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Cosplay Island

8th May , 2006

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09:58 pm - LA Unconfident
So the writeup of doom, are you ready for it? Not the normal three-day weekend convention writeup but a full 5 night stay in another country? Can you handle the NertLength? Huh? Can you?

Wednesday 26th

Last minute running around, somewhat calmer than usual due to if-i've-forgotten-anythng-it's-back-in-canterbury-so-too-late syndrome. Dad drove me out to Heathrow early to avoid the traffic, check in was thusly effortless, although it meant I had a good three and a half hours before flying ;)

Passed it by playing on the DS mostly, and perusing the duty free shops, which were largely pants. Aside from a Dixons that had some serious discounts on DS games going, including a couple that must be so bad they were cut from £29.99 to £2, although I'm not too surprised now ;)

The flight wasn't too bad, AA seem to space the seats out for just about enough legroom to not cramp up and die ;) It was one of the new 777 planes though, so that could be it :P They also have TVs in the back of each seat even in economy these days.. With fancy GPS-driven display of where the aircraft is in the world, and what path it's taken so far - pretty neat and more than a little hypnotic.

I managed to watch Narnia and Memoirs of a Geisha on the plane - neither particularly impressed me though, and the latter had no sound for the last 15 minutes ;) Watched some cartoons, got some sleep. Genndy Tartakovsky's style has really caught on while I've been TV-less.. I remember when Dexter's Lab was the 'new crazy thing', now every other cartoon looks that way. Good thing I enjoy the style and the humour style it usually accompanies.

Fast forward 11 hours and 10 minutes or so.

Checkout was pretty effortless, I felt a little spacy because everything was indoors and low-lit so it looked like the kind of time my body thought it should be, got asked random questions about the Queen and stuff which at first I thought was idle conversation until brain kicked in ;) Yes, I am actually English.

Other than that, and once I found the actual daylight, I had no problems. I am too powerful for jetlag! Hah! (note: opinion has since changed..)

So, hurrah, I'm in the US-of-A, in the famous LAX no less, everywhere there's American accents, yellow cabs, sprawling buildings, and all that jazz.

Right. Erm. What now?

Cue praying my phone will work over there. It does! Though despite being T-Mobile, and the US *having* a T-Mobile network themselves, it decided I was to be connected to Cingular. Eh. Still, rapidfire texting to Mimi and Rachel let them know I'd landed, and grabbed a taxi.

Not that I've ever really used many taxis in this country for reference, but theirs are *seriously* plush. It's hard pulling yourself out of those things.

Thusly, I arrived at The Standard, Downtown. Holy crap. Rooms practically bigger than my house, see-through shower o.O, and smack in the middle of Downtown LA. No expense spared, clearly.

-- I forget what I mentioned already in my mini-update so I'll just keep rambling --

First thing first, check out this free intarwebbernet connection doobrie. UK plug -> US adaptor -> Wall socket = LIGHTNING

Not. good. Ah yes, not to be used with grounded appliances. Important safety tip there, thanks Egon.

Luckily room service is comprised of what can only be described as ninjas. Free of charge I was loaned an adaptor that *did* have a ground pin, yay. None of my other chargers needed a ground so that worked out well. I wonder where you get those adaptors, I can only ever find two-pin ones..

Rachel called the room literally seconds after I got in, which was spooky, and said she was on her way to meet me and make sure I wasn't in some kind of hysterical culture-shock panic or something, I think. I took the meantime to wander around the block.

Something to note about downtown LA? there're very few shops ;) It's all offices, hotels, and fancy resturants. I did happen upon Macy's Plaza though not far from the hotel so checked that out. Sadly most stores had already closed (I later found this appears to be a curse of mine..) so I settled for getting a 'Lemon Freeze' smoothie from a juice bar and headed back. Also note, asking for regular when used to English regular? Bad idea. Regular over here means 'barely able to sustain a 4 year old's appetite', over there it means 'bigger than your head' size. I didn't finish ;)
Met the girls for dinner in the hotel resturant, again couldn't finish -_- everything was in French! Although, as I was later told, bad French ;) 'trying to be posh' French methinks. Still, it was pretty deserving of being called posh, I did feel kinda out of place :P

Much talking later, and we parted ways and crashed for the night.

Thursday 27th

Got up pretty early, logged online to find most of the day was over back home -- that's just freakish. I'm really used to the other way around -- me staying up late to talking to people in the US who're still in the afternoon -- but this reversal is weeird.

Mimi and Rachel came to pick me up, we had breakfast at the resturant and drove out to the Annenberg Centre for Communication, which is essentially a converted pseudo-victorian mansion o.O The place is huge, and really ornate. Kinda weird seeing somewhere like that amidst the sprawling metropolis. Met a large amount of the peoples involved there, and got a quick tour.

Went through some of what we would be talking about with Ellen Seiter, who would be running the commentary and balance our views out, before heading upstairs to meet JoAnn, the lady who I gave so much hassle to sorting out all the international visitor forms ;) I made my peace offering of Dairy Milk and Jelly Babies. I think they went down well o.o

Watched the tech crew run around fixing the myriad of problems springing up everywhere -- Kazys was under a particular amount of duress by the look of it ;) Especially after the test machine I tried the kiosk site out on couldn't actually play the videos.. oops. I break things just by showing up. I tried to stay out of the way mostly, so kept distracting Adrienne in her office :P Well, aside from doing the baguette run with Mimi for everyone -- I raided the 7-11 next door for sweets! Yay. By this point I already had a bit of a reputation for having a sweet tooth I think..

Around 2ish myself and Nicolas Nova had to go hand in and fill out yet more forms at the USC campus itself, just as their internet access had fallen off a large cliff, so that took quite some time as they had to do things the old fashioned way ;)

The USC campus was where culture shock really hit I think. It's like a teen movie set. Guys in polo shirts called Brad really do cross your path to slap hands with his 'bud' and ask how it's hanging and how they need to catch up more often. It's the week before finals and everyone's still hanging around in the sun. Even the payroll office we were standing around in was the front desk with a sprawling office behind it, everyone walking around with cordless headset phones, answering calls with almost imperceptible gestures. Also right out of films, the walls were filled with pockets for forms to request other forms. This amused us.

Back to the centre, and they'd solved the computing problem by simply going out and buying 5 brand new mac minis. Just like that. The power of American research teams scares me ;)

All the actual duties done for the day -- I tried the new kiosks out and they seemed to work fine -- Mimi invited me back to her house for dinner, and pick up her kids and shopping on the way. Remembering that my main goal in any overseas trip is to exploit and pillage the stores there, of course ;)

Her kids are awesome, I've no idea where they keep all that energy though. They showed me around some of the shops in the little Japanese supermarket type place we visited, I bought far too much junk, and loved every second. Seems they sell Ramune soda in normal bottles now, I think they're missing the point.

Back to Mimi's, and I got to meet Scott Fisher (her husband) and Joi Ito (brother), as well as JSB as everyone seems to call him.. It still amazes me at the intellectual level generally surrounding me during the trip.. Not that everyone here's stupid or anything ;) Just, I dunno, I'd guess it's similar to if we'd spent our uni days hanging out with the lecturers instead of other idiots like us. Tech jargon flies all over the place and there's rarely a puzzled look in sight. I tended to wonder what on earth I was doing there.. That said, by the sounds of it Mimi has shown the Narutrix to half the people on earth so I wasn't totally unknown :P
I did have some good conversations, I didn't quite sit there staring at the desk.. Joi had me facinated with the Creative Commons details.. The implications of it coming into mainstream use are huge, and certainly something I'd like to be in on.. The idea being you can license your work to be freely usable under certain terms, the most obvious example would be video released under CC that would allow end viewers to cut and remix the footage into parodies, use in documentaries, etc, as long as full and explicit credit is given to the original. Kinda like a mix of extended fair use and the open source code licenses. The reasons for releasing under it could simply boil down to the free advertising it could recieve from the remixers -- eg Rooster Teeth and Microsoft for Red vs Blue, a favourite example of mine..
It surprised me how far it is already available. Google and Yahoo both support searching for CC licensed media. Requires further investigation methinks.. Also interesting that MMOs like Second Life release under CC so users are free to film their playing experience and toy with the resulting footage, much like already happens with World of Warcraft - only Blizzard don't give actual written permission, they let you do it but if they feel like sicing the lawyers on you one day, they probably could ;)

Talk aside, we were treated to really good sushi before JSB and myself got a taxi back to the hotel.

Night over? Perish the thought.

Hearing of the legendary Standard rooftop, I got myself kitted out with the armband of "is staying here" and checked it out. Apparently this is one of the places to be in LA: gas patio heaters surround plush chairs, sculptured bushes, a log fireplace, waterbed canopies, a bar and heated blue-lit swimming pool, all on a rooftop dead-centre in downtown LA. It has quite a view, though I don't think my camera does it justice.

I didn't stay long -- it's not my scene. Arrived back to a message from Mimi saying zalas had just arrived and wondered if I wanted to go meet him before tomorrow. zalas was handling the fansub and game-sub sections of our panel but was the master of mystery insofar as didn't want his real name being used -- which I can understand, I'm just daft enough not to care so much. I was pretty surprised when he was well up for meeting and getting something to eat. He's a great guy, we have reasonably similar taste in anime and he's worked on several projects I've enjoyed in the past so that's instant respect earned right there ;) Plus he's worked with Carl before, and knows several of the people I know online too (but then, I think everyone seems to know dythim). It's not that small a community, but small enough it seems. At any rate we ended up wandering downtown LA at night trying to find anywhere that was open other than McDonalds. We failed. Apparently this is not the done thing. The hotel resturant gained our custom once more -- I just stuck with a dessert; seriously lush lemon, kiwi and melon sorbets.

Ended up in his room talking about MADs and the new anime season before crashing out, early start the next morning.

Friday 28th

So, yeah, my wonderful sense of direction got me lost. Well, technically I knew where I was, I had a handy USC campus map on me. Trouble was the ACC building wasn't shown on it, and despite my best logical efforts, I couldn't pinpoint what direction it should be in ;) Mimi eventually rescued me and pointed out I'd been going in the wrong direction, bleh.

* * * * * * * * * Start of Conference Stuff * * * * * * * * * * *

Still, I was in time for the Political Remix panel, with video mashups and parodies abound. My general aim is to skirt around the edge of political debates as many of the issues are beyond my scope, but I was still interested in the panels overall because they were more based on how networked media affects the public view of politics, reporting, and how smaller voices can make themselves heard still. Countered with the argument that not everyone can get or wants internet access and such. It stayed in my happy comfort zone of not degenerating into actual political debates.

There were panels on the Digital Homemade -- low tech alternatives to the commercial media we're used to. Alternative News -- amateur blog journalism, link aggregation, etc. and Network Hacks/Hack Networks which had all the funky amateur tech, backpacks that double as wireless hotspots, networked catflaps, cellphone jammers, etc. It's good seeing the range the conference was covering, though a little intimidating as now I felt like the guy who goes up after all these intellectuals and says "er, I play with cartoons.." but hey ;)

The interesting thing about this conference for me was the abundance of networked culture even in just that room -- near enough everyone had a laptop (overwhelmingly machintosh though), and thusly a 'backchannel' was set up on AIM for everyone to quietly discuss on and post relevent links while the talks go on. It's a different structure entirely, discussions are held even while the speaker is carrying on uninterrupted and it certainly helps to be able to research what's being talked about or information to back up your argument on the fly -- though it does make standing at the front very disconcerting -- all you see is apple logos and people staring at keyboards and you're wondering if anyone's actually listening or caring ;) For someone like me who bases the method they deliver on the audience response it was pretty harsh.. I probably would've had a different approach if I'd quite realised how it worked. Still it wasn't that bad. Mimi introduced us, Rachel introduced each video and I filled in with the geeky details. Having later seen Paul's Machinima panel I should really have thought of using that style -- clips from each video rather than the full whack, especially given that very few there would be anime fans and understand the background behind each..

Still it got positive feedback so I guess we didn't do hideously bad ;) The technical aspects were certainly appreciated more than the visual aesthetics which I was pleased at, I kinda expected that but still. With the length of videos we were showing we had little time to talk, and I'd already been warned several times that I talk way too damned fast.

Machinima was after us, the art of using existing engines such as games to produce, for example, a narrative story. Paul Marino curated the panel and had a huge range of machinima from over the ages - back from the original Quake Movies to Warthog Jump, to Red vs Blue to the Battlefield 2 based Mine, and finally Half Life 2 engine'd A Few Good G-Men. It surprised me how many I recognised and how far they've gotten since.. I'd barely been aware there was an entire community behind it. the BF2 videos ran it home with the sheer amount of participation they had.. Paul himself was great to talk to, we spent a large chunk of saturday afternoon talking about Nintendo stuff and old machinima videos I remembered before I'd even heard of the term. Which reminds me, I've got to find him a link to Zarxrax's duckhunt video..

That more or less wrapped up the conference for Friday, there was food and people to talk to still though. That's when I got talking to Francois Bar about video editing, since his panel was his first attempt at it, with iMovie no less. zalas had a couple of friends show up, Mimi instantly pounced on them as fresh blood to ask questions to, I don't think they were quite sure what to think of it ;) Turns out they're largely into the same scene, one in a large fansub group and the other used to oper on Rizon, they were really nervous but pretty cool. especially once we got talking about the old days ;) I also thieved a picture of Mimi and Scott together, bwaha.

We grabbed the shuttlebus back to the hotel, and I was about to crash out when Mimi gave me a text saying they were all on their way over, and to be ready with wristbands, oh dear :P

The idea with the rooftop is if you're renting a room you get a wristband plus one for a guest, between all the people they had put up in the Standard there were enough guest bands to go around, so we had a bit of a night up on the roof! Lots of discussions of MMOs and old RPGs took place, along with drinks so fancy I had to double check with the waitress that there really wasn't any alcohol in mine ;)

Mimi trying out the waterbeds :P

Me, doing the same

Myself, Mimi and zalas

The students who were helping out at the conference, I think they enjoyed it there the most ;)

It started getting kinda cold so we all headed our separate ways after that.

Saturday 29th

Caught the morning shuttlebus this time, so didn't get a chance to get lost. Continental breakfast for all!

Stupidly I'd finished recharging my camera batteries, packed it all, then left the camera itself at the hotel.. Mimi lent me her amazing little one for the day but I've yet to hassle her for them ;)

Kicked off with the Infrastructure talks, with the videos Francois mentioned yesterday, three what-if future views giving different ideas of what could happen to the industry and network culture, from the 'last mile' all the way back to the telcos and internet backbones. Interesting stuff, and the videos came out really well.

A quick break and it was straight into the final panel selections on Place, which had a whole row of discussions lined up.. It followed straight into the wrap-up discussion too. This was much more a participatory event than the others and it kinda degenerated into a giant World of Warcraft discussion ;) A huge amount of people there were players, Joi was playing the entire time over the wireless connection, even when speaking, but then he was also on Second Life and the backchannel. He knows how to multitask ;)

The wrap-up on remix was the part I was mostly interested in, what views people had decided on either before or after this event.. It was pretty varied, from embracing it to seeing it as a method of fighting against the commercialist oppression, to declaring it the end of creative thought. I joined in with that, throwing my small views around ;)

The power of lunch had swayed peoples hearts and stomachs by that point so it was all wrapped up pretty much. I'm still amazed the IP lawyer (Jennifer) I was talking to along with Jonathan McIntosh (too.. many.. jonathans.. this is why most people there called me nert ;) suddenly turned to me and said she'd been using the Narutrix in some of her lectures. People aren't supposed to have heard of me dammit! I blame Mimi ;) She was really nice too, not exactly the lawyer stereotype ;) Spent quite some time talking with her, and again with Joi's plans for CC licenses and anime..

The final breakout session was where I ended up most involved, we were in the culture breakout and basically discussing the present and possible future situations for networked media, from the blog culture to amvs, fansubs, machinima and viral marketing.. How each community functions, how content is aggregated, how the communities differentiate works, how respect or popularity is measures in different circles.. There were a lot of interesting ideas, many embracing my personal favoured stance on simply effort and innovation will gain support.. The fansub community where both speed and effort/accuracy are respected at the same time by differenting groups, or to blogs where popularity comes from crosslinking and selling out can cut followers off like a knife.. To how companies are trying new strategies to get a fanbase to advertise for them, from the I Love Bees incident to adverts that capture audiences that then pass it on digitally.. I threw PerplexCity into that particular mix, I was suprised no-one had heard of it.

Eventually the groups broke down and everyone was ready to head on their various ways.

* * * * * * * * * End of Conference Stuff * * * * * * * * * * *

Joi interviewed zalas for a bit, while the rest of us heckled.

Much parting, zalas had a flight that afternoon and a lot of people were tired.

Invited once more to Mimi's, I feel like such a leech ;) Talked *lots*, and made plans for the Sunday, my last full day :(

Sunday 30th

Slight panic. Firstly, I found out the hotel had me checking out today, when flight was the next day, and secondly when texting Mimi about this, my phone runs out of credit -_-

Found a payphone and had just enough change to make the call anyway, their payphones are confusing -_-

Mimi, my eternal saviour, sorted it all out thankfully! Then showed me the local Farmers' market they hold every sunday, it's pretty different to ones here, it's a proper event, entertainers, food stalls, fresh fruit juice crushes and stuff. (*Damn* good fruit juice) and then onto a plain, ordinary supermarket. Oh dear, letting me loose on one of those ;) This is where most of my suitcase space went. Sadly some of the drinks I wanted to try were multipack only, I wasn't that daft :P Got Allan his fabled Lucky Charms though.

This drinks rack scares the hell out of me. Looks like huge fuel tank sized containers of what can only be a worse variant of Sunny Delight. Those colours can NOT be natural.

Fully stocked up, Mimi kindly offered to drop me off somewhere and pick me up after a family bike ride, ended up deciding on Venice Beach, home of sun, sand, palm trees and baywatch. Guess who left the suncream at the hotel ;)

First beach stall I find? Scary. As were most of them actually.. I spent a while traverssing, found some little shops with more random drinks I've not tried before.. Watermelon crush, mmm..

Mimi picked me up a bit later with the kids, and we hit the dark foreboding evils of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, which I highly recommend ;) Surreality factor is high. I can't say much about it in case it spoils the experience.. It's kinda like the Mornington Cresent of museums.

Next, the Santa Monica Promenade, where they had to pretty much leave me in the anime store and come back much later ;) Half because I was investigating the tiniest detail of everything, half because so was the guy ahead of me in the queue. I bought a lot of junk. Mostly keychains and capsule toys, plus the Bleach DS game, by Treasure. Mm.. I'm not a huge Bleach fan, but I am a big Treasure fan. The game is great, not quite Guardian Heroes level sadly, as it's all VS, but it's got some nice twists. Now I have to decipher the kanji runes to figure how to turn the difficulty up, and what else I can do in game ;) There's a nifty password screen of somesort where you have to draw the password on with the stylus, awesome. Unless it's some complicated character I'll have to remember by shape since I won't understand its translation ;)

Finally Luna dragged me out of there, gliding around on the craziest footwear I've ever seen, apparently they're pretty popular in the US, Heelies or something? Trainers that look ordinary but have a retractable wheel in the heel, so you can walk normally or balance on your heels and glide around rollerskate style. The idea's probably not that revolutionary but since they look perfectly normal and she was walking normally most of the time, suddenly she's hovering past at speed.. Well, it spooked me at first ;) I almost want a pair.

Anyways, we still had one more destination on the map -- Giant Robot. The kind of store that's too cool and niche to stock anime stuff, only everything else ;) Everything's bizarre and weird, it was pretty cool. Followed up by Giant Robot 2 just down the street o.O It's exactly the kind of place Kate would love.

Finished off the day with dinner at a local Japanese curry house they knew, really nice place -- menchi katsu curry with rice, mm.. I took a nice group photo of the whole family just outside too (Scott, Mimi, Joi, Eamon & Luna) before saying goodbyes.. *sniff*

Briefly pillaged the bookstore and minimarket next door before Mimi dropped me back at the hotel to get ready and packed.. Passing the most elaborate Starbucks I've ever seen.

Should probably point out that the minimarket had Law of Ueki collectable keyrings \o/ sadly the type you can't tell what's in it until you open it, so I bought loads (they were really cheap anyway) and got mostly duplicates, bleh. Should've gotten more ;)

Monday 1st

The day of reckoning. Or, well, departing. One of the two.

Not a huge amount to say about Monday, I checked out early and left my suitcase with the front desk, grabbed breakfast from Macy's -- further to my curse theory I was too early for anything to be open on the Sunday, and today was protest day so everything was still shut ;) Except for fast food places. Thus breakfast came from Carl Jr's, which is basically a more upmarket McDonalds, there's actual meat in them burgers ;)
I then did something that I'm told is very un-LA, I walked around. Everyone, but EVERYONE drives in LA. I walked over to Little Tokyo to check it out since it was on my lil' tourist map.. Same story, everything was closed save a small minimarket where I picked up Lemon Gummi and some milk tea for the road.

Mimi asked if I had time to drop back at the centre and do a post-conference interview so I headed that way, ish, via a huge undergound tunnel thing. Didn't get lost thankfully ;) Now I know where the centre actually is I was well on my way, whereupon I passed the LA Convention Centre.

As game geeks abound well know, tomorrow (actual tomorrow) is doors-open day for E3, The Electronic Entertainment Expo, where all big game announcements are made, and Joe Average Public doesn't get in. Of course it turns out everyone else at dinner the night before is going to E3, dammit ;) Still this was still Monday 1st and very little was set up aside from the signage, and the front doors were open. I went for a wander :P The inner doors where I imagine everything important happens behind was locked and a lot of work was going on, so I didn't try and intrude further.. Just claiming I was in the E3 building is enough for me :P

Proof positive.

Mimi volunteered to pick me up from there, she was going to meet me at Little Tokyo and eat there but since everything was closed she grabbed me from that spot and we ate at The Pantry, which is pretty much an equivalent to our greasy spoons ;) Decent food, and ice cold water, much needed.. Lots of talk about MMOs with Rachel and another student who was with us.. Comparing WoW and FF mostly.

We talked for a while back at the centre, ran out of time with me rambling on as usual, comments were made that I was going to be making their transcribers work hard for their pay ;)

So sadly it was time for goodbyes, I'd gotten really used to LA already which is pretty scary. Really wish I could've stayed longer, but I think I'd leeched off of everyone quite enough already..

It still amuses me how flat LA is, aside from downtown..

Flying back is quite a different experience. Customs is even stricter, queue times are longer, and there's nothing like Heathrow's shopping lounges before and after checkin, LAX really is entrance -> queue. Unsurprisingly my baggage was overweight on the way back, damned concrete suitcase ;)

The flight passed a bit easier this time, I got some sleep in, aided by the fact we flew through night this time.. I caught a few episodes of Fate/Stay Night on the laptop before battery ran low, switched to Bleach DS, watched more cartoons and generally mooched. Missing a whole day is weird though. Fly out on Monday afternoon, arrive Tuesday afternoon o.O stupid time zones..

Finally arrived back in Canterbury in the early evening, everyone gave me a really surprised look -- they expected me back on wednesday for some reason. I threw things out of the suitcase so Dad could take it back and crashed pretty dead for the night.

Wednesday 3rd (yeah, wednesday. tuesday got lost in transit)

7:00am - back to work


(5 Lemons of Doom -- Deposit Lemon)


[User Picture]
Date:8th May, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
Not read the entry, it's long and I'm revising. ;)

I imagine you've seen this video already, but in case you haven't... there it is. It's a must-see so I wanted to make sure. :-P
Date:9th May, 2006 10:31 am (UTC)
Sounds like you had an amazing time! :)
[User Picture]
Date:9th May, 2006 10:34 am (UTC)
Whoops, that was me, I was logged out for some reason!
[User Picture]
Date:9th May, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:13th May, 2006 09:44 am (UTC)
wooo museum of jurrassic technology! I found their website once whilst researching museums, and then stumbled across a book written about it. I'm very envious you visited.

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