Posts Tagged ‘Ben Pack’

Radio of the Future

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Dave Pinder, Jr. has created the Bad Friends podcast exclusivly D.I.Y, with his bedroom recording set up consisting of two mics, a couple pair of headphones, a Mac book, and a colorful guests for each episode. Photo on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

Dave Pinder, Jr. has created the Bad Friends podcast exclusivly D.I.Y, with his bedroom recording set up consisting of two mics, a couple pair of headphones, a Mac book, and a colorful guests for each episode. Photo on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

 

By Ben Pack
Photos by Frank Leal

It seems like just yesterday when that one really tech-savvy friend of yours was starting his new “web-log,” or as he called it a blog. Flash forward to today. With the advent of Tumblr and microblogging sites like Twitter, blogging is still around in full force. But what’s the next medium?

The idea of podcasts are nothing new. Radio programs with similar topics and production values have existed for decades. With television putting a serious blow in public radios’ numbers, many thought that these types of shows’ life was nearly over. This was true until the mid-to-late 2000s, when what we know today as podcasts began to manifest.

The term podcast was originally used as a term to refer to a type of RSS catcher that would grab audio interview recordings and play them on a computer. Podcasting has grown quite substantially as a medium. According to Pew Research, in 2009 there were 63,000 English podcasts, and a projected 115,000 in 2012.

San Francisco, being a hub for technology, is unsurprisingly home to an astounding number of podcasts, with higher listener numbers than many major American cities, with several of the top podcasts downloaded originating in San Francisco, including the IGN family of podcasts.

More hardcore podcast listeners spend hours a week with their favorite shows, and even enjoy listening to podcasts more than listening to music or watching television. Sean Wu is one of these listeners.

“I listen to podcasts on my hour-long commute to school,” says Sean. “I don’t mind laughing like an asshole because Muni is miserable enough.” Sean listens to podcasts on his iPhone, opting to download several hour-long episodes a week of his favorite shows for free, rather than music which he would have to pay for.

“I get all these podcasts for free, which is a way better deal than movie or cable prices.”

He would not listen to iPhones if not for his iPhone. Listening on-the-go is crucial for Wu. Pew reports that from 2010 to 2011 the growth of people that listen to podcasts on mobile devices increased by nearly one hundred percent. There are also dozens of third-party apps, both free and paid, that offer podcast downloading and listening features that the standard Apple music player do not.

A Podcast Empire

So with thousands and thousands of podcasts out there, what makes one good? One person who knows a bit about the game is Jesse Thorn is a giant in the podcasting circle. A San Francisco native, Jesse started podcasting after graduating from UCSC in 2004. He was already doing the KCSC college radio show, and had heard from some of his more tech-oriented friends about podcasting

“It sounded like a good way to get a few extra listeners,” says Jesse. “It would probably take me an hour and a half of extra time.”

In 2007 after moving to LA, Jesse received a distribution deal from Public Radio International for his show, “The Sound of Young America,” but the revenue projection was only $8,000 dollars for the first year, and $30,000 after five.

Jesse focus was in public radio, but he also decided to host and help produce a few other shows for what he would go on to call the Maximum Fun network of podcasts, including a podcast version of TSYA, a podcast of his sketch group Kasper Hauser, and Jordan, Jesse, Go!, a comedy podcast with Jesse’s college friend Jordan Morris. Today Maximum Fun hosts over a dozen shows, including the popular advice podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me and Judge John Hodgman, featuring author and television personality John Hodgman.

SF state's Dave Pinder, JR. and childhood friend/ roommate/ podcast brother Ian Saunders, Soph., have created "Bad Friends" a podcast they produce in Dave's bedroom. Bad Friends is a shot at comedy spontaniously, with a friendly guest for each session, such as Helen Shope, Soph. Photo on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

SF state’s Dave Pinder, JR. and childhood friend/ roommate/ podcast brother Ian Saunders, Soph., have created “Bad Friends” a podcast they produce in Dave’s bedroom. Bad Friends is a shot at comedy spontaniously, with a friendly guest for each session, such as Helen Shope, Soph. Photo on Thursday, May 2, 2013.

“All shows from Maximum Fun are funded by listener donations,” Jesse says discussing whether or not he charges for any content. Every year they host a pledge drive, aiming for the goal of 1,000 new donors. They received 1,400 new ones in 2013.

Many people question if radio is the same as podcasting. “At the moment there’s a clear divide, at the moment podcasting is driven by the things that are driven by web media, radio is drove by mass media,” says Jesse.

Jordan, Jesse, Go! is a very personal show. The duo of hosts (usually accompanied by a guest) tell very personal stories. People get to know not only the hosts on a professional level, but also on a very personal level. What Jesse believes one of the key differences that make podcasting stand out from radio are “powerful, personal connections.”

Student Podcasting

The beauty of podcasting lies in the fact that as long as you have a microphone and a computer, you can make a podcast. Take, for example, Joe Fitzgerald. Joe is a reporter for the “Xpress Newspaper,” and host of “Swamp Gas,” an SF State podcast. They have released two episodes and look to release more starting this summer.

“It’s great outlet to release the shackles of journalistic style and have fun, but still be a journalist,” says Joe.

Joe, along with his co-host Brian Rinker, record what it’s like to be an older student at SF State. And by record they mean “be curmudgeonly toward.”

The idea of creating a podcast was just another medium for Joe to explore. He had been the editor on feature length documentary, created short training videos and even teaches in the multimedia department at San Francisco School of Arts

They’ve recorded in many places, including from the back room of the newspaper’s production room, to the campus library. “The intercom would come on in the middle of the best bits, and it ruined everything. Someone suggested we record in a car, but who has a car in San Francisco.”

Joe believes that podcasts do a great job of normalizing people. He’s a fan of podcasts such as Savage Love, Star Talk with Neil DeGrass Tyson (whom Joe refers to as “a total pimp), and This American Life.

It won’t make us rich (but that’s ok)

The question still remains, though, if podcasting is a marketable medium. Aside from a few notable personalities like Jesse, there are few people who make their living from podcasting, and rather treat it as a passion project.

One of the most popular podcast genres is gaming. There are thousands upon thousands of gaming podcasts out there, including the insanely popular Giant Bombcast. The Bombcast started in 2008 (then called the Arrow Pointing Down podcast) after Jeff Gerstmann was fired from his job at Gamespot.com, forming his own blog with former co-worker Ryan Davis. Prior to that, Jeff was on the also super-popular “Hotspott” podcast for Gamespot with Davis as well as several other co-workers who would go onto work at Giantbomb.

Hosted by IGN'S Daemon Hatfield, "Gamescoop!" looks at the ins and outs of videogames from the latest news to the most urgent fan questions to be answered by the highly influential IGN editors and staff writers.

Hosted by IGN’S Daemon Hatfield, “Gamescoop!” looks at the ins and outs of videogames from the latest news to the most urgent fan questions to be answered by the highly influential IGN editors and staff writers.

“We had heard about podcasts and wanted to get into it. There wasn’t anyone getting into game podcasting,” Jeff says in reference to starting the Hotspot in 2005. They received some pushback from corporate. “It took convincing that was a good use of time because Gamespot wasn’t a good use of time.”

Jeff had done some radio work in his youth, but really thought that podcasting had a viable future, especially in the realm of video games.

Now the Bombcast is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes, even snagging the No. 1 one most popular podcast spot briefly in 2013. Jeff shares Jesse’s thoughts on staying connected to the fans.

“There are podcasts out there that are dry fact-based reports. I hate to compare it, but in some ways it’s like morning radio, it has that same sort of stuff,” says Jeff.

While most podcasts range in the hour to 90-minute range, the Bombcast’s weekly show often lasts more than three hours.

“Three hours isn’t right for every podcast or every crew, The number one feedback we get from people is we wish it was longer. The three hour mark lets us say what we need to about games. We don’t think about it, it naturally ends up around that length.”

Jeff said they surprisingly get a lot of feedback from soldiers who cannot access the internet regularly and spend times listening to their show to make up for it.

Still, none of this is directly for profit. “You can’t justify direct monetary results to podcasts. Subscribers sub to support podcasts,” Jeff says. It would be very easy for a man in a suit to walk in and say ‘it’s costing us bandwidth.’”

And the Bombcast certainly does cost bandwidth, with “a few hundred thousand” listeners and three-hour episodes.

Patent Trolls and the Future of Podcasting

Still, someone out there sees the potential value in podcasting, even if they’re doing it in the worst way possible. A Texas-based company called Personal Audio has filed suit against Adam Carolla, as well as sending out several cease-and-desist letters claiming they patented podcasts. The following statement has been issued on their website:

“We invented the technology that enables podcasting back in 1996 as part of an effort to develop a portable and personal audio system that would offer users a customized listening experience using content and data downloaded over the Internet.”

What this means for the podcasting community is unclear. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working on legislation in favor of the S.H.I.E.L.D. act passed, along with support from Mark Cuban. Jesse believes this could be dire for podcasters.

“Recently a group of LA podcasters have been getting together recently to talk about response options. We’re in a very difficult position. Defending against the lawsuit costs between a million and a few million dollars, which is why patent trolling is so effective,” Jesse says.

“It’s a scary situation, a very scary situation.”

Jesse concerned if it comes to the point of having to defend the suit in courts. “There may come a time when we podcasters have to raise a legal defense fund, and I don’t think we desire going directly to the audience.” His business is audience funded, so money given isn’t money donated to creation of our content.

“I’m an NPR affiliated psudo-journalist so I wouldn’t take a stance, but I recommend that people learn about the situation legislatively and contact their representatives.”

Best Hangover Breakfasts

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By Ben Pack
Photos by Frank Leal

You wake up, and through your squinting eyes you remember that it’s Sunday. You try to piece together last night, but somewhere between that second shot of Jager and the AMF you lose it. That doesn’t matter anymore. All that matters now is recovery. Most of society is already up and functioning, so you gather your friends and decide it’s time to go. Where to, you ask? Well we’ve got you covered. We have assembled five of the best hangover breakfasts for you to get set on your day. From greasy, to soupy, to meaty; we’ve got the bases covered. Now hurry, that essay due tomorrow isn’t going to write itself.

 

HRD Coffee Shop is caffenating the SOMA district with freshly brewed coffee and feeding hungry San Franciscans with oddities as their entrees such as the spicy kimchee burrito or BBQ pork scrambled eggs. HRD Coffee shop is located on 3rd street and Bryant. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

HRD Coffee Shop is caffenating the SOMA district with freshly brewed coffee and feeding hungry San Franciscans with oddities as their entrees such as the spicy kimchee burrito or BBQ pork scrambled eggs. HRD Coffee shop is located on 3rd street and Bryant. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

HRD Coffee Shop
521 3rd St

Go here if hungover on: Soju
Suggested Item: Korean Breakfast Cheeseburger $6.50

Let’s be frank. When looking to crush a hangover, you don’t need the classiest establishment around. You just need good food, and HRD has got you covered there. HRD offers both American and Korean options when it comes to getting your morning right. The restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, but don’t let that hack Guy Fieri influence you, it’s actually a great place to eat.

The bright white walls in the front may be a little harsh on your headache, but after you pass through the door you’re immediately hit with the smell of grilled pork products and can move into the much warmer dining space in the back.

The item to get is definitely the Korean Cheeseburger. It’s a delicious burger topped with the traditional mayo, lettuce, and tomato; but also with hash browns, spicy pork, bacon, and a fried egg. These burgers are stacked high and may be a mess to eat, but they will easily crush any residual aches and pains caused by a late night out. And for only $6.50 they’re more than worth it.

Another option worth exploring is the Korean breakfast burrito. A burrito with two scrambled eggs, hash browns, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, spicy pork or chicken, and kimchi all for under $6.

Breakfast is served until 10:30, so if you’re a late riser after drinking it will be a rush to get there in time but it will be oh so worth it.

 

The Shanghai House is the outer Richmonds Chinese food spot. Located on Balboa Street and 28th Avenue, The Shanghai House is offering crowd favorite dumplings and potstickers for San Franciscans to explore. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

The Shanghai House is the outer Richmonds Chinese food spot. Located on Balboa Street and 28th Avenue, The Shanghai House is offering crowd favorite dumplings and potstickers for San Franciscans to explore. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Shanghai House
4052 Balboa

Go here if hungover on: Rice Wine
Suggested Item: Steamed Pork Dumplings 10 for $4.95

If greasy and fatty isn’t your jam when it comes to a hangover cure, why not try Shanghai House. It’s small, fast, and crowded. There’s usually a line out the door, and if you’re whole party isn’t there the efficient (read: fast but really rude) wait staff won’t even acknowledge your existence, so come in one car. That being said once you get in and seat yourselves around the table you will be transported to a world of pure imagination. And dumplings, lots and lots of dumplings.

Shanghai House offers many Americanized Chinese dishes, but you are better off just bypassing all of that and going straight for the dumplings. They only offer pork and vegetarian options for dumplings, but the quality of them makes it easy to polish off ten (or more) by yourself, and it’s worth it at under $5. Another choice, if you’re not in the mood for delicious soup-filled satchels of divinity, is the vegetarian goose, which is actually crispy bean curd stuffed with mushrooms for just over $4.

 

The Boulevard Cafe is the defining line of San Francisco Estalbishments, Sitting conveniently on John Daly Blvd in Daly City. Boulevard is creating delectible traditionally American food, with excellent service and a full bar.

The Boulevard Cafe is the defining line of San Francisco Estalbishments, Sitting conveniently on John Daly Blvd in Daly City. Boulevard is creating delectible traditionally American food, with excellent service and a full bar.

 

Boulevard Café
2 Poncetta Drive (Daly City)

Go here if hungover on: Vodka Redbull
Suggested Item: “The Hangover” $10.50

While just out of the San Francisco City Limits, it’s important to offer at least one choice to our commuting alcoholics, and if you’re coming from Daly City, Boulevard Café is where you want to be. Formerly the Red Roof Café, offers typical diner food at reasonable prices. But you don’t care about that. You want a big plate of greasy, messy food so you can forget about last night when you sang along with Rihanna in the middle of the club. Whatever dude, don’t worry about it, that was awesome. Those girls totally loved it.

If you find your way in this reputable establishment, be sure to go with the appropriately titled “Hangover” plate. Hash browns topped with chili, two eggs, cheese, green onions, jalapenos, tomatoes salsa, and toast. This massive plate costs a mere $10.50, and will not only cure your liquor hangover, it will also put you in a new, arguably less painful food hangover. If you want something a little more traditional you can’t go wrong with their ham and cheese omelette. But get the Hangover, man. It’s called the Hangover!

 

Pork Store Cafe sits off of Haight and Masonic and offers the busy Haight crowd with their version of breakfast offering every itteration of bacon and eggs that can be possible. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Pork Store Cafe sits off of Haight and Masonic and offers the busy Haight crowd with their version of breakfast offering every itteration of bacon and eggs that can be possible. Photo on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Pork Store Café
1451 Haight Street

Go here if hungover on: Microbrews
Suggested Item: Pork Store Special $9.50

When you wake up regretting having one too many, the only cure is meat. Satisfy this craving by paying a visit to the Pork Store Cafe, which specializes in, you guessed it, pork. Whether it be chopped, cutlet-ed, or baconed; Pork Store offers many delicious breakfast options when it comes to pigging out… on pig.

The atmosphere is very homely. You feel like you’re on a country farm with mom in the kitchen, cooking you up something special. Then you look outside and see all the hipster homeless and remember you’re in the Haight.

If you want to shed your mortal coil and transcend into a pork-fuled Nirvana, the Pork Store Special is for you. The plate is two of their signature pork chops, coupled with two eggs, hash browns, and a biscuit or toast. Another choice dish is the chicken fried steak. And if you’re a vegetarian, I’m sure you could get toast or something. But go home, you’re ruining everyone’s fun.

 

Sea Breeze Cafe is nestled in the outer sunset, off of Judah and 45th street. Offering a blend of classic American comfort foods with their own blend of subtle fusions from their chipotle eggs benedict al the way to dinner plates including their own rendition of Mamas meatloaf.

Sea Breeze Cafe is nestled in the outer sunset, off of Judah and 45th street. Offering a blend of classic American comfort foods with their own blend of subtle fusions from their chipotle eggs benedict al the way to dinner plates including their own rendition of Mamas meatloaf.

Sea Breeze Café
3940 Judah St

Go here if hungover on: Rum
Suggested Item: Chipotle Benedict $9.95

Why not wash away your nausea after a night full of pillaging with the salty sting of the sea. Located blocks from the beach, the Sea Breeze Cafe offers an extensive menu of breakfast options, as well as lunch and dinner. But you’re not there for that. You’re there because you need to get something in you to soak up last night’s sorrows.

The “house favorite” Chipotle Benedict will also be your new favorite. The special is the pretty straightforward: poached eggs and canadian bacon on an english muffin coated in a chipotle sauce. Let the spice wash away the residual taste of alcohol as you enjoy this spin on a traditional breakfast. Since you’re right there anyway, Sea Breeze offers plenty of seafood options, including a salmon fillet over eggs, if you want to be healthy or whatever.

VTieman_BenPack_001

What Makes Big Ben Tick

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Words: Ben Pack
Photos: Virginia Tieman

When I woke up on October 10th I wondered two things. If the Giants had avoided elimination against the Reds, and why my room was so damn hot. A nurse walked in and I slowly realized I wasn’t in my converted half-living-room in Park Merced on my lumpy mattress, but instead in a bed at Kaiser’s main hospital. I then thought back to the last thing I could remember, a young male nurse named Javier who had shaved me from neck to toe. This was not elective, but rather in preparation for my surgery. My open heart surgery.

Let me start at the beginning, which isn’t all that long ago. Since December of 2011 I had been on a strict diet and exercise routine, which resulted in me losing a lot of weight. Being a healthy young 22-year-old I figured it had been a while since I had had a physical so I scheduled one to talk about this crazy new body I had. After waiting a month for the appointment, as well as an additional two hours in the hospital waiting room, I was ready for the doctor to give me a clean bill of health and a lollipop when he took one last listen to my chest. Except that wasn’t meant to be.

With a semi worried look, Dr. Farrow told me he had detected a heart murmur. One thing lead to another, and before I knew it, a very nice mom-like cardiologist was telling me I was a walking heart attack, and I needed surgery as soon as possible. I was shocked. My mom wept and my dad was confused. It was just like one of the Pack family road trips.

The cardiologist told me I probably have Marfan Syndrome. It is a disease of the connective tissue that mostly affects the unusually tall, and according to my geneticist, “the most serious complications are defects of the heart valves and aorta,” of which I found out that day, I had both. This disorder put me in the company of a very mixed crowd, as the two other men famous for having Marfans are Abraham Lincoln and Osama Bin Laden.

I needed my heart’s aortic valve replaced with one made out of synthetic materials and my aortic root repaired. My aortic valve had a “mild aneurysm,” which also let me know there is something called a “mild” aneurysm. My aortic root was three times too big. I was the Grinch at the end of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The doctors were going to cool my body temperature to 53 degrees, manually stopping my heart and lungs from functioning and hooking me up to the “heart lung machine.” Then they would crack open my ribcage, and start carving up my heart like a butcher getting a prime cut of meat, making me some sort of cow. That’s actually not too far from the truth, as they would then use part of a cow’s heart to repair my aortic root. They would then replace my old valve with one made of hard plastics, which they said would last 250 years, but produce an audible tick every time my heart beats, not unlike one you would hear in a watch. As if people didn’t already have enough ammunition to compare me to a certain clock tower in London.

The gravity of the situation never really set in, even until the surgery. I think it was one part shock, but I also like to think that I was able to accept that this was just another stage in my life that I had no control over. I was honestly more upset that I had to cancel my plans to get wasted that weekend in Reno.

Nine days after the appointment, I was ready. After spending the previous night with my family, I made my way to the hospital. They asked me dozens of questions, but I had all the answers already. Like someone who was certain they already knew what they wanted on their sandwich at Subway.

“Do you know what you’re here for?” Yes.

“Do you need spiritual guidance?” No.

“Do you have someone who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself?” Yes.

“Are you ready?”

After the pre surgery preparations, I was apparently visited by my parents one more time. This was after some anesthesia was administered to me. I don’t remember the conversation I had with them, but apparently I told my parents I was “hydrodynamic” (probably due to the shaving). Then I was off to the operating table.

The hospital room was too nice. It was too white, too clean, and smelled too good. Hospitals always smell too good for what is going on in them. They’re also always too bright. Everything from blinding ceiling lights to the piercing glow of the monitors in the middle of the night make sure you always see where you are. It becomes in a way a prison, complete with three awful meals served to you every day.

I had three roommates and and a 13 inch tv to keep me company. One of them was another twenty-something, which is unusual for the heart clinic and all the nurses made sure to tell us that every day. The nurses were great for the most part. The better ones included motherly and fatherly Gretchen and Paul in the daytime, who like my real parents, gave me a lot of advice that I never listened to which would come back to bite me in the ass. There was also Darren at night, who couldn’t have been five years older than me. Our conversations varied from talking about getting drunk at 49er games, to hot nurses. It was a helpful distraction.

After spending eight days in the hospital I was sent home to my parent’s place. The hardest thing to deal with were the mood swings. I would be feeling the best I’ve ever felt to the worst in a matter of seconds. I was told that the Oxy I was on would do that. I wasn’t told about the super surreal and terrifying dreams, or the intense feelings of deja-vu that would shock me to my core and convince me that I was going insane. I remember one time in specific where I had an especially stirring case of deja-vu. I decided to Google “deja-vu after surgery,” only to find that the first four links on my computer had already been clicked.

In this college lifestyle of drugs, binge drinking and general YOLO attitude, it’s uncommon to really face one’s own mortality. And even though I “only” had a 5% chance of dying (and a “much higher” chance of a major complication), I had the pleasure of having the constant nagging presence in the back of my mind that I might not live to see 23.

But, not to ruin the end of the story, I did. Now my future is uncertain and I have new things to worry about. My days of heavy drinking are over thanks to Coumadin (a form of rat poison that doubles as a blood thinner). I can’t skydive or lift tremendously heavy objects, and, maybe worst of all I can’t ever over indulge in salad because leafy greens contain vitamin K, a blood coagulant.

As I sit here writing I realize that I notice almost no trace of the surgery. Aside from the 20 inch scar on my chest, the container full of rat poison that I have to take every night and the constant audible tick of my new heart, it almost seems like it never happened.

Except it totally did. I survived heart surgery, you guys.


cosplay - featured image

Not Playing Dress-Up

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Lindsey Brophy and Sean Lee display their hand-made cosplay outfits in thier forest hill home in San Francisco. The outfits made to look like outfits from a music video by Japanese pop star Kyary Pamyu, with surrealistic and colorful visuals. Photo by John Ornelas

Words: Ben Pack
Photos: Melissa Burman & John Ornelas

The massive crowd is buzzing. The sun is beating down on the concrete courtyard. In one corner sits a small group of ninjas-in-training. They size up the crowd as their metallic headbands glisten. Across the way, stands a troupe of elite robotic soldiers, armed with high-tech laser weaponry. Their red-white and blue-clad leader stands fast, surveying the area. Near them waits an anthropomorphic hedgehog, whose love of going fast is only rivaled by his love for chili dogs.
Scattered around there are beings ranging from human to alien to machine, and some are a mix of all three. There are mercenaries, scientists, mech pilots, lawyers; all eyeing up the competition. This is not a scene from a seventh grader’s history binder, rather these are real people. This isn’t some mystical land, but instead it is San Jose. These are not actors, these are cosplayers.

This scene was months in the making. A look into a cosplayer’s living room reveals the laborious process that is cosplay costume making. Fabric trimmings, chip bags, a disembodied lion head, and wigs are strewn about the room. In the middle of this whirlwind of odds and ends, Lindsey Brophy stands, in this living-room-turned-costume-workshop, working on a strange and cartoonish top. It features gigantic, circular shoulder pads and large eyelashes that are affixed to the breasts, making them look like eyes.

Sean Lee, her boyfriend, is hard at work coating foam balls with resin. After letting them dry and set, he sands them down into fine, smooth spheres which will be attached to form a decorative neck tassel. After all the hard work is complete, the pair will arrive in costume (and character) to an upcoming anime convention. This is the level of their fanaticism.

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