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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ten Bucket List Items to Cross Off at Comicpalooza 2016 #CPHOU


I can't believe it's already been a year since I attended my first Comicpalooza convention. As a newcomer to the comic convention scene, I had little idea of what to expect. I knew I would have the opportunity to mark meeting a couple of people off my bucket list (George Takei and astronaut Stan Love, who turned out to be one of the coolest people I've met so far), but I didn't know just how much else I could do. To save you from the same uncertainty, I've created this list of 10 bucket list items you can cross off at Comicpalooza 2016. 
Comicpalooza tickets and passes can be purchased here

**This is a sponsored post, however all thoughts and opinions are my own. I have received 3 day Comicpalooza passes in exchange for my participation.

Please note - guest and panel information is subject to change. Please check the Comicpalooza schedule.**

1. Meet a Celebrity - Oh boy will this be a great year to do that! With an incredible list of talent such as Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Norman Reedus, Kate Beckinsale, Eliza Dushku, Sean Patrick Flanery, Carl Weathers, Lennie James, Lou Ferrigno, Tara Reid, David Prowse and Peter Mayhew (Darth Vader and Chewbacca!), and many more with more announcements on the way, you would have to walk around with your eyes closed to not spot some serious talent in your midst. If you want to meet them, you'll need to purchase a photo opexperience pass, and/or autograph ticket  Prices vary by entertainer. With the bigger names you'll need to purchase your autograph/photo passes ahead of time, but with most you just walk right up to their tables and purchase there.

2. Be a Hero/Villain- I was pleasantly surprised at how many adults I saw walking around in costume last year. It was like the second Halloween I had been asking the Universe for since I was 5. It was clear some had spent hundreds or even thousands on their elaborate cosplay outfits, but many had gone with more budget friendly options. I will be cosplaying for the first time this year myself, as video game adventure seeker Lara Croft.
These were the droids I was looking for!

3. Learn a New Skill - Drawing, belly dancing, origami, sewing, photography, makeup application, website creation, lego building, gaming, and costume design are some of the new skills you can learn at Comicpalooza. 

4. Hone your craft - Budding actors, authors, directors, YouTube stars, comic book creators, prop builders, robotics engineers, podcasters, and voice actors - get one step closer to achieving your dream. The pros will be holding worships at various times to give you advice on the job of your dreams. 

5. Be a Paranormal Investigator - A big highlight of 2015 for me was meeting the Pasadena Paranormal Research Team at Comicpalooza where they had a booth set up, and joining an actual ghost hunt with them a couple of weeks later. I had been trying to mark that item off my bucket list for years! And you will have a chance to do some ghost busting yourself. Join my friends at PRT in panel room 11 at 7pm Saturday to learn more about paranormal research, then follow them out to Discovery Green park to take part in an actual investigation. Check the schedule for more fun paranormal research panels also! 
Myself and members of Pasadena PRT last June

6. Attend a fashion show - Not just any fashion show, but a J-fashion show. Fashion artists from Baby, the Stars Shine Bright will be presenting the latest Harajuku and Lolita trends from Japan Friday June 17th at 7pm on the fashion runway. There will also be panels you can attend to learn more about this fashion style throughout the weekend. 
Photo of Rin Chan used with permission from Comicpalooza. 

7. NASA - Most Houstonians know that one of the best bucket list items around is NASA. If you grew up here you've probably taken  field trip to Space Center Houston a time or two. Now you can kick it up a notch. Guest Shannon Walker, who was on the ISS Expedition 14 crew, and spent 215 days in space in 2006-2007, and also was co-pilot of Russian soyuz spacecraft in 2010 will be in attendance this year. The Mars rover will also be there to get your picture taken with, and learn more about. Celebrities are great and all, but you just can't beat the cool factor of someone who has been to outer space, and a machine that is going to Mars!
 Meeting astronaut Stan Love last year at Comicpalooza. Photo used with permission from Comicpalooza.

8. Learn Quidditch - Harry Potter fans, not only can you watch a match of every wizard's favorite sport, you can learn how to play! Just follow the golden snitch to the sports arena at the scheduled times, and you'll be well on your way to winning the next Quidditch World Cup.

9. RHPS - You may have seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show on TV, but you haven't gotten the real experience until you've watched it on the big screen with other Rocky fans and a shadow cast. So, come up to the lab (panel room 16), and see what's on the slab Saturday June 18tg, 10pm-11:55pm. 

10. Be a Sword Fighter - For the past five years ARMA (Houston's chapter of the Association of Renaissance Martial Arts) has offered mini lessons and demonstrations on sword fighting. Last year I was nursing a shoulder injury, but I'm going to let my inner Brienne of Tarth out this go round.

 It's hard to keep track of everything, but fortunately the Comicpalooza app (available in the app store and Google Play ) outlines the schedules, maps, and activities, even alerting you ahead of time so you don't miss a thing.

Join the Comicpalooza Twitter party June 2nd 7-9pm CST for your chance to win passes. Use the hashtag #CPHOU and follow @comicpalooza, @newcreate_write, @moneysvgparent, and me, @MarshaKRoberts to get in on the fun.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I ain't afraid of no ghosts!

Awhile back I had the pleasure of marking off one of the cooler items off my bucket list, hang out with paranormal investigators for a night. I met Kristen at Comicpalooza at the Pasadena Paranornal Investigators Team (Pasadena PRT for short) booth they had set up. I told her about my bucket list and how I wanted to hang out for them one night, and asked if she ever let people follow along. She said they hadn't, but would be happy to help me mark it off my list. I took one of their business cards and contacted her a few days later. She informed me of an investigation they had coming up and invite me to join.

That investigation took place Saturday night. My husband and I met up with the Pasadena PRT team at a deli beforehand, and I got to know the rest of the team and talk to them a bit about why I was there. I was a bit nervous but the team members were incredibly friendly, and made me feel like we were a regular part of the group immediately. Do you ever have the feeling when you are introduced to new people that you are good friends even though you don't know them at all? That is the feeling my husband and I got with this crew. One of the team members, Katrina, is a spiritual medium. We spoke about experiences she'd had, her abilities and a bit about myself. In the course of the conversation she said that she was seeing blue drapes, floor length, swaying in the wind. I don't have any drapes so I sort of dismissed it and moved on. Kristen and the others warned me repeatedly that the chances of picking up any activity that night with very slim and I should not expect anything out of the ordinary to occur. We would probably spend a few hours watching monitors and talking to thin air, and that would probably be that. I wasn't deterred though and assured them I understood. After all, I wanted a real experience and not the hyped up reality tv show version. 

After getting to know everyone and sharing a few creepy experiences of my own with them, we headed out to the site. We met up in front of the home and spoke to the homeowner's son, who had initiated the investigation. I hung back and observed as he explained to the team about a presence they felt in the hallway that would enter one of the bedrooms, stand at the foot of the bed,  and eventually leave. One night a friend of the homeowner was staying the night and was awakened by something pounding on the bed. The son had heard coughing sounds when no one was home. The team asked several questions about how long the activity had been going on, where the hot spots were, about the previous owners, and everything else they needed to know before they entered. Katrina, the medium, hung back so as not to let the info the homeowners were giving influence what she was receiving through her abilities. 
Before we entered the group stood in a circle and a prayer was said to protect everyone from what might be inside and so we didn't have any unwanted ghost friends following us back home. Then we all grabbed some equipment and headed inside. Team members scurried around hooking up cables, setting up cameras and monitors and running wires from one thing to another. A few of us followed the homeowner into the bedroom, and I immediately saw a set of floor length blue drapes swaying from the fan blowing on them. My husband turned to Katrina, who hadn't seen them yet, and said "well, there's your drapes!"
Back in the living room Katrina took out a pair of dowsing rods, which I had seen on TV but never in person. No matter which way she moved, the rods would gradually move to point to a music stand in the corner of the room. Noticing the delight in my face she offered them to me. Well, I thought, let's see about all this. I loosely held the rods in my hand and kept still. With amazement I witnessed them point to the same area they had for her. Not only did I have proof she wasn't moving them, I discovered it's pretty much impossible to move them due to how they are designed. Fascinating! 
The next thing I got to play with (and I say play loosely as this is actual paranormal surveillance equipment and not toys), was a K2 meter. If an energy field is detected, lights will flash. You can communicate with spirits this way asking yes or no questions. One of the team members, Keith, handed me one and told me to go see if I could get anything. Try as I might though, I didn't capture anything notable. 
I followed Katrina back into the bedroom where the homeowner was putting on her shoes. Katrina was holding the dowsing rods and we observed as the rods followed the homeowner everywhere she went. The belief amongst the family who lived there was that the previous owners' elderly mother who had died inside the house was still lingering, checking in on her family. Katrina, however, looked at me and said (after the owner had exited the room) that she believed the presence was not the former owners mother, but a relative or relatives of the owner herself. She was also picking up a lung issue and kidney pain that may be related to alcohol. 
I left Katrina and went to the living room with my husband and team leader Kristen was setting up a few gadgets to see if we could make contact with a presence that had been caught in that room by the owners security camera. Kristen let the spirit know he or she could communicate by either lighting the lights on the K2, making the flashlight blink, or speaking into a device that turns energy into audible words. Kristen began asking a series of questions and soon a series of words came from the device. Comfortable. (Yes we were comfortable) Batteries. (Sure you can use the energy from the batteries. We brought spares) Baby. (What?) 
I heard from team members in the kitchen that they were catching some orb activity on the screen. I joined Rody and Chris (an admitted skeptic) for a closer look. Immediately I saw hundreds of orbs floating all over the place. I asked Chris, what are all these? He said if one believes in ghosts then they're ghosts. But really it's just dust particles. Bummer. Rody showed me that the dust particles float in a similar way, but if you look closely, every now and then something different would float by. A lit up circle, with a different mass and flight pattern. One that didn't move with the air conditioning, that defied gravity. I began to pick them out from the rest. Chris was sitting alone in the dark in the bedroom with a handheld recorder, and we watched as one of the lit circles flew into his shoulder. At once we see him move and he shouts that something just touched him. A bit later we meet him outside and he plays back the recording. He says "are you here?" there's a pause, then plain as day you can hear a voice say "yeah". I know he was alone in that room because I had been watching him on the monitors. Goosebumps!
Although a lot of the time spent doing a paranormal investigation seems to be sitting in the dark, waiting, listening, and watching monitors, I couldn't have spent that time with better people. I'm proud to call the members of Pasadena PRT my friends now, and I hope they will allow me to tag along again with them in the future.