18, the cost is $10 per year, while adults pay $20 CDN dollars yearly to get involved.

Upon becoming a full member, they then get a: Membership Card, 4 issues of the DWSC newsletter, advance and front of line notice for DWSC events, Discouts on ticketed DWSC events and finally, access to an annual "Members Only" event.

 It calls itself a fledgling group, but by the looks of the weekend, it certainly has the wheels to become one of the more prominent and impactful fan societies in Canada.

Interested? Check them out on their Official Website, Facebook page or via Twitter. Allons-y!

FANeXpo 2012: it's my cosplay!

When one cosplays people ask for one of these three things:

- I want it to be fast
- I want it to be cheap
- I want it to be good

At most, you can only achieve two out of the three requests when it comes to cosplaying.

As I generally am a perfectionist and expect my costumes to be passably accurate and well made, my costumes are almost never cheap. I can easily sink over $100 dollars on the fabric of my costumes alone, and that's just because I am incredibly picky about colour, weight and feel.

I therefore usually stick to a "one costume a year" approach. That is, if I make a costume for myself, I make only one to therefore save on the costs of having to worry about having to create another.

(Plus there is also the time involved as well in sewing every costume) 

Therefore, when it came to cosplaying at FANeXpo on Saturday and Sunday, as part of my costume rule, I simply reused the costume I had created for Anime North of this year.

It was a two-person cosplay with a friend. He was the ressurected Zabuza and I was the ressurected Haku from the Anime/Manga series Naruto: Shippuden.

I couldn't begin to tell you the work and the effort put into making both of these costumes. Yes, I made both because I had the sewing machine and knew how to use it.

It was a hardcore week of sewing to assemble everything while working and going to school, but before that, it was several weeks of purchasing parts from all over the place. The greenish-blue fabric for my jacket ultimately was found at a specialty fabric store on Queen Street West (and cost a tidy penny too) while the purple leggings and armbands was a lucky find at a Fabricland... but also required me to sew black lines down it as part of the detail.

Basically, it was a lot of work.

The decision to make these costumes was actually funny. We had originally planned to go as the actual characters from the first season (and Naruto's first opponents) but as Anime North got closer, we began to worry about the construction of the sword.

The idea then was to create the half-sword that dead-Zabuza had in one of the mangas to save on weight.

Long story short, he made the whole sword in the end, but the resurrected idea stuck and we kept with it.

And I won't lie, it turned out to be a pretty sick idea.

Now at the time, the anime episode that coincided with their resurrection wasn't out yet. But by the time  FANeXpo came out, it was. So I watched it.

And that confirmed my happiness with the decision to stick with their undead versions.

Seriously, their characters were and still are sick, and I really loved the way that their story came full circle with how much Kakashi and Naruto ultimately cared for these particular opponents, how they ultimately defined how Naruto viewed the world and those around him. It also highlighted how they were far from inherently bad people, just individuals that were down on their luck and forced on opposite sides by outside forces.

It's a great episode and a great story.

Anyway, the fun part was on Saturday, while walking around the Dealer's room I overheard more than once that "I saw them at Anime North!" Hey, we were memorable!

And finally, people seemed to have really enjoyed the costumes. Despite the fact the $30 dollar crazy eye contacts dried our eyes out, and our costume became quite restrictive, it was fun.

And that's the point. 


FANeXpo 2012: cosplays on day 4

Cosplays on Sundays are often much more muted and quiet as most and many tend to use the last day to make final purchases, say good-bye to old and new friends before packing up and leaving for home and the harsh world of actual reality.

But reality can be delayed for a day, and there are still some who appear for one last hurrah at being your favourite superheroes or characters, or else just prefer the fun and voyeurism of wearing a costume. I did it for Sunday, and I wasn't the only one.

But first... my last COSTUME OF THE DAY!

To be honest, I don't know what this is (apparently it's from a game as one of my friends were able to identify it but I can't recall precisely what he said) but I thought it was adorable, well made and well executed. The construction looked solid and as a sewer I know that despite its simple concept, working with latex and making it come together cleanly and flawlessly is very very difficult to pull off!

Anyway, my regrets in terms of not finding (or lack thereof) of certain cosplays, I was really really hoping some group of guys would get together and dress up as the characters from The Big Bang Theory. But alas it was not to be and I was sorely disappointed on that front.

I saw a Katniss (from the Hunger Games) with the silver bow and the outfit from her bout in the arena but I did not see the girl on fire dress, an outfit I would have found worth a good picture.

And finally, you can tell the abundance of superhero movies and lack of anything fantasy or sci-fi has left the convention overrunned by Avengers, Batmans and Spidermans.

So here are the rest of my cosplay photos. Hope your weekend was costume-filled and fun. It's always and adventure for me.

FANeXpo 2012: highlights from day 4

After three days of events and nerdisms galore, we are finally on the fourth and final day of this year's FANeXpo!

On this day, my convention started relatively early, as there was a panel at 11AM that I wished to attend for somewhat educational purposes called "The Space Insider: An In-Depth Look at Space Programming" hosted by Ted from InnerSpace. It was a lightly attended panel, as you can see below...

... and it wasn't quite what I expected, but I still enjoyed it. I got to hear about what new shows they were planning on creating into the next year and hear the creators and producers talk about their shows. And I found it to be humourous, light-hearted and in the end, a fairly intimate panel in the end.

These are the kind of panels that you are meant to be at and enjoy at these conventions, unlike the huge conference rooms for the likes of John Barrowman and Christopher Lloyd. This was simple, and was a close-knit environment of enthusiasts listening to the experts talk and reveal industry secrets and stories. It was vastly entertaining and I thought one of the highlights of my weekend.

The panel lasted one hour, to which I made a quick tour around the fan community booths, including the 501st Legion (Star Wars)...

... as well as the Ghostbusters of Ontario...

... before meeting up with some friends for food.

While the con was nowhere near as busy as the Saturday, I found the dealer's room was still extremely busy on Sunday what with all the last minute deals. So after making some final purchases (I got a Doctor Who t-shirt) we went up to the gaming room hosted by Snakes and Lattes to play two rounds of Catan to finish off our convention weekend.

As far as conventions go, this was far from one of the best I've ever been to. In fact, it probably ranks as one of my most disappointing. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and I got to rock my costume with it too. In fact, on my way to the panel that morning, I got caught. And so... 

I really do like that picture, even without my partner in crime who was dressed as Zabuza. And in some ways, that and the gaming was my weekend!

And here is the final cosplay post for the event. Click here to see it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

FANeXpo 2012: cosplays on day 3

Marvel Superheroes cosplayers act out a scene

With help from the Masquerade and by sheer numbers of people alone, costumes and cosplay on Day 3 (Saturday) of FANeXpo is always at its best and most interesting.

Granted, the costumes largely pale in comparison to those that often come out at Anime North or the more fan-driven conventions out there, but with that said, there is still much to look at and enjoy on the Saturday when we speak of costumes.

First things first however... my COSTUME OF THE DAY!

This is a fabulous cosplay of popular radio talk show host Ruby Rhod - played by Chris Tucker from the 1997 sci-fi movie The Fifth Element. The construction was flawless and the cosplayer had the flair and the knack to pull it off with respect. Bravo!

And that image really does sum up for me the kind of things you can find at this convention that really doesn't come to light at any other, and it is that people can be a fan of anything and dress up as anything and still fit into the spectacle of the show. The ideas and fandoms aren't restricted to Anime, or Fantasy, or Sci-fi or any of the other major genres. A few years back, me and a bunch of friends showed up dressed as CSI (based off the then hit television crime drama) and I couldn't begin to tell you how popular that costume was with people.

And this is really what separates the cosplay at FANeXpo apart - it can be from anywhere and anything and still find people who will fall in love with you because of it.

So pictured here are some of the cosplays I found, saw and enjoyed the most, but with restrictions. 

One being my camera, which is a digital point-and-shoot (that has problems with clear pictures when indoors) after failing to get a proper SLR from my school before the convention. The second is the sheer mass of people often made it hard to stop those to take pictures of.

FANeXpo 2012: highlights from day 3

It's Day 3 of FANeXpo 2012!

And while I wish I had way more to tell you about today, I don't. For me, Saturday was a bit of a wash.


If I could describe FANeXpo on Saturday in two words, it would be this: LINES...




... bloody well everywhere.

FANeXpo has worked very hard to become relevant in today's society. And one can hardly argue that they haven't done a great job of it. They have turned the event from something only hardcore genre fans would show up to to something that just about everyone wants to be at.


The crowding issue today was way out of hand. In a move that had some recalling the fiasco of 2010, they had to hold crowds out of doors in the heat (and a good number of them in costumes that were far from comfortable in 30 degree weather) because they were getting too close to being dangerously overcapacity.

But once you got indoors, it made you wonder why you bothered trying to get in.

It was incredibly difficult to move around given the size of the crowds. Anything that one wished to do involved lines that went around the block, making it even more difficult to move around because they often would block areas in which people wished to move. It was a hazard to stop anywhere because chances are you'd cause a proverbial traffic jam.

At this point, it wasn't spectacle or fun or enjoyable. It was tiresome, painful and incredibly frustrating to be there.

And to further the problems of planning by the group, the convention sold out of tickets for Saturday at 1PM ... and failed to inform all the fans in line ... until they got to the front of the line after waiting for hours to get there.

(To a point, the security guard was probably within his right in saying that he wasn't about to tell close to 4,000 people that has been in line for a few hours already that they're all sold out of Saturday tickets)

I have had plenty to say about HobbyStar and how they have marketed and ran FANeXpo. After four years of volunteering there and several more as a general attendee, I can probably provide a complete expose on how they deal with fans, retailers and the whole she-bang.

But today should be a sign to the convention to rethink their floor plan. Within the confines of the convention, there is not enough space for all that was going on. Everything was jammed much too closely together and too much of the marquee events were happening on this one day.


The first of today's selection comes courtesy of Reboot (an awesome Canadian television series and one of the first ever computer graphic animated series).

I grew up on Reboot, and have been a big fan of its show ever since and even now. So the last two conventions I've been to, I've seen person after person wearing a Reboot button and I've been dying to figure out where they got it.

And then I found it.

Gavin Blair, one of the co-creators for Reboot as well as his partner in crime who was a designer for the show was selling these awesome buttons for $6 dollars. They are well made, poly-ethylene so they are soft and pliable with a two push-pin backing to allow for a straight and easy application on any accessory or piece of clothing you wish to apply it to.

Unfortunately by the time I got there they had ran out of the normal white buttons, leaving only Hexedecimal (red), Viral (green) and Guardian (yellow) buttons. So myself and a friend bought to Guardian ones, as a means to support the cause to bring Reboot back!

The second item of the day is one that I feel lucky to have found. It is the FANeXpo exclusive Big Bang Theory Flash t-shirt and Sheldon stuffed doll combo for $30 CDN.

I have coordinated with the guy friend of mine to purchase this before the convention as he could have the shirt and I could keep the doll. But to ensure that we could get a shirt that fits him, we didn't decide to purchase it until Saturday. Which was our first mistake.

The first booth near the front we found only had Xtra-Large, which was too big for him to wear.

So we had basically given up on that when near the back of the convention behind most of the big tent events I found another booth selling convention exclusives. Hurriedly I rushed over and asked if they had a Large or a Medium.

They had both.

We settled on the large size (which fit my friend perfectly) and I got my doll. And that my friends, is how I got this awesome doll.

Want to see the cosplays on Saturday? Click here for the post!