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Arts & Entertainment

Anime Expo and National Stereoscopic Association come to town, and nerds are now kings

1953: Vivien Leigh and the world's fanciest red/blue 3-D glasses, reportedly purchased in Paris.
1953: Vivien Leigh and the world's fanciest red/blue 3-D glasses, reportedly purchased in Paris.
LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner collection

In Southern California in July, there are two gatherings of populations formerly shunned, regarded as dorks, and snickered at in 5th grade. To paraphrase Darth Vader, “Now, they are the masters.”

This weekend at the LA Convention Center, Anime Expo will be drawing tens of thousands of (mostly) young people who love anime and manga (Japanese cartoons and comic books). Years ago, this was a niche market in the US. Now, it’s half-a-billion dollars a year. Nothing to laugh at there.

When Off-Ramp toured the convention a few years ago, the highlight was a mom who spent her own birthday at Anime Expo with her daughter. She told us she liked the values of the characters, and thought her church-school’s reactionary stance against anime and manga was ridiculous.

Then, from July 25-30 in Costa Mesa, it’s the National Stereoscopic Association’s 2012 convention, which only comes to Southern California every dozen years or so, according to Barry Rothstein, an expert in stereo photography and a friend of Off-Ramp.

Barry writes, “It will be an interesting mix, combining the traditional old stereo card collectors with the newer high-end digital movie makers and equipment guys. Should be a great event with lots of workshops, stereo theatre, product showcases, trade fair, etc.”  These were the folks who used to struggle to get theatres to do revivals of 3-D movies whose 3-D effects were spotty even when the projectors worked right and you were sitting in exactly the right spot in the theatre. Or, they dealt with imperfect still photography technology. Now, every major movie comes out in 3-D, and the technology for movies and stills has reached a point people only dreamed about twenty years ago.

Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, is a huge 3-D enthusiast, and in 2010 told Off-Ramp about restoring historical stereo photos of a British village. He’s giving a "Brief History of 3-D" Saturday, July 28, at the convention.

Our photo is of Vivien Leigh in 1953, carrying the damn fanciest 3-D glasses we’ve ever seen, red/blue lorgnettes reportedly purchased in Paris. The caption reads, “She arrived here by plane today for starring role with Dana Andrews and Peter Finch in Paramount's ‘Elephant Walk.’ She'll use lorgnette to look at new three-dimension films. Andrews and Finch accompanied her. She has been on location in Ceylon. Husband, Sir Laurence Olivier, will join her soon."

We hope you get a chance to check out both of these gatherings, and will report back to us about your experiences with an email to