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January 21, 2018

Comic-Con in London: a helluva costume drama

People want different things from costumes, I realised, at the Comic-Con convention at London’s Excel. Some people just want to show you their washboard stomach, and will dress up as any character that typically wears a short shirt. Some are transfixed by detail, and will spend three hours on a realistic wound or some nose shading.

Others still are trying to animate a character, drag Poison Ivy into real life with careful attention to the bodice she might wear and the facial expressions she would be likely to make. Some just want to carry a fake gun.

The variety is wide, with one pretty significant uniting feature: they all really like dressing up. Although you can’t call it dressing up when you’re an adult. This is cosplay.

Sunny Strike as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty Warriors at Comic-Con in London.
Sunny Strike as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty ­Warriors. All photographs: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The main sources for costumes are video games, cartoons, Japanese anime (like cartoons, except taken more seriously) and comics. Sunny Strike, 18, is dressed as Xiao Qiao from Dynasty Warriors, “a game based on the Chinese war”, he explained carefully, “that took place in history”.

He loves this game. “It creates this comfort zone where it’s just you, you’re in this entire world, you don’t have to think about your problems, but sometimes you find the answers to your problems inside the game.”

Ros (left) and Liam as Lady Hulk and Hulk from Resident Evil at Comic-Con in London.
Ros (left) and Liam as Lady Hulk and Hulk from Resident Evil.

Ros, 32 and Liam, 38, have come as Hulk and Lady Hulk from Resident Evil. I can’t imagine how many life problems you could solve from inside Resident Evil. At home they play the game for maybe 15 hours a week; discuss it when they’re not playing it; dream about it. That’s what Ros says, anyway.

Liam I can’t hear at all, through his gas mask with the reflective red eyes. These two are quite unsettling to look at, but I didn’t scream out loud until I met a Swedish guy with contact lenses that made his eyes look like they were swimming with blood.

“This is not a big thing for me,” Kris Resin, 29, said, from beneath a long black wig, his maroon satin suit so tight I could tell you the model of his iPhone. “I’ve come over from Sweden, this is just a fun thing to do with my pals.”

Michael Compitus as Barry Burton from Resident Evil at Comic-Con in London.
Michael Compitus as Barry Burton from Resident Evil.

Michael Compitus is with the Resident Evil lot, dressed as Barry Burton, a character about whom he doesn’t know a huge amount; he chose the character for the gun.

These games generate huge merchandise markets. Maybe everybody else already knew that. “I only change into this once I’ve arrived,” says Compitus. “From what we know of the New York Comic-Con, there was a lot of confiscation of weapons. It’s fine for the Disney princesses. They’re not generally coming as Elsa or Snow White with an M16.” Yeah. Princesses get all the breaks.

Rik Booker, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey dressed as Gothic Lolita, Doctor Who and Rose Tyler respectively at Comic-Con in London.
Rik Booker, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey dressed as Gothic Lolita, Doctor Who and Rose Tyler respectively.

Rik Booker is a 27-year-old Gothic Lolita, which is more of a Japanese fashion trend than an actual character. He looks exquisite, like a young Grayson Perry. His friends here, Roxas Strife and TJ Bailey, are the Doctor and Rose Tyler, respectively. I ask him what his other friends, the ones who aren’t here, think of cosplay. “I don’t really have any other friends,” he says, delighted.

A bit later, Sarah, who is a zombie with her boyfriend, Tom, and his flatmate, Sam, says: “I can come here once a year and feel actually normal.”

Emily Birch as Poison Ivy at Comic-Con in London.
Emily Birch as Poison Ivy.

Emily Birch, who is Poison Ivy, says: “Personally, I find it hard to meet people. You take yourself completely out of context, you’re in a costume that makes you happy, people appreciate you for the effort you’ve put into it. I love it.”

Everybody is open, and open-hearted. They all claim to be misfits or oddballs or geeks; they all come across as people who could walk into any room and take it. I feel like they’re saying it as a favour to me, because if I had any idea how great they truly were, I’d feel bad. In my scarf. With my flat, brown hair.

Birch then explains to me the two different readings of Adventure Time, and describes how she made her hair when she dressed as Princess Bubblegum. Fan conversations, deeply shared enthusiasms, are very intimate. I notice that today for the first time, which I suppose is because there just aren’t that many things I like.

Eleanor Herbert and Katie Hopplewell at Comic-Con in London.
Eleanor Herbert and Katie Hopplewell.

With Strike, though he only met them for the first time this morning, are two stepsisters, Eleanor Herbert (“I’m nobody,” she says modestly of her wings. “I’m just a regular demon”), 16, and Katie Hopplewell, also 16 (“It’s really quite crazy that you could wear something at school and get loads of comments about it, whereas here, it’s normal to wear wings.”)

“We’ve made so many friends,” says Herbert. “Lifelong friends,” agrees Hopplewell. Are they really talking about each other? The thought makes my eyes prick, sentimentally. They’ve only lived together six months. What do their parents think, I wonder … “Isn’t it great that they share this interest?” or “WHY ARE THEY WEARING WINGS?”

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Comic-Con in London: a helluva costume drama

Boston enlists goats to combat poison ivy – News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

The city of Boston is enlisting goats to combat poison ivy and other invasive plants in a city park.The city of Boston is enlisting goats to combat poison ivy and other invasive plants in a city park.

BOSTON –

Boston is enlisting goats to combat poison ivy and other invasive plants in a city park.

On Wednesday, four goats began their eight-week stay at an “urban wild” along the Neponset River in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

The goats are expected to feed on poison ivy, buckthorn, Japanese knotweed, and other invasive plant species.

Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration says the public can view the goats, which will be housed behind a low-voltage, solar-powered electric fence to keep coyotes out. But city officials warn visitors should not pet the animals since they will likely have poison ivy oils on their fur.

The city says “goatscaping” is currently used on Boston’s Harbor Islands as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Credit: 

Boston enlists goats to combat poison ivy – News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Boston Enlists Goats To Combat Poison Ivy

BOSTON — Boston is enlisting goats to combat poison ivy and other invasive plants in a city park.

On Wednesday, four goats began their eight-week stay at an “urban wild” along the Neponset River in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

The goats are expected to feed on poison ivy, buckthorn, Japanese knotweed, and other invasive plant species.

Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration says the public can view the goats, which will be housed behind a low-voltage, solar-powered electric fence to keep coyotes out. But city officials warn visitors should not pet the animals since they will likely have poison ivy oils on their fur.

The city says “goatscaping” is currently used on Boston’s Harbor Islands as well as in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

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Boston Enlists Goats To Combat Poison Ivy

Volunteers to maintain Lancaster County park trail with no weed-killers or pesticides

They don’t want chemical weedkillers to be used in parks where kids and adults frolic, so a new group of local volunteers is taking matters into their own hands.

With hoes, saws, gloves and elbow grease, they are going to naturally maintain a section of trail in Lancaster County Central Park, keeping it free of noxious and invasive plants such as poison ivy and garlic mustard.

Poison-Free Public Spaces Lancaster is the group behind the chemical-free effort, which it hopes is adopted by other public parks in Lancaster County.

“This is a test plot, to see how wildlands can become poison-free,” said Wilson Alvarez, a leader of the group, of the Central Park trail section.

The group grew out of a recent visit Alvarez and his family made to their favorite part of the county’s Central Park, a 544-acre plot dotted with pavilions and looped by trails that is located south of Lancaster.

The family likes to frequent the area near Pavilion 21 and walk the Mill Creek Trail, where Alvarez said there are some rare and beautiful plants such as dwarf ginseng and putty root.

“The day before I had gone for a run and saw plants that looked really yellow along the trail,” Alvarez said. “The next day, I said, ‘Let’s go take a walk,’ and everything was completely dead.”

Alvarez said he and his wife, Natasha, are both experienced landscapers. They knew that someone had used a chemical weedkiller on the trail’s margins.

Upset, Alvarez called Paul Weiss, county parks head, to ask him about it.

Weiss acknowledged that the area along the trail had been sprayed, by someone certified to do so, who used state-approved chemicals.

County parks employees do use chemicals to control invasive plants, such as Japanese honeysuckle and tree of heaven, and noxious plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy and stinging nettles, Weiss said.

The employees oversee 2,080 acres of land in nine parks. The county simply does not have the manpower to maintain all of that land naturally, by hand.

But Alvarez asked for the chance to try the natural approach, and Weiss agreed.

The Poison-Free group formed, launched a Facebook page and began to meet and organize, gathering at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, near Pavilion 21. It has about 25 active members.

Alvarez said he hopes to not only control the noxious plants along about a 2-mile stretch of the trail, but also to remove invasive plants, such as garlic mustard, that grow in the area.

He wants to be careful about how the plants are managed, not pulling them when they are going to seed, which can help them spread.

Instead, in the spring, he envisions a workshop where people could pull out and learn how to use garlic mustard, which he said is both delicious and nutritious.

He also envisions replacing noxious or invasive plants with better alternatives. The group is inventorying the plants and trees in the area, and will submit a list to the county parks department for approval of possible replacements.

Those plants will include wild ginger, spice bushes and other native plants or shrubs, Alvarez said. Because it is operating on a shoestring budget, the group may transplant replacements from other areas of the park or grow them from cuttings.

Alvarez praised the county parks staff for being willing to work with his group.

Weiss said, “It’s a very labor-intensive way of trying to control weeds of that nature. They want to demonstrate it can be done as easily as spraying. … We certainly are willing to give them a try.”

The Poison-Free group also plans to call officials for every park in the area, asking them about their policies on and use of herbicides.

The group will provide the parks with pamphlets and information that show how natural plant management is being done in other areas of the country, particularly the Northwest.

Poison-Free also is keeping records of the hours that its volunteers work, so other parks can see that it might be feasible to actually pay people to do the work.

“I just want to be able to educate the public,” Alvarez said. “Why are they using poisons? Do they have to? What are the alternatives to it? We are concerned about the long-term effects.”

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Volunteers to maintain Lancaster County park trail with no weed-killers or pesticides

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