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#TBT: The one with all the hate

on Jan 23, 2015 in Personal

Some things you’re meant to forget, others you can’t put behind until you set them right. Today’s post is about the latter. Back in 2010, I flopped a full-riding scholarship in Japan. And, in a fit of self-righteous vindication, I wrote an essay for a well-known foreign activist website detailing what I assumed, at the time, to be the only reason for my epic flop. Here’s the thing. The scholarship program wasn’t perfect, but neither was I – a fact that I conveniently overlooked in 2010 and for years after. I was so desperate to put the blame somewhere other than myself that I ended up hating the whole damn country for a few very specific faults. When you’re miserable, all you see –all you want to see – is misery. And I needed people to commiserate with me. I wrote my essay under a fake name. Then, I shared the link on my public DeviantART profile under my actual, searchable name. Looking back, I was an idiot, and not just because of that. Back then, I also used to blog about life in Japan. As my life deteriorated, I slowly let my disappointment get the better of me. My would-be funny, witty or sarcastic posts – collectively titled Land of Absurd – were transitioning from sarcasm and satire to full-fledged hate. A thing that Sora (空), a Japanese blogger who’d traced me through my DeviantART profile, brought to my attention and blogged about extensively. A thing that Sora’s commenters said repeatedly, pointing out the racism and vitriol that was indisputably there. A thing that I conveniently chose to overlook and dismiss as trolls and hate even though, as justly pointed out, my blog was the hateful one. I wrote some pretty nasty sh!t. There’s no other way to sugar-coat it. It took me five years to realize it, but there you have it: I was in the wrong. I was wrong to attack a whole country and culture because I felt wronged by some of its elements myself*. I was wrong to focus on the negative and dismiss every good thing that happened between ’07 and ’10. Yes, I was embittered and physically ill at the time, but I was still wrong. I already wrote to Sora back in 2011, but I felt it necessary to write this in order to a- set things straight (better late than never, right?) and b- get true closure on this whole damn thing. There’s also a few clumsy Japanese words that more or less sums up that whole thing. It can also be read here. あの当時、あんなにひどいことを書いていたとは、今の私には、信じられないくらい恥かしいことです。 ちょっと、つらいことや、嫌なことがあったからといって、その国の人々や、国全体について悪く言って、嫌悪するなんて、民族差別・人種差別 そのものですよねーーー言い訳のしようがありません。 問題を絞って、その賛否についてみなさんと、冷静に、理論的に、議論すればよかった、と後悔しています。 自分の考えは間違っていた、と今では思いますし、悔いています。 2011年は空さんに直接メッセージを送りましたが、今回はブログの読者のみなさんにそのことをお伝えしたくなりました。 そして、在日外国人の皆さんーーー外国にいて、周りにネガティブなことが起きても、ポジティブなことがおきていることも見逃さないでくださ い。 あの当時の私にはネガティブのことばかり目に入って、それを不当に一般化する愚を犯してしまいました。 * Hello, Paris syndrome… well, OK, Japan syndrome, but the principle still applies. As one of my dear friends pointed out back then: If we were to send you to the most beautiful country on Earth, and parachute you over their capital city, in a week you’d be writing about how much it sucks there. ** TBF rather than TBT; I meant to post that one yesterday and didn’t realize I already had another post scheduled. Ups. Background...

Discovering non-binary gender identities in today’s society

on Jan 22, 2015 in Personal

The masculine-feminine dichotomy* has been a long-standing point in traditional psychology and a major selling point of popular works such as Men are from Mars, women are from Venus or Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps. Both these books and their subsequent clones and reprints firmly postulate that men and women are fundamentally, irreconcilably different – like two facets of the same coin, one can never transition to any part of the other, and vice-versa. Because, you know, segregation of any kind or treating the “other” like another species just because they’re not “you” always brings such positive results and stereotyping always works. </sarcasm> Thankfully, modern-day psychology is moving towards a more diverse approach to gender and gender identity and terms like ‘gender-fluid’, ‘transgender’ or ‘agender’ have moved from obscure scientific papers to mainstream culture. The third gender is becoming widely acknowledged and steps are being taken to include and acknowledge non-binary individuals in some parts of the world. * Someone came up with a word for those who still subscribe to gender dichotomy – genderism. Personally, I’m leery of most post-2000 ‘-isms’ because ‘-ism’ carries a sometimes unjust stigma. We need to educate rather than blame or belittle people whose only fault is a lack of relevant information. Gender is a wonderfully complex thing, no matter how much Freudians would like to believe otherwise. While the majority of people identify as cisgender (wherein their gender identity ascribes to their biological sex), and will likely continue to be a majority, the number of people who openly identify as non-binary is on the rise. Embracing your identity isn’t a question of picking out a fancy option so you can be more interesting at parties (or yell at people on Tumblr for not using your made-up pronoun. Yes, that happened). It’s not about ‘finding’ yourself, because you’ve been there all along. It’s all about community and understanding. I’m gender-fluid. I’ve been gender-fluid all my life, though until about four years ago I lacked the word to describe it properly. (Gender, by the way, is a social construct not necessarily correlated with one’s biological sex. More on that here). When I found out that this is, as we say in the post-LoK netisfere, A Thing, I was happy. Not only because I could finally label something I’d been grasping at for more than two decades, but because, lo and behold, through it I found others like me. Others who, rather than succumb to traditionalism and accept biological sex as something that ends up governing every aspect of your life, weren’t afraid to stand up and say, ‘Wait, that’s not right. That’s not me.’ Or maybe they were afraid. But they did it anyway. Once I put a name to it, I felt more at ease with myself than ever before. Being gender-fluid is incredibly liberating. You act, look and feel however the hell you want. Boy clothes? Girl hobbies? Who the hell cares? Though, as a biological woman, I do feel that I’m slightly privileged because I can wear traditionally ‘masculine’ clothes, but if a man were to put on a dress or act feminine in any other way, that’d probably kick up a lot more of a fuss because out society isn’t quite ready to have its masculine ideals shaken to the core by non-conforming third-gender biological males. That’s not to say women who approach the masculine end of the spectrum don’t come under scrutiny, either. I’m a woman who does a lot of traditionally male things, and I’ve faced stereotypes that used to make me livid. You’re a woman. You can’t drive. Call a man to fix that for you. You don’t need to be smart, or make money. If you’re not thin and pretty, you don’t count. Gender stereotypes can be hurtful, even when used with good intentions and false concern. What will people say? has become a mantra for some of my acquaintances, for whom appeasing the people weights more than staying true to yourself, not in the least part because they’re part of the very ‘people’ who need to be appeased. It’s sad and funny at the same time, because ‘people’ usually translates into ‘people who agree with my views’ and, as science has proven numerous times, confirmation bias tends to blind us to contrary opinions until and unless someone shoves them in our face. Fortunately, there’s an indisputable strength that comes from my masculine side that helps me deal with this crap whenever it becomes serious enough to dampen my spirits (which doesn’t happen as often as some feminists would have you believe), just as my feminine side provides empathy and a profound desire to help and to heal. The harmony that comes from repressing neither of these brings a kind of inner peace that I never felt until I fully understood this facet of myself. Gender-fluidity is nigh unheard of in Romania, a country where the very concept of non-binary gender is taboo. During my unfortunate years as a psychology student here, no class ever touched on why sex =/= gender =/= gender stereotypes (but I did learn that girls are envious of boys’ penises, because Freud said so and therefore it must be true). Of gender identity, not a peep. We were taught, however, that homosexuality is a disease (a fact refuted by the WHO in 1991) and that men should only...

“Right way, wrong way, my way” set to debut in Otaku Magazine!

on Dec 18, 2014 in Books, Personal

*dusts off blog* Hi~i! I’m proud to announce that my sci-fi novel, Right way, wrong way, my way, will debut with this winter’s Otaku Magazine City & Nature bundle! Right way… is a book I’ve been working on for most of my adult life. The concept started off around 2004 and went through various iterations, from a scrapped graphic novel project in ’08 to a movie script for Script Frenzy ’11 and finally, a completed novel for NaNoWriMo ’11. Three years and so much editing later, I’m finally ready to share this story with the world, and, to be honest, I’m glad to finally put this story behind me so I can focus on the sequel and other things. Chapters I & II of Right Way… will be available in a separate booklet with the Otaku Magazine bundle, with the cover made by the very talented Gabriela Gogonea. The magazine can be pre-ordered here for 69.99 lei (15 euro + tax). Oh, and they are shipping worldwide, too! There’s limited copies available, so be sure to pre-order yours today! * At the moment, the full book is available by request only. See the Work & Collaborations page for details on how to contact me...

Five things I (still) love about Wildstar

on Nov 29, 2014 in Gaming

Remember Wildstar? I wrote about it. I bought it at launch, played through one or two months, then it sort of just… died. For me, I mean. Life took over and I lost all will to play anything but a quick League of Legends match at the end of a long, gruesome workday. Which is, to be honest, not the best way to unwind after you’ve gone around wanting to bite people’s head off all day long. Anyway. Remember Wildstar? The Internet was abuzz with news of the latest ‘WoW-killer’ (because every hyped MMO under the sun has been labelled that), servers had hour-long queues, people ventured into the virtual world of Nexus, loved it and stayed. For a while, anyway. Sometime between that and now, Wildstar’s social media following dwindled down to a trickle of players who lamented the game’s demise (and incessantly demanded that it go f2p), then climbed back up with a refreshingly vivid discussion on Wildstar’s announced Wikia Q&A. If you want to hear what mature, articulate players are saying over the state of the game right now, the thread above is a good place to start, and Reddit also has some insight on server population and the overall state of the game. For another opinion, Justin Olivetti at Massively also writes on why he stuck around. What follows is my own opinion, to be taken with a grain of salt because YMMV. The solo content It kind of defeats the purpose of playing an MMO to be in it for the solo content, right? Not really, because the immersion makes it worth it. Compare and contrast with Secret World, that claimed to be story-driven and devolved into the kind of grind I wouldn’t wish on the most inveterate Korean player. Wildstar has tiered quests, challenges, solo instances, character progression paths, gathering, crafting, runecrafting and imbuements to keep me busy, plus there’s the whole business of decorating my own homestead, which I love hoarding stuff for. And, if I do feel so inclined, the queues for multiplayer instances seem to be fairly reasonable at the moment, though some of those are still a bit too hardcore for me. To be realistic, though, the grindy aspect doesn’t factor into it because I play so little; I can, however, see how someone with more than two hours to sink into the game once every few days would end up getting bored of this, eventually. I’ll reserve my own judgement on the endgame content for when I get there, though. The humor There’s more than the odd chuckle-worthy entendre in Wildstar, if that brand of humor is your cup of tea. Cubic pig clones ostensibly named “cubigs” grown by an interstellar corporation manned by clones as a commentary on the corporate culture we’re all so guilty of? Well played, Carbine. Well played indeed. (Incidentally, Wildstar manages to comment on certain aspects of modern culture without falling into the trap of overt preachiness, too). The atmosphere Say what you will about gameplay, mechanics, high-end content and everything under the sun, I still love the sheer atmosphere that Wildstar has to offer. Granted, I wouldn’t be paying a healthy buck every month just for that, but after a long day at work, followed by a long evening spent doing more work, I love jumping into Wildstar for some quick mind-cleansing immersion. I used to play League of Legends every evening; I don’t think I need to elaborate on why that didn’t quite work as a way to distress. Leveling up doesn’t feel quite so grindy, because there’s no end-goal set for me. I’m the world slowest leveler, in fact, having just hit 40 last night. But that’s fine, since there’s plenty to do between now and the level cap. Back to the atmosphere, I love how much thought the devs put into certain regions. If you’re fighting your way through an abandoned Eldan lab, it feels like an abandoned Eldan lab. Everything – music, terrain, visuals, quests, Lore etc. – come together for a vibe you won’t find anywhere else in the game. I’m currently fighting my way through northern Wilderrun, delving deeper into Strain content. I love it. The insane customization Everything is customizable, and I’m not just talking visuals (though they play a big part). You can dye your armor, craft a plethora of runes for your gear, fine-tune the stats of anything you craft and so on and so forth. Even cooking is a science, for Pete’s sake. And don’t get me started on player housing, which is the best thing ever. Wildstar Wikia has a Crib of the Week column that showcases some of the best player houses in the game. I mean, look at those. Nothing I’ve seen – not even World of Warcraft’s Garrison feature (yes, I still play WoW, it has my soul) – could ever come close. Sure, increased customization means increased complexity in some cases, but hey –  if there’s something I hate, it’s the spoonfeed-everything-to-the-noobs approach other games are increasingly taking to try and increase their user base. The monthly sub I’m one of those people who are staunchly against a free-to-play model. Why? Because it can easily delve into pay-to-win – unless we’re talking a company like Riot Games, who brought made the whole free-to-play model viable by cleverly-introduced microtransactions that had me spend 50 euro in one month that one time. In October, Wildstar’s population (I’m assuming active subs only) numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In my book, that’s healthy enough to keep the subscription no matter what the naysayers on social media are trying (and failing) to imply. That said, I am slightly disappointed in such an ambiguous number, considering it comes from a(nother) WoW killer who failed to kill WoW...

Being a writer, it’s just a lonely thing. Sometimes the world you create on the page seems more friendly and alive than the world you actually live in.

— Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

Wildstar: First impressions. (Yes, it’s awesome.)

on Jun 1, 2014 in Gaming

Unlike World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online, Wildstar has no previously-established IP to draw from. It’s a game set in a whole new world (no, not that one), it sells for a hefty price (50€ regular / 60€ deluxe edition pre-order), and it also comes with a 15€/mo. subscription. A ballsy move in an era where MMOs gravitate towards a free-to-play model and those that don’t tend to fail no matter how good the content actually is (The Secret World, for instsance, seems to have failed partly because the sub-based model drove potential players away). Wildstar, however, had me sold from the very first Devspeak. Don’t know what Devspeak is? Take a peek at the official Wildstar Youtube channel and you’ll find out. The idea of an MMO that took itself seriously without being too serious, with multi-tiered PvE (and PvP?) progression, a positioning-based combat system and last but not least freakin’ PLAYER HOUSING! (which I’ve been waiting to see in WoW for nearly a decade), appealed to me so much that I pre-purchased not only the game itself, but the deluxe edition upgrade as well. I took a gamble, some might say. I didn’t stop to wonder, what if – like the aforementioned Secret World – I won’t like the game? I knew I would. I didn’t do much else this week-end other than play Wildstar to take full advantage of the three-day head-start that comes with the pre-purchase. Sure, there was a hick-up with the actual purchasing, and I really hope I’ll see half of that 100€ back, but once I was in-game none of that really mattered. So what is it that makes Wildstar so awesome? Read to find out. If anyone wants to join in the fun, I currently play on Lightspire-EU (En-RP). First-first impressions Character creation is complex, but not too complex. After all, there’s no point in spending hours customizing the look of a character just to stare at his or her back for 99% of the game afterwards (I’m looking at you, Skyrim). The eight races are diverse enough, there’s plenty of preset faces, hairstyles and skin colors to choose from, and once you’re done picking out the basics you can fine-tune a few things if you’re into that stuff. It’s also nice that they included quite a few body types for each race/gender combination – it might not matter much, but I for one was quite tired of seeing the same stick-thin, big boobs characters everywhere. Once you’re done customizing your avatar, picking your class and path – the latter being a sweet way to make sure the game will offer you content that’s more geared towards what you want to play (in theory – more on that later) – it’s onwards to your faction’s ship, that has just emerged out of… hyperspace? …and is encroaching on the fabled Planet Nexus. Past the initial tutorial and down on Nexus, the story dragged a bit, but that was fine because Wildstar‘s combat system does take a bit of getting used to. Positioning is paramount. Yes, you can swing your big, badass sword, but if your target isn’t in range, you won’t do any damage. You can see where attacks and AoE abilities will hit, which means you can also dodge enemy fire – something you either learn to do, or you’ll be forking out more and more cash on repairs as the game progresses. Combat is fun, dynamic and visually-stimulating. Regular mobs and NPCs are easy to bring down in groups (and you get a nifty announcement every time you perform a double/triple kill), but elites are challenging even when outleveled. If you want to solo an elite mob, you’ll need to use items, positioning, terrain and class/path abilities perfectly and hope you won’t be caught in an AoE when the mob has less than 1,oooHP left. Happened to me. It sucks. PvP combat takes PvE combat and ramps it up to infinity. Battlegrounds are one big, chaotic mess; as a warrior my favorite pastime is to run headlong into a pack of Exile foes and spin to win Whirlwind my way to an early grave, hoping my team is smart enough to DPS them down while I tank them. Once I’ve saved up enough for some decent PvP gear, I’m looking forward to high-end BGs and Arenas, but for the time being… I’m just enjoying the slaughter. Good times. Nexus is… …big, colorful and very much alive. Remember how other games throw a few houses together and call it a village? Settlements in Wilstar range from tiny outposts which players can expand with crafted facilities that give buffs or buy/sell stuff, to the sprawling capital city of Illium which I haven’t been to yet. To tell you the truth, one zone alone was enough to keep me busy for a whole week-end, and even though I seem to have outleveled most of it, I still can’t bring myself to move on to the next one with so much left to do. (Not to mention farming elites/rares is fun.) While the questing system is complex (there are zone quests, episodes, tasks, path quests, challenges etc.), most of the quests themselves aren’t anything spectacular: kill X, gather Y, talk to Z – loot, XP, the end. By themselves, quests are a poor storytelling device in Wildstar, but that’s okay – because,...

Linkin Park and I: Why, ten years later, I still love that band

on May 24, 2014 in Music, Personal

When I first came across Meteora, I was sixteen, bored, rebellious, and I’d just come home with a cubic fuckton of math homework I didn’t feel like doing*. I sat down with my pen and notebook, plugged in my headphones and picked a random folder off an mp3 CD I’d just borrowed, then got to it. A minute later, I stopped – and listened. The music wasn’t just background noise anymore; it felt as if whoever was singing had read my mind and put my feelings into song. Or, uh… scream. Songs like Numb or Faint spoke to me. All right – part of it was due to the run-of-the-mill teenage angst that almost anyone could relate to at some point in their lives. But things went deeper than that. During my high-school years, I was under a lot more pressure than I let on. Look at it this way: I saw myself as a chronic over-achiever, and I saw my parents as a pair of chronic complainers (relatable, I’m sure). And what better way to describe it but this: I’m tired of being what you want me to be Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface Don’t know what you’re expecting of me Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes Every step that I take is another mistake to you… (from Numb) Later on, when I finally got my hands on a pirated Hybrid Theory cassette tape**, it became clear to me that Linkin Park was there to stay as one of my favorite bands of all time. (<Kanye voice> Of all time!</Kanye voice>). Even though Points Of Authority probably wasn’t written with the day-to-day struggles of a teenage girl in mind, I still felt a little bit vindicated when I blasted it at full volume loud enough not to piss off Mum, and Crawling… well, Crawling may have been the anthem of a whole generation of twelve-year-olds who thought angst and so-called ‘depression’ made them look cool, but I still remember it fondly. And then there was A Place For My Head: I’m sick of the tension, sick of the hunger Sick of you acting like I owe you this (…) I want to be in another place I hate when you say you don’t understand… My metalhead friends all made fun of me because Linkin Park (and nuMetal in general) wasn’t hardcore enough, and none of the guys in the band had long enough hair to headbang on-stage. Not that I didn’t listen to any hardcore bands, because pidgeonholing yourself to just one genre is dumb as balls. In fact, I listened to pretty much anything – from power metal to pop ballads and everything in-between. (Yes, everything means everything. Even gypsy music. Don’t be a hater.) However, Linkin Park is just one of two bands I liked then that a- I still like and listen to, and b- has grown and evolved far beyond what they started off as. Remember Evanescence? The only difference between Fallen and Evanescence was that the latter is disappointingly mainstream, and I don’t mean that in a hipster-esque way. (Never Go Back still makes me cringe. Rihanna called… she wants her sh!tty lyrics back.) And how about Limp Bizkit limpbizkit? Golden Cobra sounds exactly like Chocolate Starfish. Fast-forward to summer 2007 in Osaka, Japan. Amid the chaos of post-grads moving out, my undergrad friends and I went dumpster-diving to find if there was any stuff worth salvaging (and, as anyone who’s ever lived in a dorm already knows, there usually was). Out of sheer coincidence, a Minutes to Midnight CD caught my eye. “Hey,” I thought, “there’s that band I used to like!” While it brought Linkin Park back into my life, so to speak, Minutes to Midnight was still a hit-and-miss album for me. While I didn’t connect with the lyrics*** as deeply as I’d used to, some of the songs (like Bleed It Out or No More Sorrow) still reminded me of why I used to like the band back in the day, others were awesome and different (Hands Held High was a Song with a Message that managed not to come across all preachy and self-righteous), and yet others- On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day (I used to be my own protection, but not now) On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day (Cause my mind has lost direction, somehow) On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day (I used to be my own protection, but not now) On a Valentine’s Day, on a Valentine’s Day (Cause my mind has lost direction, somehow) …I like to pretend that song never happened. Then came 2010, and A Thousand Suns. While others praised the album for bringing certain socio-political issues to the forefront, I chose to focus on the music. Chester & co. earned a sh!tton of respect for the lyrics in When They Come For Me, a rightful slap-in-the-face to the ‘fans’ moaning about the band’s changes of style. I still listen to The Catalyst on repeat. Coincidentally, around the same time I re-discovered comic books and learned that the world of Marvel heroes went far beyond the glimpse I remembered from ’90s TV. One day, still reeling from the aftermath of Siege, I was listening to Waiting for the End in the car and I realized that the lyrics went pretty well with the rise and fall of the Sentry, who was (and still is) my favorite hero/villain in the entire Marvel continuity. Score two points of awesome. Living Things came in 2012, and it was perfect. What I’ve Done (from Minutes to Midnight) had seen me through the hardest part of my life as an unofficial anthem of sorts. Now, Roads Untraveled was there to pick me up. Give...

Behind the scenes at Otaku Festival 2014

on May 11, 2014 in Conventions

Something funny just happened: I was going to write a very detailed chronicle about last week’s Otaku Festival in Bucharest, but one sentence in I realized I was so busy volunteering as an interpreter/driver/gal who brings the McDonald’s and has to double back because there’s no straws that I missed it altogether. Both days were a blur: wake up, phone ringing, rush to the hotel, pick up the guests, fast-forward through a series of exhausting ordeals, drive the guests back to the hotel, go home, 2 AM, sleeeeeeep. Still, I was left with a great sense of accomplishment at the end of it. Interpreting for two Japanese guests rather than one was quite a dramatic shift; I can only hope Reika-san and KANAME☆-san were happy with my services :) Besides – I had lot of fun on the day we brought our guests to Sinaia. Reika-san and KANAME☆-san had their photoshoot and I got to test-drive the brand-new 2013 Toyota Avensis*. Even though a Peles Castle staff yelled at me for the sole reason that I was the person standing closest to her that understood Romanian. Anyway – the event. Day one Costume judging in the morning, group interview with our guests, Q&A panel and stage performance contest in the afternoon with some great Tyrone moments in-between. That’s how I remember it. From an amateur’s point of view (I specialize in interpreting, not crafting/tailoring ^__^), this year’s costumes were a notch above the ones I remember from last year. Russia’s Astarohime was absolutely dazzling (some of the jury actually thought she was a judge too, when she showed up for the costume judging), and Shinju‘s Vi cosplay and stage performance… I have no words. Personally, I also loved Elsa and the two Slayers cosplays, especially Lina Inverse, because I think she nailed it! The Q&A panel with our guests was… not my cup of tea, to be honest (I’m not a big fan of on-stage interpreting, since I’m not trained for that), but somehow things were all right (sorry about the mic, Peggy-san!) The stage performances were the point where I was really blown away – Vi and Elsa were my two favorite moments, but then again I hate Teemo too (who doesn’t! bloody yordle…) and Elsa… well. Elsa was flawless. ‘Nuff said. Day two Workshop with Reika-san in the morning, group performance contest in the afternoon, interviews with Tyrone, prize ceremony, WTaF**, お終い. There was no mic at the workshop, and my voice doesn’t carry as well as Reika-san’s (truthfully, I just can’t speak that loud) – and when the mics did arrive, Reika-san didn’t want any and I honestly felt it was inappropriate that I use one while she didn’t. I understand some people couldn’t hear the translation very well. What can I say? I’m really sorry if that was the case. At least I hope you saw what Reika-san was doing on the projector. The group performance contest – okay, where do I start?! The Psychiatrist Irabu skit nearly had me in tears. In. Tears. I sh!t you not. I don’t know the series, or the characters, or the story, but… it struck a chord. Well done, guys. Well done. The Slayers skit was also impressive – and let’s not forget Astarohime’s really charming performance of That’s How You Know :) And that costume! Oooohhh BRB fangirling. Wrap-up All in all, even though I wasn’t feeling 100% well for the duration, I’m glad I managed to do my part honorably. I met some really, really amazing people and cosplayers from all over the world, and I even had the chance to exchange [more than] a few words with Big Man Tyrone, who was such a sweetheart! (Thanks for the kind words, Tyrone!) It was great meeting Reika-san again, and getting to meet KANAME☆-san as well (I’ve been wanting to meet him ever since I translated his interview in Cosplay Gen). And everyone else – Peggy, Lina Lau, MiYo, Astarohime and AJ, Pugoffka-san (and husband!), Lex, Methos (fatass…) – they were just awesome. I’m raising a glass of beer in your honor right now, you guys – you rock. I hope to see many of you again in 2015! For some reason, Andrei really likes to do that every time we’re on the road. :) ~ * ~ __ * I could write a whole entry just about that, but to sum up: nice acceleration, great handling (as someone who’s tackled the streets leading up to Peles Castle in Sinaia, I’d be hard-pressed to find any flaw with the steering), but a little lacking on the user-friendly side. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I hate it when a car gives me attitude. I mean I highly doubt it would be appropriate to shift to 6th gear at 80 kph or fasten my seatbelt while I’m crawling through a parking lot trying to snipe a free spot. The dashcam on shifting into reverse gear was a nice touch, though. ** I would have appreciated an on-stage ‘Thank you’, at least. Not a prize – Universe forbid, the stage was crowded enough as it were – but a ‘Thank you’ would’ve been nice. And on that note, Ruxi and the others volunteers deserve ALL the appreciation. What those guys did to make Otaku happen was...