This week is usually jam packed with preparation, as many of us get ready to attend Arisia, my 7thtime at that con. One of main reasons I look forward to this con, aside from having fun with friends, the running of the Doctors, and various other silly yearly traditions, it also marks the anniversary of when I started conlife as Mr. Clever.
Around this time, I also usually start to reflect back on the previous year and make notes of all the good things that happened. But as we all know, 2020 did not have many redeeming qualities to write home about.
My struggles weren’t unlike many cosplayers and other creatives. How do you stay motivated and inspired in the midst of a global crisis? How do we stay relevant, without being able to make new content as readily as before?
One thing that became abundantly clear was that everything was going virtual. Virtual events, virtual cons, virtual panels, you name it. At first I hopped right on that bandwagon, eager to support local events. I tuned in to panels and Tweet Alongs, but as much as I tried, I learned that virtual events don’t hold much appeal to me. For me the fun of conlife is putting the costume on and running around the venue all day.
But then I discovered TikTok. I had set up an account (AdventuresOfClever on TikTok) a while ago but never used it. As you may remember I have a real hard time with video. What in the world would someone like me be doing there? But during lockdown, the masses swarmed there, and one thing that I found out right from the start was that this Whovian community was incredibly supportive, and gasp even knew who I was supposed to be!
In April, at the beginning of lockdown, the Pass the Brush challenges were trending everywhere I looked. So I decided that Whovians needed a Pass the Sonic version. That was the first time I had put together anything like that, and I am incredibly proud with how it turned out. I worked with 13 other cosplayers (around the world) to pass the sonic to all 14 doctors. It was a big deal for me.
The Pass the Sonic lead to another variation – Pass the Mask, but this time with local performers and personalities from Salem. Borah, The Addams Family and even our own Mayor, Kim Driscoll took part to help spread awareness about mask safety.
After doing those two videos, I decided to keep trying new things with video. It was a big step for someone that could count on one hand the number of videos they had been in before this. So I invested in some more video equipment like a ring light and tripod with a remote control. After some testing I even found a spot in my house that had a fun geeky background. That was also hard because our house doesn’t get a lot of natural light.
Then I did my very first live stream, as well as a few tutorials on how I made my NIS-Borderlands mash up. I even became involved in a fun fan-made Doctor Who project with a new friend entitled, “Versions Who.” This involved an almost RPG format that was both running lines in character and acting out new scenes via Facetime.
These were all big milestones for me. They kept me going even while the world around us was falling apart. I could do them even if though I couldn’t wear the costume outside. I was being creative in a way that I had never been able to do before.
Creatives in 2020 had to, for lack of a better phrase, get creative. Not just to make ends meet and stay relevant but to stay interested and stimulated against the constant tide of doomscrolling.
While perusing Instagram, I found a page that was encouraging Whovians to make lockdown cosplay videos. I attempted to do a little scene from Nightmare in Silver but they didn’t want voice-overs, and that might have been too much for me. I tried doing it, but I’m still very self-conscious of sounding too feminine and being misgendered. I panicked, whispered, tried auto tuning it, and failed miserably. I honestly thought that would be the end of all of this for me. If I can’t even speak, what in the world am I even doing?
So I tried posting the failed video I had, but with Matt’s voice over mine. Add some flashy fonts. Some Doctor Who music, and I was good to go. I was met with a surprising amount of support, and even got invited to join some wonderful Discord chats filled with other Whovians and cosplayers that were just there to be positive and get through this the best they could.
Have I mentioned I have 7 cats?
For the most part, they leave me alone, but my newest one, Dandelion, insists on having her entire face or her butt in the frame. And while this makes for some great AWWWW moments, she has a tendency to knock stuff down. And by stuff, I mean my chess set. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve rescued a pawn from the dark corners of my room, only to have it swatted again a few seconds later. And needless to say, locking up them all up isn’t easy either.
A few months ago we even got a new door installed to separate the first and second floors so they can have the run of the top floor and leave me alone down below. Literally bought a new door to help mitigate the problem doing videos with 7 cats.
Aside from my feline overlords, the other hurdle that I have is the amount of time spent putting on and taking off the costume itself. I would love to be able to do duets on a whim with people, but I don’t always have the 4-5 hours a day. Its 90min – 2 hours just to get it on. Another 30 min to 60min of set up and car wrangling. And then take the video. And then another hour of taking it off again.
I did make a Cyberplanner on a stick for those nights that I read through lines with my new friend. But I’m not comfortable with it and haven’t even used it yet. Both logistically (I have to hold it so I only have one hand, plus it actually blocks my sight) and emotionally (because I’m just not comfortable with not actually having a cyberplanner on my face while being filmed).
The biggest obstacle however, is that I am visually impaired to the point of not being able to see my phone screen while in costume. I can’t see the buttons. I can’t see if people are commenting on live streams. I can’t see other videos well enough to duet or comment easily. I can’t see well enough to set up my little area without some help. Doing my make-up takes a little longer and longer each time as it gets harder and harder to see my face.
It is a STRUGGLE.
And, as I reread this, I keep thinking to myself, “Good Lord, is any of this even worth it?”
Yes. To me, that’s a resounding yes. Yes, because of the friends I’ve made and keep making. Yes, because a year ago this would have defeated me. Yes, because Clever has made me a better person, a stronger person.
I could touch on so much more from the past year. The other challenges all of us experienced. The politics and fear, but as I reflect on 2020 I am focusing on the one thing that helped me get through it.
A year ago I would have found a reason to quit doing video, a reason why it didn’t matter. But in 2020 I really didn’t have a choice. Call it stubbornness or my resolve to continue being Clever. Call it that I wouldn’t accept defeat, or that I just needed something positive to do with my time. But as I approach my seven-year anniversary in conlife, I can honestly say that I have overcome more than a pre-Clever me would have ever thought possible, and I know I am not done yet.
This lockdown has been challenging for many creatives. The lack of social interaction, structure, financial stability and the challenges of staying inspired and motivated have caused many of us to feel like we are drowning in open waters with land just out of our grasps.
Not having cons, or any costumed events, has forced me and other cosplayers to get well, clever, in our approach to creating new content. Cosplayers and other like minded people have flocked to TikTok to make cosplay videos, allowing them the ability to interact while in character, have some fun, make new friends and get so much needed laughter.
The concept of surviving these times via video scares the hell out of me. I have struggled with heart stopping panic attacks if I knew I was being recorded. Cosplay has helped minimize my panic attacks over still photography, but hasn’t quite reached that point with video. So when I saw this trend, and realized how helpful it could be, I resolved myself to at least trying.
There are other factors for me personally that make doing these videos difficult. Not least of which is trying to get my cats to not take center stage, or knock over my equipment. Add to the ongoing feline world domination, the 2 hours it takes to get into costume and the other 1.5 hours to take it off, and you have a rather long day.
But here I am, with a TikTok account, and a small handful of videos.
And go give me and other creatives a follow and some love.
So happy to be featured with so many great cosplayers for this spot by Pluto TV!
Also love to be there alongside Sigourney Weaver. 😉
Watch the video from the link:
A cosplay must never go to waste. Please give a round of applause to our incredible cosplaying citizens! 👏Because of them, Con season was a success. Their cosplays will be featured on #plutotv all week long! pic.twitter.com/CiABkrqwn0
I really didn’t think I would get addicted to this game. Yet here we are. Lockdown in effect, unbearable summer heat. And an adorable game that allows me to not only create some great fandom areas, but interact with friends that I can’t see in real life at the moment.
Win – Win
Mr. Clever at Hedgewick’s World
Did you think this WOULDN’T be thing?
Amy’s wedding, with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship in the background.
Cyber conversion room. Come over and be upgraded.
Well, that’s just mean.
In case there is any doubt who lives here.
Sometimes you just want to sit on the moon and watch fireworks with your friends.
Clever, Clara and Porridge. And of course Cybermen.
Tortuga. Or Curse of the Black Spot.
Well, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a Supernatural section.
And of course, a Hogwarts classroom.
My Switch code is SW-0411-2288-3623 if you want to add a fellow geek!
November 2019 saw the return of Long Island Who, now named An Unearthly Convention. LI Who was my first Doctor Who con and is by far one of the best fandom con I’ve ever been to. (As opposed to say, NYCC, which is my favorite general con)
The people who run this con have always been fun, professional, and manage to put on such a great event.
LI Who 2, in 2014, was also the con where I was on my first panel.
Which was, um, entertaining at the very least!
Did I ever tell you about how I got stuck in a tent?
AnyWHO, I had a bad experience at a different Who con a few years ago, so I took a small break from going to DW specific events. I am very glad that I decided to return for this con. What a fabulous weekend.
I will break this up into two parts as so much happened!
After an eight hour car ride we arrived at the host hotel, which was under construction. I have really bad dust allergies so I couldn’t do my usual “lobby con on Friday night” tradition. The hotel staff was super duper helpful though and it was much better on Saturday morning.
For Saturday, I decided to cosplay as my Borderlands mash up, CleverMax the Invincible 😉 I thoroughly enjoy this variation.
My first of five panels was Madman in a Box on Saturday. I was just a guest panelist, as opposed to being a moderator on some others.
It was so much fun to sit there and talk about Matt and his run as the Doctor. Matt was my absolute favorite.
I just started a rewatch of his run yesterday..
The next panel was my baby, as it were.
Evolution of the Cybermen
At my last LI Who, I presented a panel on Cybermen for their 50 year anniversary. It was a huge success and this year was just as awesome
I had myself and four other people as panelists. I didn’t realize that they had never done this type of panel before. They all did such a great job!
We all had our areas of expertise. From concept art to places of origin. And of course, I covered Cyber Planners.
TMW a T-Rex photobombs your Cyberman panel
The third and final panel of Saturday was Finding Family in Fandom.
This panel was incredibly moving and I felt honored to be a panelist. Everyone had such brilliant stories to share about how they found their place in life through fandom. 💖
I have posted my story here before, so I won’t go too much into it. If you want to browse that, here is the link:
Before Clever and conlife, I didn’t really go out. I didn’t have a lot of friends.
I have a huge house and never had a single party, sleepover, family gathering in it. Now? I feel like I need a bigger house. 🤣
Even though my first fandom was Harry potter, I didn’t find myself or my true family of friends until Clever.
I wasn’t welcomed with open arms in this fandom, but regardless, I stuck it out cause I loved Matt so much.
After all of my panels were over, myself and some friends went to grab dinner. I’m always famished after these cons cause I can’t eat solid food with the cybernetics on my face. We all went in costume and our waiter was so happy to see us all.
Saturday night included a DW themed dance party, and lots of casual board and card games in the lobby that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
DJ Gallifrey spinning some tunes!
As per usual this was an exhausting day, but totally worth it!
This weekend is Li Who/An Unearthly Convention, and it will be my first Doctor Who event since Regen 4. When it was announced that there wouldn’t be a ReGen 5, I debated whether or not I should just let all this go. But it occurs to me that, because of things that happened at Regen 4, I have been avoiding Doctor Who specific events since early 2018.
As excited as I am for Li Who, I am worried and scared that my assailants will be there. I’m even more scared that even if they aren’t, I’ll still be looked down upon, seen negatively. That there will still be victim blaming and shaming.
For me, and for anyone that needs it, I decided to just put it all out there because a lot of people don’t know what actually happened to me.
Step inside the Tardis, and let’s go back to Arisia 2015…
A woman stalked me, assaulted me, almost broke my props, followed me to lunch, told me, “I want to be just like you.” Then she cut her hair like mine, and harassed two of my friends. I reported it right away to con security. Security seemed incredibly helpful at first but when I mentioned that my assailant was a “she” they stopped me mid-sentence and asked me to clarify. They were baffled. They didn’t believe me.
“Girls don’t do that.”
I was devastated. And tried to just accept that this would just be how it is. Don’t say anything because no one is going to believe you.
PSA: That security team has since been replaced and the new team has been nothing but professional and helpful.
Fast forward to 2018, to ReGen 4 , where multiplewomen touched me without consent. They rubbed my back, felt me up, and put their hands down my pants. I was jumped on while standing in line for Peter Capaldi. Another woman ran up, grabbed my arm and forcibly pulled me towards her. It knocked me off balance. I dropped the stuff in my hands and screamed out in pain. I was already in pain from an injury and could barely stand, so the pain she caused made me see actual spots.
Because of Arisia, I was incredibly hesitant to report it. I figured no one would believe me and nothing would get done. Sadly, I was correct.
Because of all the times I had been laughed at online when I say “male and NB cosplayers get assaulted too” I kept this all to myself. I kept it in, internally screaming and crying, and wishing I could just vanish.
It wasn’t until I confided in a close friend who had a similar experience happen to her at the previous ReGen, (except with a male assailant) that I decided I would go ahead and report the situation. My friend assured me that the con would handle it well, as they had handled her situation. She gave me names, titles, and contact info. I was reluctant, anxious about whether I’d be believed, but I decided to reach out. I didn’t tell anyone, even my husband.
I told them that I had been sexually assaulted, that I had been stalked, and finally that I had been caused bodily harm. I didn’t blame ground staff. I tried to just be honest, tell my story, and not judge anyone, because in my head, this was the fault of the con goers themselves, the attackers.
I gave the best description that I could of my attackers. I also explained that I tried to find con security while there, but was terrified that my assailants would find out, and to be honest after getting the run around for two days about an ADA pass, I didn’t have much faith in them.
I sent out the first email and waited for about three weeks with no reply. I thought ‘emails get lost, no big, I’ll send it again to the same address as well as a few others.’ Still nothing. After a couple weeks of no replies, I reached out to a different friend who gave me yet another name and contact. Still no reply. But I was getting emails from the same address about ticket sales just fine. So I even replied to that. Nothing. I tried messaging their FB page. No reply even though they saw the message.
I finally got a reply after THREE MONTHS of telling these people that I was sexually assaulted at their con, and that someone literally leapt on top of me.
Their reply consisted of what sounded like a copypasta ‘sorry this happened to you.’ That was it. So I replied to that, very upset that they appeared to not be at least attempting to get more info on these people since I gave them descriptions. I have not reported many people through the years, but the few times when I have, the con always asked what the people looked like, if I knew their names, etc so they could be tracked down and the situation resolved.
Same exact reply. So I sent one last email, telling them that they NEEDED to do something about these people or at least give me some indication that they would look into it before these people came back and did this to someone else.
I never got a reply to that, but I did see a very passive aggressive post on their FB page, that they disabled comments on. They didn’t call me out by name, but they said that if you contact them they need more time to answer because – this was what really upset me – “we have other shows” and added with a winky face emoji.
How very nice to know that if you have been assaulted, make sure you don’t interfere with their show schedule.
I haven’t told many people about this. Some people that I did tell have told me to just drop it, and some even stopped talking to me because it happened. Because they didn’t want to make waves because their enjoyment of the con was more important.
It has been almost two years and I feel like there are no safe places. No place to go that won’t victim blame me or tell me, “Well you should have done this if you wanted to avoid getting assaulted.” People have zero issue getting behind celebrities when they come out after sexual harassment. Everybody goes to Twitter, they run to Facebook, to post campaigns and start boycotts.
People will rally for someone that they don’t know because it’s easier. Because it doesn’t cost them anything.
Dealing with sexual assault and predators is a lot harder when it’s a con in your own community.
That’s why I’ve finally decided to put some of this out there. Because it needs to be said. Because we as a community need to do better. We need to hold ourselves and those we trust accountable.
So, in the words of a Twitter meme: “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”
It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” ~ Albus Dumbledore
I managed to get my hands on the Time of The Doctor set for a pretty good price. So of course I had to give the Doctor a little make over. Cybernetics aside, he needed some repainting anyway. The colors are very bland, and he had no facial expression.
I redid the coat, his bow tie and of course his face.
“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality.
Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.
The two are rarely compatible.”
―Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic
May 11th is the anniversary of an episode of Doctor Who that among many fans of the show lives in infamy, but for me is a work of art that has changed my life. It has inspired me, caused me pain, physical and emotional, remade me, then broke me again. Nightmare in Silver has become such a integral part of who I am that some people equate me with the titular villain of the story – Mr. Clever. If that sounds arrogant or over the top its because my spouse typed it.
All I can say is that it has been a bumpy 6 years since I started cosplaying as this character. I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I wanted this to be a review of the episode. A critique from the perspective of Mr. Clever. But how do I separate the joy of the episode from how I used that joy to craft this whole new persona and just run with it? I guess I can’t. So instead I came at this in a rambling, disjointed diatribe that became a novella on how this episode changed my life. The moment my Doctor, Matt Smith, stepped off the TARDIS onto Hedgwick’s World.
Six years ago, my spouse and I were sitting in bed and continuing our watch of Matt’s run on Doctor Who. CJ had been a fan of David, and I had already fallen in love with 11. His goofiness combined with his dark side had already won me over.
I remember CJ leaning towards the screen saying “Wait. This one was ALSO written by Neil? There were TWO? How come no one told us?”
We’ve always been huge fans of Neil Gaiman. I remember when CJ and I first started dating, we would have nightly conversations about American Gods. Now, of course, I know why no one told us. As much as I love NiS, I am in the minority. Watching it, I thought that somehow people just must have missed this one. Because how could you not love it?
Dead amusement park. Written by Neil. Warwick Davis. Little silver bugs. Cybermen. Cool chess game. And the single greatest villain ever. I mean, come on.
Looking back, I recalled a friend telling me that I would love Neil’s episode, and of course I know NOW that she meant The Doctor’s Wife, but every time I see her in person I smirk as she shakes her head.
Someone asked me once if I knew how long Clever was on screen, like in total. I sat down and clocked it once. It comes in at roughly 9 minutes. As I sit here and listen to the tippety tap of my keyboard, I look around at all the Clever swag that I have gotten over the years, the gifts that people have given me, the fan art, all the little silver creatures scattered around my house. Its incredible to me to think back and try to remember what my life was like before this. BC? Before Clever? Before con life? Before cosplay? Nine minutes changed my life.
A path is built by placing one stone at a time. How does one single character manage to be that stone, to set in motion a series of little events that lead to life altering decisions for so many people. And it all had to line up so perfectly. If I had already known what cosplay WAS, I don’t think I would have tried this. If I had already known what photoshoots were, and meet ups and cons, and had fb pages, and had friends that were Whovians – I think I would have been too freaked out to try to cosplay. I know for sure that if had known that people would have taken my photo and put it on the internet, I would have never even tried this. If I wasn’t allergic to so many things, would I have even found the mixture of ingredients to make the perfect working Cyberplanner piece? Who knows. One stone at a time, and the path was laid.
And what a path it has been.
I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I used to watch Doctor Who when I was very young, though I don’t remember much. My grandmother loved Tom Baker. Used to say “Oh, that man looks great in a scarf”.
Fast forward to 2009, CJ and I were living in California, and we started watching the 9th Doctor on reruns. But Matt’s run had already started. At the time I only knew one other person who watched Doctor Who and she was telling me that she “hated the new Doctor. Bring back David”. That was all I remember except for a few whispers here and there about Matt until MISTI-Con in 2013.
MISTI was where I met most of the costumed people that I admired and aspired to become. They were so perfect. Especially a pair of cosplayers I am still friends with today – The Malfoys. I still didn’t know what cosplay meant. I heard it once or twice, but only in reference to Anime. My friends called themselves costumers, performers, actors. Not cosplayers. So that is what I thought was the norm.
We finally finished David’s run and CJ was pretty upset. And TBH, David’s last episode is still one of my favorite endings. I loved it then and still find it moving now. We didn’t start Matt right away, but I was already searching Pinterest and Tumblr for memes and gifs of the 11th Doctor and already fell in love with him without even seeing an episode.
I thought I would make CJ feel better about losing David by buying him a fez. Except I didn’t want to take it off. And it became mine. Which kind of started a whole wardrobe filled with 11’s items. And I mean a wardrobe. I have an antique wardrobe that was my grandmothers filled with items that 11 wore. Mind you I never wear them, unless it’s for Clever. But I have them.
I tried cosplaying as ‘Town Called Mercy‘ 11. I tried the ‘Let’s Kill Hitler‘ green coat. I tried the standard purple coat sans Cybernetics. Eh. Wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it. Like all the other costumes before, I just didn’t get the appeal. I couldn’t understand why “those people dressed up”. Try as I might, I couldn’t be a Malfoy.
Until I saw 11 get converted into Mr. Clever. I lost my damn mind. I really couldn’t tell you why. Still. SIX years later. I don’t know what clicked. I have tried to analyze it, I have tried to figure it out. I don’t know. But I HAD to be him. Watching his smirks, his flirty outbursts, how manipulative he was. Or maybe it was the line about being effected by gold and cleaning fluids (two things that I’m allergic to). I knew instantly that he was my cosplay, my character. Maybe its because I knew I couldn’t act, and to me, cosplay is about the performance, so I knew I had to pick someone close to my own personality, or at the very least something that I could pull off. Or maybe its cause I always loved cybernetically enhanced things. Who knows? But at that moment the first stone of my path was put into place.
But HOW to become him? HOW was I going to pull this off? Looking at myself – long blonde hair, not exactly young and thin like Matt was, and well, not cybernetically enhanced. I refused to wear a wig. So dying my hair was the first permanent thing I did. But for two years, I refused to cut it. I thought I was too fat for short hair, and I didn’t want to be that person that cut their hair to look like a celebrity. Which was dumb. I could have saved myself and my friend Kat MANY hours of braiding my damn hair if I had just chopped it all off to begin with. Eventually I did chop it off to look like Matt’s. Thank god for Ashley and later Sarai, for being the amazing stylists that they are. Instead of taking two and half hours to get into costume, it now only takes about hour and half.
Next I started the acquisition of all the screen accurate pieces I would need. I managed to find all the pieces except for a coat. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to wool – lucky me. Include that in with the hundreds of things that I’m allergic to, so my search was a difficult one. I got very lucky and found a purple coat at a thrift store that I used for about the first two years. Very far from screen accurate but no one seemed to notice. I was all over BBC sites and in DW magazine with this coat. Eventually I got a custom made one and then this past Christmas I took a HUGE chance and got the Abbyshot replica which has become my favorite coat, not only because it doesn’t make me itch, but because it looks and feels fabulous.
So: Hair. Check. Costume. Check. Accessories including cybermites and hand pulse. Check. Now what to do about my face? Again, at this time I didn’t know any other Whovian cosplayers when I put this costume together. I didn’t know there were resources: forums, pages, groups, etc. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to become that. I did know one person who worked with prosthetics, so I asked him if he had ideas.
“Yes, use latex”.
“Um, I’m deathly allergic to that.”
“Well, you’re shit outta luck.”
I did some research on what people used for movies. Mostly latex, silicones, rubbers and urethanes. All things that I can not touch. Someone told me to search youtube. But I have never learned anything that I know how to do except by trial and error. So I sat down, and I experimented. I tried various clays. Nope. That burned a cyberplanner shaped rash onto my face. I tried Eva foam. Ugly as hell, made me itch and didn’t stick anyway. I gave up on the “suggested materials” and made my own. Fragile. Lightweight. Breaks by looking at it, I swear. But it works. 22 days later and I had a working, blinking, wireless cyberplanner piece. It is the most incredible thing I have ever made and the one piece of art that I am the most proud of, and the only thing I have *ever* made for myself.
As an artist, over the years, I’ve made many pieces; from remade Breyer model horses, to wands and jewelry but only if it was a commission. Only if people paid me. That was my job. I never made art for fun. For myself.
Until I sat down to make the cyberplanner piece. No clue what I was doing, but I knew it had to be done. I had never done anything like this before – or since. It was an act of magick, filled with passion and planning and pain.
Every time I hold it in my hands, it fills me with such a sense of pride, wonder, and excitement. Well, until I have to put it on. Or until I have to take it off. Or until it gives me migraines. Or until it pushes into my head all day and causes me actual pain. I guess it’s more accurate to say I have a love/hate relationship with this…I don’t know…horcrux?
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick. Something that resonates on its own, but incomplete without its owner. I feel incomplete sometimes when I’m not wearing it or maybe just feel more complete when its on. And sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy. Like Mjolnir and Thor.
Now I was ready…
Arisia 2014. This was the catalyst. The start of con life and all things Cyberiad and Clever and friends. Rewind to my life before – BC. Going out, socializing. It was hard, it was almost non existent, and it was harrowing. Especially getting dressed. Ugh, even now I just hate dressing up. Clothes are the enemy. I’ve always had issues with my appearance. Hated myself, my looks. Always been the ugly one, the fat one. Going out in public was never easy for me. Deciding to throw on a costume and go to a convention was an odd, out of character choice for me. Certainly for CJ. But we grabbed a friend, and off we went.
Boston Whovians were having a photoshoot but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Photos? Oh hell no! We stood at the bottom of the escalator and watched the procession of Whovians go by. ‘I’m going to just stand in the shadows and hope no one sees me’
Our friend said, “You know your face blinks, right?” and suddenly I heard what I think was “Mr. Clever you better get your ass to this photoshoot” from the best looking River Song cosplayer I’ve ever seen. (Cat Smith, and who turned out to be a good friend shortly after.) I remember looking around for advice and him saying “Someone who very well could BE River Song just screamed the word shoot. I would follow her if I were you.”
SIDE NOTE: River Song is my second favorite DW character, so it didn’t take much convincing.
I was very blown away with the amount of people at this meet up, and was not expecting so many people to come running up to me, posing me, asking for photos and calling me “delicious”. (Yes that happened) I posed for one particular photo for my friend Lynn Wine, and that is the pic that ended up going viral. Not long after Arisia, it ended up on Geek Universe, The Nerdist, a few other geek sites, and got retweeted by BBCA. That was shocking for me, and I was not 100% sure how I felt about seeing myself all over the place. But that is how it began.
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick.
Of course, with all the good things, there is usually bad. This is also the time period where I first started getting hate for my choice of characters, how I presented the character, etc. I talk all about that in another post here – Haters Gonna Hate. Even with all the hate and negativity, I would not trade this, nor do I have a single regret.
I can’t emphasize enough how much my whole life changed at that very moment; Arisia 2014 was truly the point of no return.
And as with all my more personal posts I need to include something Taylor Swift:
It doesn’t take much for myself and my friends to get silly, and this night wasn’t much different.
Luckily, this photographer, Katie, is used to us. She’s done many of the Collective’s events, so I think she is always prepared for our craziness.
One of my favorite things about the PEM ‘s parties, is the interactive workshop. A few years ago we made pinwheels out of the material they use for sails, and they were displayed all around town. That was incredible. This time around people got to make prints and learn about silk screening techniques.
While my friends tried that ( let’s be honest here – I am a mess when I paint, and I knew it would get all over my cosplay) I saw paper and markers, so my brain went ” What the Hell!”
While I was sitting down, these three women came running up to me, fascinated by my lights. Like moths to a flame, I swear. One of them thought it was make up, and asked how I did it, how I made it. They had no idea who Mr. Clever was, so of course I had to show them a picture of Matt as Clever. One of them actually said ” Oh he’s cute.” Yes, yes he is.
After we finished making art, we meandered around some more, looking at the other exhibits. I did manage to find a very cute squirrel puppet. Of course now I want one.
“Hey, Sarah, don’t touch those…nuts.” Yeah, I need puppet.
Anyway, we are all looking forward to the next party!
Another year, another wonderful masquerade at the Hawthorne hosted by Creative Collective. This year’s theme was Game of Thrones, which proved a little more challenging for me than previous years did. How am I going to work Mr. Clever into this theme? Especially given that I am very unfamiliar with the world. I came up with the idea of Clever of Dragons, and had a few ideas on how to make it work. Unfortunately most of my ideas looked great on paper, but just didn’t seem to pan out the way I wanted.
I had started to make a dragon shaped cyberplanner, and as amazing as it came out, it just did not fit well on my face, nor did it want to actually stay on. So I scrapped that, and just wore my alt cyberplanner piece. My good friend Mandi, who also happened to win Best Mask, made a caplet for me, which did not end up draping over me as well as I had hoped. So I scrapped that as well. All that I really ended up with was my cyber dragon – Fernando. Which came out very well.
The Iron Throne was a fun and interesting photo opportunity. Witch Pix, the folks who ran the photo booth this year were really on point and went out of their way to help attendees pose to get the perfect photo. There were acrobats and themed foods. The best decoration though, in my opinion, was the giant dragon that they had in the ballroom. It was not only gorgeous, but was brought in from a private home in Marblehead. Someone just made as a decoration for themselves, it was so nice to see because it just felt like such a great sense of community to have it there.
I did have a hard time interacting with the performers because I just did not know who they were supposed to be so I did my best and told all of them that I thought they were beautiful and I hoped they won the Throne. That seemed to please them.
It was a very fun night out with friends and as always a great party. Already looking forward to next year.
Most of you may know that I tend to send a mini version of myself along to some cons when I can’t be there. This mostly happens at Gally, which usually means that whatever I send has to not only endure the general craziness of my friends, but also being packed up and shipped. So far, every Clever I have sent has technically survived, but he usually comes back in pretty rough shape. Now is this because of the USPS or my friends, well, I guess a little of both. ( I will be posting the #CleverdoesGally2019 album soon, and you can decide!)
My friend Holly of Hollys Making Stuff crafts the cutest creatures of all sorts so I asked her to make me a wee Mr. Clever. I was not disappointed when she sent me some WIP photos. Not expecting to see a teeny tiny cybermite on his lapel, but that got me thinking, and I asked if she would also make me a cybermite too.
I am really happy with how these came out. I can’t wait to take pictures of them all around the town and at every con we go to.
My first time saying YES to being a guest speaker on a Doctor Who podcast. I met some of the wonderful people from Man Bites Media and Diversely Geek while at SqueeCon, so I could not say no. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part this three-part series that talks about “The Influence of the Doctor. ”
I hope you will tune in and enjoy listening to us discuss how Doctor Who changed and influenced our lives and the lives of our friends and the community that we move around in.
For those that may need a TW, I do, however briefly, towards the end, discuss my experiences with sexual assault, and the many types of threats that I have had throughout the years. Brief mentions of r*pe and transphobia.
When I first decided to do my Clever of Dragons Doctor Who/Game of Thrones mash-up for the Winds of Winter masquerade ball I figured since it was going to be pretty obscure I needed some sort of prop to make it fun and to have something to tie in to the theme. The concept of a Cyber-Dragon staff seemed interesting and fun! And totally something Mr. Clever would carry.
Obviously, it was going to be silver, and I knew I wanted its eyes to be blue to match the blue lights on my cyberplanner. I had never worked with props of this nature before and the process proved to be a little bit more challenging than I thought especially since my craft area is not very conducive to making anything larger than a cyberplanner.
I also don’t have space away from my cats. Which is a whole other challenge!
I started with a roll of wrapping paper and I decided to make the basic head shape of the dragon itself out of paper mache. Mind you, I have never worked with paper mache before, not even as a child. The reason for this is that newspaper is part of the long list of things I am allergic to. So I wasn’t able to do work with the paper mache as well and as long as I had first planned. I did the best I could with it, and ended up filling in the gaps with aluminum foil and tape.
At first, the shape looked way off.
Each individual dragon scale was made out of thin craft foam. Initially, I wasn’t going to cover the cardboard tube completely but that just got a little bit away from me. I started cutting out a few scales here and there, sometimes in bed, sometimes at the hair salon, sometime while I was waiting for laundry to dry – wherever I could. So I figured, well, I have all these scales, might as well glue them on.
The plastic that I ended up using for the eyes and the chestplate actually came from a Quidditch set that CJ got me for Christmas. The set came in a box, with all the Quidditch balls, protected in this one piece of plastic. I got so excited because I realized that the plastic was the perfect shape and size for the eyes and chest. It was also the moment where I realized that I went full on cat, as I was more excited about the packaging that I was about the product.
I carved out a hole in the wrapping paper tube for the chest plate, then cut out the eye holes in the head, put the plastic in. Found blue LED lights and strung them through. I then cut out a hole in the back of the tube for the lights’ battery pack. After that I just used a glue gun to glue the rest of the scales around the remaining openings.
To finish the head, I covered it the best I could with the rest of the scales, aluminum foil spikes, and window insulation around the eyes. I covered the entire thing in silver spray paint…
… and off I went to the ball. Except I forgot to cover it in sealant and my hands were covered in silver paint the entire night of the ball. I fixed it later, sealed it, just in case I ever use Fernando again. Yes, we have decided that his name shall be Fernando.
I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a tutorial! Stay tuned for more on future projects!
One thing that I really enjoy and admire is cosplayers that recreate fan art in their photoshoots. So down the rabbit hole I went into searching for Mr. Clever fan art! There still isn’t a lot out there, but recently I stumbled across a few lovely pieces that I was able to incorporate into a recent shoot. Most of the ones I found had various companions in the piece- mostly Clara, obviously. My wonderful friend Kelly agreed to fill in for Clara in those instances, and those pictures will be posted soon!
For now, here is one example of a solo shot that I was able to do.
This was based off of this fantastic drawing that I found here on Deviant Art.
This was something new for me and I really enjoyed doing it and look forward to doing more!
I hadn’t planned on doing a lengthy end-of-year recap. But there are so many stories to tell, and I am nothing if not a storyteller.
2018 was certainly a year of ups and downs. The biggest hurdle was my health. In early 2017, I was diagnosed with severe arthritis and bone spurs on my left hip from an old riding injury. Cortisone shots were then prescribed every two to three months. Even with the shots, I spent all of 2017, and most of 2018 in astronomical pain. There would be entire weeks that I couldn’t dress myself, or go up and down the stairs without assistance. Tying my shoes, and showering alone were things of the past.
The area that I was most affected was my riding and my inability to safely work around horses. I kept going, kept pushing through the pain to ride, to do the one thing that I had done for work and joy for decades. But it was soon clear that even grooming was too much, as I couldn’t even pick feet. All it took was a horse to rub up against me and they could knock me down. It was now unsafe for me to be around my wonderful animals anymore. This was the single most difficult thing to digest and sent me into months of depression.
My one solace was conlife. As hard as it was to get dressed, I somehow managed to put Clever on and miraculously get out the door. It was hard, it was excruciatingly painful, and I ended up relying heavily on the magic of my cosplay. I have often joked that if I can just get my costume on, it does the rest. And for about two years, this was most certainly the case. However there were times that even with the cosplay on, I could only last one day of a two day con.
The first con of 2018 brought about one such instance of debilitating pain. Arisia 2018 marked my 5 year anniversary of officially going to a con as Mr. Clever. This is one of our absolute favorite cons, and the one that we always have the most friends that go with us, and yet somehow always meet new people. This year was no different. With a bunch of wonderful crazy, costumed friends in tow, off we went for day one. As per usual we did the Running of the Doctors, tied a bunch of people up with my rope, attacked the vendor room with financial rage, and had our usual lunch at the bar. On Sunday, I broke out Darth Clever and ended up meeting two new amazing friends, still known to us as Missy and Clara. This was the highlight of the weekend and what con life is all about! This year I was supposed to be on a few panels, but the pain proved to be too much, and I had to opt out because by Sunday morning I couldn’t even walk. We spent most of Sunday hanging out in the lounge, until I couldn’t take it anymore and we left.
Not one to quit on having fun, the next weekend I judged the costume contest at the annual masquerade ball at the Hawthorne Hotel, hosted by The Creative Collective. This years theme was Through the Looking Glass. So of course, I HAD to do a mash-up of Mr. Clever and the Mad Hatter.
The ball is a lot more low key than a con, and the hotel has plenty of places to sit, so it was not as hard on my hip as Arisia was. It was an incredible night, and I am forever grateful for being a part of this event since its inception.
Most people that know me well, know that every February I try to throw CJ, my amazing, wonderful, perfect spouse a themed birthday party. CJ is like a child when it comes to his birthday. He will run around yelling “BIRTHDAY!” all day until someone pays attention to him. So far I have done Sherlock, IT Crowd, Avatar the Last Airbender, Rick and Morty and now Doctor Who. CJ’s fave Doctor is 12, Peter Capaldi. I decorated the entire house to look like the inside of the Tardis, complete with console, Pin the Eyebrows on Peter, and we even had a birthday cake shaped like a tank. As party favors, every person had black sunglasses with “attack eyebrows ” on them. (Remember those – they make another appearance soon). Everyone came dressed in cosplay, which wasn’t hard since most people we know are Whovians! It was so amazing to be able to bring so many smiles on so many faces – especially CJ’s.
February was also an amazing month because I got to work with Sauvage Photo + Edit aka Vignette for the first time! Contrary to popular belief I still do not like my photo taken. I have gotten much better with it over the years, and cosplay has helped a ton. Many times I push myself to do it because I like the challenge and feel the more I do it, the more I will overcome my fears. Photoshoots used to be challenging for me, as there are only so many canon poses available but now I enjoy taking Clever out of the blue box and doing wild things with him. Vignette is an incredible photographer and a warm, funny, kind soul.
We had already bought our tickets for Regeneration Who (ReGen) before they announced Peter Capaldi, but when they DID, CJ kinda lost his mind. I love, just love that he finally has “his” Doctor. And 12 really does suit him. In so many adorable and annoying ways. The “no hugs”. Omg. So we packed up the new car and drove to Baltimore. ReGen was hot or cold for me to say the least. The worst parts of ReGen were the assault, sexual harassment and physical pain from being jumped on. (Caused by other con goers – not staff members) I am still not ready to talk about these traumas yet. But someday I will write this all down and share my entire experience.
The best parts of Regen was seeing CJ get to meet Peter, get to meet his Doctor. Which of course, yes, I have a story. We have never cared about celebrities (outside of Jenna Coleman, I really don’t care about anyone except James Roday and Dule Hill) but we did the thing. We bought tickets for an autograph and our very first photo op. Ever.
CJ has social anxiety, so we had rehearsed what to say to Peter, how to say it, where to stand, etc. This is how CJ operates. He had cue cards, like the ones from Under The Lake, made by our friend Melissa, ready to read so he would know exactly what to say. He also had one cue card with BOTH sides written on it to finally hand to Peter. One side mentioned all the wonderful things he wanted to say about his Doctor, the other side was funnier and mentioned how CJ was thankful for having a Doctor that also didn’t like hugs. We walked up to his table, CJ handed him the cue card. Peter read the one side, said “Oh, how lovely” then proceeded to slowly get out of his chair and walk over to CJ. At this point I knew he was going to hug him and I lost it. I was cackling already. It was the most awkward hug ever. Poor CJ was torn between this is the greatest moment ever, and why is this person hugging me? Peter kinda then glanced over at me like “Who is this crazy cyberman?”, sat back down and I very dramatically flipped over the cue card, slammed it on the table and exclaimed “but wait, there’s more!” Peter looked down, read the “no hugs” part and went “OOOOOOOOOH”. I was laughing so damn hard, I thought I was going to fall over. He took the journal that CJ had wanted him to sign and autograph as “Who likes hugs? Not us!”
The next day was our photo op with Peter and Michelle Gomez, which CJ was also very nervous about. Our first op, we had no idea what to expect. Luckily, we had already been up to the photo area to get some cosplay photos, so he knew the lay out of the area, and that helped ease his nerves. Remember those party favors? Well I had decided to pack a few for the con. I made the suggestion to CJ that we ask Michele and Peter to wear them, and we do a sort of CSI: Gallifrey pose. We waited our turn and when we got up to them, I asked Michelle to wear them and she was downright giddy about it. I gave Peter his pair and he looked at me and said “ Do I NEED more eyebrows?” We got one of my favorite con photos ever in one take, and I couldn’t be happier for CJ. Watching him meet his Doctor, and the seeing how hilarious the interaction was made the trip worth it. Even with the trauma, I would not do it differently if it meant CJ didn’t get to meet Peter.
Every May 11th, or as close to it, since 2014, most of my friends and I get together and celebrate the anniversary of when Nightmare in Silver aired. The first year was just supposed to be a viewing party. Except people brought me cake. Well, two cakes to be exact. That said Happy Birthday Mr. Clever. And had Hello Kitty on it. This has now become an annual thing. And has, no lie, outgrown my house. I am not joking when I say that we are renting a hall for 2019. This year, aside from the normal shenanigans, we also ventured to NY to visit the Pandorica Restaurant for the first time. It was a bittersweet visit. I had been planning this visit with my friend Rachel, but that wasn’t meant to be as Rachel passed away just a few months before. Shirley was a gracious host and we had a blast! I highly recommend going.
The trip to the Pandorica was our last outing before my usual summer hibernation. This summer was extra painful due to my ever increasing pain and immobility. The cortisone shots had stopped working, and I had zero relief. One last ditch effort to seek help brought me back to my surgeon who told me that my hip had deteriorated so quickly that he couldn’t believe I have been walking on it all this time. The decision was made to replace my hip altogether. At the end of July, I finally went in to have my hip surgery. My recovery was quick, and in less than two days, I had no need for a walker, could already go up and down the stairs, didn’t need pain killers, and was driving in less than two weeks. I had very little PT, as they were shocked at how quickly my body accepted the new, um, upgrade. I am finally pain free for the first time since Dec 2016.
So what do you do when you are pain free? You get back on a horse. I am so lucky to have friends that have horses for me to ride, and I am so happy that I can ride pain free again! I spent most of September slowly getting back into shape, riding when I could, and preparing for October.
Ever since I started cosplaying as Mr. Clever I have been wanting to figure out a way to bring him to Salem in October. But he is too fragile and valuable to me to wear in the insane crowds. CJ and I thought, well what if I did a Zombie version of him, except with grease and oil and random cyber parts instead of flesh and blood. So I threw Zombie Clever together and brought him out for Super Megafest as a trial. Ripped pants, tattered vest, and an old cyberplanner that I had meant to throw away years ago that I found and added one light to. It was a lot to fun to wear! Was a blast as always, especially since it moved back to its original location in Framingham. Arriving home from Super Megafest was a different story.
For a few months, our old ginger cat, The Doctor, had been showing his age. Frail, thin, losing his appetite. But still purring, still happy. We had made the decision to put him down that week if we didn’t see a change, but he didn’t make it. When I walked through the door and saw him lying in his bed, I knew he had passed. He was so a grumpy old man, hated my other cats, but loved people. Always wanted to be pet, always up for a head boop. He will be missed by so many.
Some actors from Twin Peaks were going to be at Rock and Shock the same weekend as Super Megafest, and since I was back to my normal conlife speed, we decided to do two cons in one weekend. Zombie Clever needed a picture in the Black Lodge. We were so blown away at the amount of art that we all saw and wanted. Not to mention the fun of chatting with Malcolm McDowell while he was shopping for t-shirts. We will be going back for sure.
The true test of Zombie Clever however was taking him out in Salem, in October, in the vast crowds. The beauty of this costume is that I DID get bumped into, had something spill on me, and had it broken (which is my fear with NiS Clever) but it doesn’t matter since it blends in with the costume. I did get bumped into a lot, which is normal. I even had some people recognize my character! The biggest accomplishment though was that I finally did it! I went out in Salem, in October in a costume that I loved and felt comfortable in.
Halloween itself is not for the faint of heart, and even with a crowd safe costume, we all planned to get out of the main areas by nightfall if we could. This year wasn’t too bad, but even still, with road closures, massive mostly drunken crowds, and police everywhere, we did what any group of costumed people would do with a 12 year old along for the ride – we went trick or treating. At this point there were 11 of us. Ten adults taking a near-teeneager trick or treating. Except this is us. So of course there’s a story.
And that story is Boot Candy.
Have I told you about my good friend Richard, aka Tequila Mockingbird? No? Well, Richard is a drag queen. And when you are dressed in drag wearing some fabulous boots, your feet might hurt when you walk the mile from downtown Salem back to my house, plus with the added hours of walking to go trick or treating. So you do what anyone would do, you take them off and have your chivalrous bf hold them, which is what Donnie did. So when we came to a house with all of us, Donnie, who had the boots in his hands, would run up to the door and yell trick or treat! At first people were putting candy just in our friend’s kid’s bag. But when we got to about three houses down, some nice woman looked at Donnie, who hadn’t had time to put a costume on, and said “Oh would you like some candy for your boots?”
Now, what candy loving person is going to say NO? Not one of my friends!
“Yes?” So Donnie got the first of many pieces of boot candy that night.
Off we ran to the next house! Trick or treat!
Except this time Donnie shoved both of Richards boots in the peoples’ faces. And they just dropped candy into the boots. No lie. I thought we were going to wet our pants we were laughing so much. Walking up and down the streets of Salem, all night, laughing and yelling BOOT CANDY. By the time we got back to my house and everyone emptied their bags, Donnie had filled Richards boots to the brim with candy. It was one of the best nights ever.
The energy of Salem in October is like nothing else, and I truly come alive during this time. Even after being a tour guide for eleven years, I never tire of it. I always look forward to October. I could spend every waking minute downtown during October if I could. (I have already started a countdown until next October.) And now I know I can do it comfortably, in a great costume! And now we have boot candy and zombies, and new traditions, and more friends than ever to share it with.
Truly the BEST October ever.
November is usually spent recovering from October. And this year that was certainly the case. I hadn’t been that active in October in a long time and post October sadness set in quickly. It didn’t help that I was kinda bummed that Jenna Coleman canceled RICC. She is the only person that I want a photo with. Ah well. Someday. RICC was still a lot of fun, especially since we opted to go on Sunday to avoid the crowds.
The best part of November however was the soft opening of Kakawa Chocolate Shop here in Salem! You have no idea how long all of us have been walking past, staring into the space, longing for this place to open. About 12 of us were walking by one day and the manager, Jack Bauer, was working inside. Our resident chocoholic, Paul, went up to the glass and smooshed his face up against it. That got Jack’s attention all right. He came out and introduced himself, and so now myself, Chuck and Paul have been going almost every single weekend since. That isn’t an exaggeration. Kakawa has kind of become our home away from home.
December is usually pretty slow, event wise. This year there were two really fun events that I hope happen again in 2019. One was SqueeCon, that I had been excited about for awhile. Hansi Oppenheimer, the Creator/Director is not only a good friend but a badass filmmaker and proponent for equal rights and diversity in film and art. The con itself may have been held in a tinier venue than most but the venue itself was stunning – quaint historic playhouse nestled in downtown New Haven, CT. The programming that Squeecon offered was diverse, unique and unlike other cons. As excited as I was for this con, the fear settled in just as quickly. I already wrote some of my thoughts on how I felt before Squeecon here. But I put the costume on, and I faced MANY fears at this con. The fear of being shunned, the fear of being inferior, and the biggest fear – going on stage and doing a Q and A panel. When I was asked to be a panelist/guest, I thought it was going to be in the same capacity like any other con. Let’s discuss how to make a costume, or Cosplay is Not Consent, seated behind a table. But like anything else Hansi does, this was unique. Myself and some amazing cosplayers and artists were seated on this glorious stage and asked questions pertaining to ourselves as cosplayers and this was a first for me. As was being on a stage and allowing myself to be videotaped. It was terrifying, but there was something very welcoming and comforting about this crowd. Of course, I probably made a fool of myself. My rope had its own chair, and I did swear. A lot. “I fucking loved Nightmare in Silver!” But I had a bunch of friends with me at this con, actually most of them drove up with me, so it was a ton of fun.
We also got to visit the Mew Haven Cat Cafe which was super fun too as the people there are Whovians. They were excited when 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, Jack Harkness, Yaz, a Tardis Ghostbuster and Mr. Clever walked in. I still can’t believe we paid money to go play with cats. Don’t anyone tell OUR cats this, ok?
The other event that was a ton of festive fun was Haunt The Halls. I threw on a festive version of Clever, met up with some friends and we all went to visit Paul at his art booth, and got photos with Krampus. We also did get called naughty by a rather mopey Santa.
The last social event that I had as Clever in 2018 was another photoshoot with Vignette. This time however, I had the gorgeous Kelly with me as NiS Clara. It was so nice to be able to recreate canon shots and some fanart. After lunch which consisted of pizza, things got, well, entertaining. CJ decided that we should recreate a rather famous type of scene. I’ll just let the photo speak for itself. This was by far the most fun, hilarious, off script shoot I have ever done, and I can’t thank Kelly enough for being the BEST sport. It was also a huge treat to not only get my new Abbyshot coat in time for this shot, but to have Abbyshot love Vignette’s photos from this shoot and use one of them. Truly a great time.
We may have gone a little overboard this year for Christmas, and we may have invited more people over than my house can handle anymore. I need an actual Bigger on the Inside House. Which reminds me, did I mention CJ got me a life-sized Tardis for Christmas? Where am I supposed to put this?
I am typing the last paragraph of this blog on New Year’s eve. Hoping to wrap all this up in time for actual New Years Day. Sitting here reflecting on all this. Laughing, smiling, sometimes crying, messaging friends, “Do you remember the time we did…?” 2018 was filled with emotional and physical pain that I had never experienced before. But it was also filled with great new adventures and friends, fresh start and the promise of even better things to come.
My goals for 2019 are very simple. Ride more, adopt another cat, more Clever mash-ups, and enjoy my second chance at better health, because most people don’t get one.
This has been your Year in Review for the year ending 2018. Cyberplanner out.
One of the many things that I enjoy about doing photoshoots is getting to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a fabulous photo. It certainly takes lots of patience, a certain charm and a great sense of humor to work with someone like myself. I am notoriously uneasy when I am getting my photo taken, yet always a bit rambunctious at the same time.
It was a great pleasure to work with Sauvage Photo and Edit again. She always puts me at ease and makes it a very fun and productive day! This time around I had my good friend Kelly as my NiS Clara along with my wonderful spouse taking some photos of us while we worked.
As per usual, I brought all my props – chess board, chess set, trigger, Clara’s gun. And perhaps a few more things.
I thought it might be fun to recreate some fan art that I had seen. This proved to be a little tricky, as you don’t realize that illustrations and photo manips, no matter how good, are still not real people. Getting some of the angles correct was bit challenging.
We managed to get some great shots, and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product!
For months, we have been tempted and teased with the “Opening Soon” signs of the new Kakawa Chocolate shop here in Salem, MA. Up until now they have had only one other location – in Santa Fe, NM. Week after week, myself and all my friends, would stop by, peek into the windows, curious to see if there was any indication of movement inside. We used to joke that Willy Wonka himself would eventually pop out of the door. Welcoming us.
One gloomy Saturday, an exceptionally large group of us walked by and just as Paul and I placed our faces up against the glass and mouthed “Chocolate!” we heard the door open. A lovely man peered out, and said, “SOON! We open on Tuesday, 10 am!”
Obviously I had to shake this man’s hand, introduce myself, and tell him that we would be back. On Tuesday. At 10am. That man was one of the owners, Jack. Wonderful man, great sense of humor to accommodate all of us peeking into his shop!
Tuesday morning was rainy and cold. But I kept my word to Jack, and showed up at 10am (well, ok 9:40) with my friends Sarah and Chuck. People on Essex Street kept asking us why we were standing outside in the alcove. “CHOCOLATE!”, we said.
At 10am on the nose, the door opened, and Jack, ever the bubbly host, said “Who wants to be the first through the door?”
Well, I happened to be closest, so it was me! The first customer! I got a wonderful hug from Jack and inside we went for our tour. It really did feel like we had golden tickets.
We were greeted by the other owner, Tony, and handed small samples of their sipping chocolates, known as “elixirs”. Which were the single best things I have ever tasted. Ever. We sat down and enjoyed the sipping chocolates paired with some lovely conversation. Then we wandered around and perused their yummy wares.
They didn’t have a full showing of every item they will be selling as this was a soft opening, but even with limited stock, we were in awe. And they were so knowledgeable about every piece. We each bought some truffles and received some free samples for being the first customers.
All in all, this new shop is a tasty fit for our Witch City and I am very excited to go back for it’s official grand opening on Saturday with even more friends!
Good evening everyone, I’m your host, Mr. Clever and welcome to another Weekend Update.
The weeks before Thanksgiving is what Salem residents refer to as “Recovering from October” while I refer to it as “Post October Depression.” It can be tough running on all cylinders for 31 days, then abruptly halting come November 1st.
But have no fear, that’s why we have #conlife.
Despite the cancelation of Jenna Coleman, a few of us wondered if it would still be worth it to attend that most stressful of local cons – RICC. Anyone that has attended RICC knows the many potential challenges. The amount of people and the issues just getting inside. People (and children) getting locked out of the con. Being unable to get back to one side of the con or the other. The list goes on (and on and on and on). But, the tickets were bought, the bags were packed, so off we went.
It was so much better than expected. They made a lot of changes to the layout and we went on Sunday. I don’t know if it was one or the other or both but this was the first time it didn’t feel like I spent the entire time elbowing through crowds as thick as Halloween in Salem. It was wonderful and felt like maybe I wouldn’t need a special reason to go next year. (Ask me about my RICC must see list…)
As I bid goodbye to another October and RICC, some of my friends and I decided to treat ourselves with a little day trip to Maine. Now mind you, to me, Maine means one thing – Stonewall Kitchen. And lots and lots of pumpkin butter. And possibly one or two things for CJ (but not likely).
If you have never been to the flagship Stonewall Kitchen location, go now. I foresee many more trips in my immediate future!
For the weeks ahead I don’t mind saying I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving but I am excited about the grand opening of a new chocolate shop in Salem: Kakawa Chocolate House. I got to meet the owner / proprietor and you can bet I want to be one of the first in line to taste whatever goodies they have in stock.
This has been your weekend update for the week ending November 18, 2018.
What can I say about the week of Halloween 2018? It was one of the best Halloweens I have ever had, and that is not an exaggeration.
When you live in Salem, MA, the Witch City, Halloween is a month long celebration. Starting with the annual Haunted Happenings Kick off Parade in the beginning of the month, and ending around the first weekend of November. During the entire month of October there are festivals, events, street fairs, costume parties and just thousands and thousands of people in the streets celebrating.
Every year we walk into town with friends and explore the city, seeing the sights, taking in the energy. My zombie Mr. Clever costume was a lot of fun to wear and was a huge hit. I think people just like zombies!
One of the fun things we did was visit some artist friends at their art show. Bought some beautiful prints, too. I love the work these two brothers do. Such talent!
This year we were even able to enjoy taking our friend’s daughter trick-or-treating! Which sounds like it would be, well, dull. But when you have my crew of friends – it is anything but.
So, TL:DR, see that drag queen in the corner? That’s our friend, Richard, aka Tequilla Mockingbird. See that young man near him in the grey hoodie? That’s his bf, Donnie. Richard’s feet were hurting halfway through trick or treat. Donnie carried the giant drag Queen boots all the way, and ended up going up to houses with them in his hands and got candy. In the boots. BOOT CANDY. No lie.
“Oh, hello young man, would you like some candy for your boots?”
Candy. Friends. Great memories. The energy of the city. I can not wait for next October and may already be counting the days!
This has been your weekend update for the week ending November 4th, 2018. Cyberplanner signing off…
It is National Cat Day, and in my household that really is like every other day. Especially when you are a foster cat parent. I grew up always having at least one cat, but it wasn’t until I became an adult and became a foster home for various shelters that I fully grasped how many lives needed saving.
When my spouse and I first moved to Los Angeles we had a one bedroom apartment, with very little furniture and somehow managed to foster every single cat we could. Many times we did this at our own expense, because the shelter system in L.A., like most major cities, leaves much to be desired. Most of the rescue groups there were running on fumes and many of the cats’ lives were at stake if someone didn’t jump in asap to swoop them up. And even then, sometimes that didn’t always work. More times than I care to count, I would call and say I could take an entire family, and a wonderful rescuer would drive two hours to pick them up and they would already be put down. This is the life of a rescuer in most major cities. Bless the souls that do this every day.
This is Moo Moo. He was supposed to be a cat sitting situation. Friendly, lovable, giant ball of fluff. Family never came back for him. Turns out he had a tumor over his left eye that exploded while we had him. It was operated on, and he did find his forever home with a new loving family. Poor guy, at least he had a happy ending.
Most photogenic kitten ever. This is Kerouac. He was part of a litter that all got adopted except for him. We ended up with a momma cat whose babies died. She ended up loving this kitten and we somehow managed to get the two of them adopted together.
What can I even say about this little guy, Jedi. We got Jedi from a rescue group, and had him as a foster for over a year and a half. We had a really bad skin condition that made it so he basically lived with a cone on 24/7. But he was the single most sweetest cat we have ever had. And he was the welcome committee whenever we had new cats come in. A wonderful family with the money to care for his skin condition came forward and wanted to adopt him. This was one of the hardest decisions to make. This is always hard when you foster. But we did the right thing and gave him to a good home that could afford to give him the meds that he needed daily.
This was our Fred Weasley. He and his sister, Foo Foo Cuddly Poops were two foster failures. After about a year, we woke up to Fred dragging his lower part of his body across the floor, after a blood clot permanently paralyzed his legs. We had to make the hard decision to put him down. His sister cried for days. And was never fully ok until we got another litter of kittens and sort of adopted one, which of course meant we had to keep her.
This is the Doctor. We recently lost him to old age. His story is the epitome of why we foster.
We met the Doctor while we still lived in L.A. They gave him to us because he had been on the streets, snatched up and living in a cage for almost a year because they said he didn’t get along with other cats. We took him in, and had him for the entire time we lived in L.A. No one wanted him. He was sort of friendly to people, but cranky, typical old tom-cat syndrome. Hissed at other cats. But our Jedi wouldn’t stop until he felt at home. Took years, but the Doctor finally settled.
Finally we get a message from the shelter that someone wanted him. This woman came in, got to know him, loved him, took him. Next week we left to visit Salem, and get a message from the rescue group saying this same woman had taken the Doctor to the vet, found out he had asthma and arthritis and proceeded to dump him off there. And left. Just left him. No one had room for him in their house so they put him back in a cage. When we got back to CA, he had lost so much weight from being depressed. We swore we would never leave him in a cage again.
Fast forward to us moving back home to Salem. And still no forever home for the Doctor in CA. Well, guess he is going to have to come home with us. Except we already had two cats coming with us. We took a huge chance but he stayed in CA with a nice woman that was friends with the rescue group, and then he flew home on a flight with another kind soul. So right around Christmas we drove to Logan and picked up our cat and he never changed families again.
We lost the Doctor last week to old age, but he was purring up until the end. He was the poster cat for why we foster, why we rescue, and why we continue to do this. His spot in our family of six cats will always be for an older, special cat that no one else wants.
There are so many more cat stories I could tell. Like Adam and his sister Gaige. Captain Peanut and Bellatrix Cabal. Baba who was blind most of the time he was with us until he got surgery. Lorraine our real first foster who had cat leukemia. Hundreds.
So many of them need help, even a little. We do what we can. And to all the other fosters and cat parents and anyone that rescues…
I am so humbled by the amount of people sending me messages and checking in on me after finding out that Jenna cancelled RICC. She must have gotten word that Mr. Clever was coming to see her. I love that so many of my friends knew how much it meant to me to meet her.
I’m sad, but that is the risk you take when going to a con for a guest. I’ve never done that in the four years of Conlife. It’s a gamble. But the way I see it, it’s like anything else. When you buy a con ticket you don’t know if you will get sick, have to work, get a flat, have a miserable time, etc.
Eventually I will get my Clever/Clara pic. For now, I am happy with the array of lovely Clara’s that I have met over the years!
So, it looks like RICC 2018 will be happening after all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I somehow manage to have a great time every year at this con, despite the long lines that can rival Disneyland’s, the massive crowds and the infamous unorganized spaces. Because for whatever reason, RICC manages to get great guests year after year.
My spouse and I have what we call our “Short list.” The people that we would brave the craziness for. At the very top is Sean and Gus from Psych. Followed by a Burn Notice cast reunion for him and Jenna Coleman for me. Well, damn.
My wonderful friends Jenne and Cass brought my chessboard for her to sign at Boston Comic Con one year. She was super funny and sweet about it. She even loved my cosplay and showed her mom. So you would think that I would NOT be a nervous wreck to meet her, but NOPE.
Luckily, I will have a bunch of great friends with me to support me. As always.
Wish me luck – getting through this con, AND meeting Jenna.
Good evening everyone. Welcome to Weekend Update. I’m your host, Mr. Clever.
Well, this weekend was pretty crazy. I celebrated my five year anniversary of being me. Who was I before? No one really knows. *cue mysterious music and shadow puppets*
It all started with a trip down memory lane. A trip to a place we like to call Super MegaFest. Back in 2013, this is the place that I debuted ME, the cyberplanner, Mr. Clever, for the first time. So it seemed fitting to go back to the scene of the cri…er…party. I managed to get the band back together and round up some of the original sinners and off we went to Framingham.
This time with a Halloween version of myself – Zombie Clever. I must admit, it was quite enjoyable to scare people. Especially that poor muggle at the gas station. What? Zombies need to get places too.
One of the greatest things about SMF is the sense of camaraderie atmosphere. There is such a great sense of acceptance and belonging at this con, that you rarely get at others. Doesn’t matter what you cosplay, what you look like, who you are – there is always someone to hang with!
New friends were made, old friends reconnected, and in true SMF fashion craziness, mischief and mayhem ensued.
Day Two of my Clever-versary. Me-versary? Hmmmm.
Anyway, day two of the weekend took us to Rock and Shock in Worcester. Having never been before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes, yes, yes, I will say it. It was a “shockingly” good time.
*insert Kristen Ritter-level eye roll*
My interest in this con was peaked, as it were, by two actors from Twin Peaks. Well, ok, more so that Dana Ashbrook was in Dual Spires, the Psych episode that was a Twin Peaks spoof. And I MAY have said “OMG I loved you in Psych”.
But the real reason I wanted a photo was to get Zombie Clever in the Black Lodge. I mean, who wouldn’t want to try to upgrade the Black Lodge?
The con itself was a ton of fun as well. Tiny, but the vendors were amazing. So many fantastic independent artists all in one space. I was blown away with the amount of stuff that I wanted!
Day two continued with a Costumed Walk About in Salem. Now, normally, you think to yourself, how will I find a few friends in massive October crowds? Then, you see a BLINDING bright blue stick figure person that turns out to be one of your friends – of course she is MY friend!
And all hell breaks loose as you and few more crazies try to walk the crowded streets of Salem in the dark, with nothing to guide you but a LED stick figure person, who doesn’t actually know where they are going. Have no fear! ROPE is here! Yes at one point I tied her up and made a leash. Because, why not.
After the walk about, many of us ventured back to House Cyberiad, i.e my house, for some tricks and treats, and kitten snuggles.
Day three of the weekend – yes, I CAN count, actually, but this was an extended weekend, as my friend Kelly was visiting – brings us to a day of apple picking at Brooksby Farm.
Apple picking was fun, but seeing an emu amongst sheep and pigs was even better. Gorgeous place. And great apple cider doughnuts! Yummy!
I am not sure what I was expecting for my five year anniversary, but this weekend was one of the best I have had in many years.
This has been your weekend update for the week of October 19th, 2018! Cyberplanner, signing off…
Upgrade in Progress. Or should I say UNDEAD in Progress? Cyberplanner part all ready for Zombie Clever!
I wanted to make it look broken, beat up, falling apart, wires falling out, only one light working – and with minimal blood and more motor oil looking colors. I am very happy with how it turned out, especially given my allergies to latex and silicones.
This weekend at Super Megafest marks FIVE years that I have been cosplaying as Mr. Clever. I have been cosplaying as Clever longer than Matt Smith had been the Doctor.
It also marks five years of meeting some of my best friends. Not just con friends. But, friends that are a huge part of my life – beyond fandom, beyond conlife. I wouldn’t have met them if not for my cosplay, if not for Clever, if not for Matt, or not for Doctor Who.
And as Doctor Who enters a brand new chapter in its long run, I hope many fans, young, old, newcomers, and returning ones, like myself, find their own piece of magic in the TARDIS. It is a wonderful thing, and I truly believe the Doctor herself, would enjoy every second of it.
Who will I see for this anniversary at SMF? I have so many crazy, fun memories. Who wants to make more?
The photo that started it all. The “legend of Ron Jeremy.”
Anyone who has met me knows that “Nightmare in Silver” is my favorite Doctor Who episode. But NiS is so much more than just an episode to me.
We all have those things that have changed our lives, or mattered to us, or maybe even helped us through difficult times. Some have a series of books, and yes, for sure I do have Harry Potter, some people have music, others might have sports figures. For me, I have one episode of one tv show.
Over the years, people have asked me *how* this is possible, how can one thing, one character, change so much of a person’s life?
My best analogy is the “stone in the water causes ripples” cliché. One thing led to another, which led to another.
Before we moved back to Salem (we of course being myself, CJ, and 3 cats) we never really left the house. We didn’t socialize, we each had one or two friends that we saw on occasion and that was it. (and they are great friends, don’t get me wrong!) But it was always just us, sitting around the house, bored. And for me, getting dressed to go outside was hell. That was always a horrible point of contention for us. Going out meant having to get dressed. Having to put on some semblance of “normalcy”. We even had the chance to go to San Diego Comic Con for free one year and we said no. Crowds? People? Nope.
Fast forward to cosplay life. Getting dressed up? Yes please. I think I spend more time in my cosplay than any other outfit that I own. And aside from the issues with the cyberplanner itself, it is so comfortable to wear. I feel like myself in it. This was the first time in 35+ years that I wanted to go out, to talk, to socialize, to interact. Suddenly we have all these friends, and cons, and laughter and events and game nights and people over filling our lives with fun and life and love and everything that matters in this world.
That first stone to get cast into the water, the first ripple, was watching NiS that one night. That “A-ha” moment of “I wanna become this character” that brought cosplay into our lives, which brought conlife, and in turn forever changed our lives and the lives of our friends.
In short, none of this would have been possible before.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Recently I uploaded some new photos from a photo shoot and there were a few comments that could only be described as trolling so I thought it was time to get something off my chest.
It wasn’t just the trolls that made me decide to write this. After a few “Facebook friends” made their comments, I doubted myself, so in a moment of weakness, I deleted the whole album.
Doing that shoot was incredibly hard for me. You may not realize it when you see me running around a con with grapes and rope but I am very self-conscious. And I delete far more than I post. And in that brief period of self-doubt after the trash people thought they had a right to tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, I thought it was just easier to delete it, delete myself, off the screen, and deal with all later. Or not, depending on how I felt.
After some soul-searching, and some convincing by my close friends, my partner, and the wonderful photographer, the album is now back up.
The reason I reposted it isn’t just because I didn’t want the trash people of the internet to win, but the larger reason is that when I see these photos I am reminded that even though these pics are “of me” they aren’t just about me.
I think a lot of people in the cosplay community will agree with me – when I see a professional cosplay photo I see a team effort that goes into making those beautiful photos. And when I share mine I am not only sharing my own art (like the cyberplanner) that I have painstakingly created (with the emphasis on pain) but the art and skill of my friends and colleagues.
There are so many people that have helped me over the years, that have also invested time and talent into helping me make Mr. Clever come to life in these photos and in person.
The insane number of amazing photographers alone. It is not easy to capture (and edit) a wonderful photograph. It is even harder to work with someone like me, who has severe anxiety in front of the camera. Cosplay photographers often go unnoticed and are truly the unsung heroes of our community. The photographers that I have met and worked with over the years deserve a medal for putting up with me. Many times, they have worked with me for free, so yes of course, I am going to share their photos everywhere (and give them credit as often as possible).
Or the hair stylists that have helped me over the years. Running into the salon with pictures of Matt. “This is the color I need”. And the random make-up artist we met while in NYC for NYCC that color matched me and taught me how to put make up on for photos. Never would have known any of that if not for her.
And the friend who felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Abbyshot coat who went and got fabric for me. And the other friend who made me the coat that I wear now. This coat is amazing. The curator from the DW experience loved it. The person who made it should be proud of herself.
Even down to the tattoo artist who worked with me to make my cybermite tattoo come to life.
And that doesn’t even cover the emotional challenges that people help me work through: how hard it is for me to overcome the fear of cameras, the challenge of my body image issues, getting into character, overcoming the severe pain that I am in all the time now, and with this shoot in particular there was the added fear of because of my injury I was terrified that I was going to be unable to move.
Everyone knows how much this character and cosplay means to me. I have lost much in 2017. For a fleeting second, there was the thought that I could lose that too, and that was devastating. And I know there are people that don’t get that Mr. Clever is both my first and last cosplay. It is who I am and I cannot imagine cosplaying as anyone else.
But trolls will be trolls and after battling my own demons and winning, at least this time, I have taken the trash out, and that album is back up. Not just because I need it, or because Mr. Clever is who I am, or because I don’t want to let the haters win, but because all those other people deserve to have their work talked about too.
So the last thing I want to do with this blog is thank (some) of those many people and give everyone who reads this a way to connect with them and make some of that cosplay magic for yourself.
Above photos were taken by the amazing Vignette of
Creative Salem asked me to co-host a cosplay party with them at the gorgeous, historic Hawthorne hotel. What an amazing night. No words for how much fun we had. Its hard for a cosplayer like myself to establish themselves, so to speak, (that is *not* my end game. This is just an observation.) because I do cosplay such an obscure character from well, let’s be honest, a less than well received episode. So to be able to do something like this, and have it be “presented by Mr. Clever” made me so incredibly happy. I hope they do it again!
Lee Roberts aka Mr Clever is a cosplayer and artist from Salem. They are actively involved in the Cosplay is not Consent: Anti-bullying movement as well as being an admin for Boston Whovians.
Their Mr. Clever cosplay has been featured in The Nerdist, The Mary Sue, Nerd Caliber, on BBC America, the BBC affiliate Anglophenia, and was featured in Doctor Who magazine.
Their motto is “Upgrade everyone. Save all the kittens.”
Tell us a little bit about Mr. Clever:
Mr Clever is from the Doctor Who episode “Nightmare in Silver” written by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. He is what happened when the Cyberman tried to take over the Doctor. For those non- Whovians out there, imagine an evil robotic entity that takes over 50% of an alien time traveler’s mind. The beauty and challenge of cosplaying him is that its essentially two characters in one. He was sassy, snarky, manic, manipulative and I adored every second he was on screen.
You’ve become known for cosplaying this character. Why him?
You know this is the one question people ask me the most and I am never 100% sure what to say. There are so many reasons why Mr. Clever clicked with me. I do remember when I first saw Nightmare in Silver, I lost my mind when he first appeared on screen and knew I had to cosplay that character. I loved his personality: snarky, flirty and suave. Maybe its because I have always loved all things robotic. Maybe its because it gave me a chance to make something unique, since I can’t sew which usually is a primary skill as a cosplayer. Maybe its just because he lets me get out of my own way and have fun. I don’t have a solid answer. I had tried other cosplays before and after him, but none of them fit me like he does. When I put on the cyberplanner piece it all just comes together. We just clicked – it was love at first sight.
What does cosplay mean?
Cosplay is hard to define, as it means different things to different people. For myself, I’m not cosplaying unless I am in character, not just in costume. Unless I am Mr. Clever.
But the beauty of cosplay is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. For some people putting on a costume and going out for Halloween is cosplaying, and that is totally ok. It’s the fun, the PLAY part of it that is key for most cosplayers.
Imagine your 10-year-old self all over again. What costume did you want to wear? What character did you want to embody so badly? Wonder women? Gandalf? A ninja Turtle? Its that same passion that makes cosplay fun and rewarding for all ages. Doesn’t matter if you made your costume, bought it at a thrift store or just make props, like me. It’s all about self-expression and fun.
Cosplay is for everyone. And everyone can cosplay.
11th Doctor Funko customized into Mr. Clever (I’m not obsessed or anything) added length to tweed coat/removed front buttons, pockets and elbow patches from tweed/added waistcoat and… Read more “Customized Mr. Clever funko pop”