In Defense of Fanfiction

ffictionhead

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: DURING MY TIME OUT OF COURT, I GOT A SUBJECT REQUEST!!

This is my first real client! And like all lawyers when they accept a case, I screamed “OMG!!!!” and updated my diary. Next thing I know, I’ll be filing subpoenas and drafting up wills! Awwwwww yeah, knew I was ready for this shit! BRANG. IT. AWN.

“I was curious to see how you would handle FANFICTION,” my friend calmly typed before the sudden and understandable ALLCAP SCREAM. “Especially with such gems as Rekka no Badass.”

I always knew my first real client would include screaming and the word “badass.”

lady-justice copy

BA and blind.

Before we get into my confusing main example, let me briefly explain fanfiction: Shit. Also, poorly-constructed fan creations using popular characters or stories, shared online and derided by millions.

But yeah… Shit.

Rekka no Badass is a fanfiction about Fire Emblem, an old Gameboy Advance game. In Japanese, the game’s titled Rekka no Ken, hence the disjointed jumble of portmanteau titling. Either that or all people named Ken are badasses.

But logistics aren’t important. Not when author sadal suud outwrites Hemingway. Here’s an excerpt…

(Eliwood) worked in silence on the top of the highest mountain in the world, his concentration so extreme it was like a gay monk and hardass mercenary had babies. That extreme. His knitting rapiers dueled each other desperately, throwing their long, hard forms against each other again and again and again, growing moist with the sweat of Eliwood’s hands…

AND IN THE MEANTIME.

The codpiece was completed!

In his ecstasy Eliwood punched the universe in half.

Codpiece enthusiast

Eliwood: Codpiece enthusiast.

With this example, I run into a problem.

I don’t normally start with the precipice of an argument, but this is clearly the best fanfiction ever created. The entire genre has been validated. Without hyperbole, Rekka no Badass is the greatest creation of the human race.

However, last week I alluded to another fanfiction. And unfortunately, the Twilight-inspired Fifty Shades of Grey puts us back at a solid zero. When I add in the other fan porn, we descend to rock bottom.

Oh, did I not mention that a lot of fanfiction is sexual? Cause yeah…

Eliwood put on his shiny new codpiece. It sparkled in the reddish-burgundy light. In order to activate it, he hip-thrusted the sound barrier to oblivion, and immediately proceeded to dry-hump the ever-loving shit out of Lady Lyndis, for it is not really sex if all the clothes are on, and only a true badass waits for marriage.

Lyndis: To be fair, wouldn't we all?

Lyndis: To be fair, wouldn’t we all?

See, there’s two main grievances people have with fanfiction. One’s the piss-poor quality. The second is constant teenage-level perversion. And nothing illustrates both better than (oh lord NOT AGAIN) Fifty Shades of Grey. Or, as it was known in the fanfiction community, Master of the Universe.

Here’s an excerpt of the original source, written by the incomparable Snowqueens Icedragon (now known as the far-less-awesome E. L. James):

The doors open and I hurry in… desperate to escape… I really need to get out of here. I turn to look at him and he‘s leaning against the doorway beside the lift, one hand on the wall… he really is very, very good looking… it‘s distracting. His burning green eyes gaze at me… “Isabella…” he says as a farewell. “Edward…” I reply and mercifully the doors close.

… … … … … … … Really, Snowqueens?

ellipsis

An Icedragon’s worst enemy.

And here’s 50 Shades, by E. L. James (she should’ve kept Snowqueens Icedragon):

The doors open, and I hurry in desperate to escape. I really need to get out of here. When I turn to look at him, he’s leaning against the doorway beside the elevator with one hand on the wall. He really is very, very good-looking. It’s distracting. His burning gray eyes gaze at me. “Anastasia,” he says as a farewell. “Christian,” I reply. And mercifully, the doors close.

See what good an editor can do? Mrs. Icedragon put her story through a publishing house, had it edited, and now it’s cured of being a complete mess of dots and long pauses. Quality goes up with good editing. But since we can’t all have the opportunity of Snowqueens, how do we validate fanfiction? How do we defend unedited mayhem comprised of non sequitur and horniness?

Well, it’s actually even simpler than knitting a codpiece or whipping your lover.

Remind me when the movie comes out. Future client alert.

An Snowqueen’s best friend.

In a post for badreputation.org, guest blogger Nat Guest defended fanfiction. Guest actively authors the stuff, and admits the community is “the home of squeeing fangirls high on sugar and manga, or else of hopeless deviants: furries, kink-seekers and the downright filthy.”

She said it, not me…

"An ellipsis! NOT AN ELLIPSIS!"

“AAAH!”

But really, the sexuality is not hard to defend. It helps mostly female fanfiction authors deal with pubescence.

“Out in the real world, it’s difficult to own our own sexuality,” Guest writes. “There’s simply no room for shades of grey. You’re either frigid or a slut; you’re either straight or gay; your sexuality and identity is whatever people perceive when they look at you. But within the fanfiction community, away from the patriarchal mainstream, we can discover and explore how we feel about our own sexual and gender and personal identity…. Through the medium of fandom, we can find out who we are, and what we like, and how we feel, all through just reading stories together. And then hopefully – eventually – we get to write our own story.”

Which is surprisingly similar to my defense of Fifty Shades of Grey. Who’da thunk?

Without the sexual deviations (looking at you, HarryPotter/ProfessorSnape), the only thing to defend is quality. And that’s also easy:

We all have to start somewhere.

TheMarySue.com published two articles that defend even the worst fanfiction as a form of communication and practice. Many fanfiction sites encourage discourse and criticism, which is editing in a nutshell. Giving these young authors a voice should not be looked at as a bad thing. Imagine the shit Shakespeare wrote in his teens.

We can.

Oh. Right.

Beyond that, I don’t see much of a problem. I realize there’s a lot of bad fanfiction out there, but it’s a case of babies and bathwater. Fanfiction has enabled anyone with imagination and a keyboard to create, to share, to communicate. And using established characters allows a fantastic jumping-off point. It’s also a way to get more readers and explore narrative structure. The more I think about it, the fewer downsides I see.

It might be shit. But it’s worthwhile shit.

Hmm. I fear my first request was pretty easy. I guess I’m just a badass lawyer. Though it could be the codpiece I knitted…

"An ellipsis! NOT AN ELLIPSIS!"

“NOT AGAIN!”

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In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

fiftyshadeshead“Let’s do something stupid.”

For too long now, I’ve needed a topic to get back in the blogging harness. I felt tied, if you will, to a certain routine. I needed… mmmm… discipline. Maybe something a little dangerous would get me back in the swing. The sex-swing. Which is an actual object I witnessed through fearful tears.

This week, I was determined to do something stupid. And it doesn’t get much stupider, much sadder, than…

“One for Fifty Shades,” I half-mumbled. The teller recoiled. Part of me died.

Another part of me was living...

Another part was living

With seven dollars willfully misused and the saddest four words in existence hanging like a stench, I fell to a transcendent new low. I lingered outside, pretending to wait for a nonexistent girlfriend as close to American Sniper as possible. But they knew. The pervy middle-aged ladies knew.

I realized too late the cost of waiting. I’d have to walk in when they were all seated. Damn. Damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn.

“WHERE IS MY DATE JESSICA WHO IS REAL AND IS DRAGGING ME HERE AND PERHAPS THIS IS THE WRONG PLACE FOR THE AMERICAN SNIPER FILM?,” I skillfully proclaimed upon entrance.

Luckily we were all similarly shamed. An unspoken agreement wafted around the room: We tell no one. 

gag

That’s how I ended up with a bunch of women at a Fifty Shades of Grey matinee. Most were aged half a century. I was surprisingly not the only male in attendance, but the others had the luxury of coupling. Hen-pecked husbands with little to lose.

My envy welled. Lucky bastards.

Of course, by the end, no one seemed particularly lucky. Because I can think of no reason anyone would enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s amateurish, stilted, the leads have no chemistry, the motivations are atrocious, and (this is the oddest bit) it’s not in the least bit sexy.

In my notes, I have three ALLCAP lines. Two are “NO CHEMISTRY” and “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND.” And my very first line is “WHY ANNIE LENNOX, WHY?

With that, let’s review my notes.

notes

Good lord, I hope everyone knew I was taking notes…

The film begins with dark city skies and an Annie Lennox song. I know, I was also crestfallen. It wouldn’t be the last time either, since the Rolling Stones have a song attached and Beyoncé has two. Two. Oh Queen Bey, what have you done?

I have many notes from Anastasia and Christian’s first interview, but I’ll spare you the details. It’s mostly weird platitudes and emotionless flirting.

“I could offer you a job here.”

“(breathy snort), I don’t think I’d fit in here, look at me…”

“I am.”

Oh gag me with a… well, I can never use that phrase again.

And when Christian literally stalks Anastasia to her job at a hardware store (“oh, of course,” I noted), they have a bit more wispy flirting as he buys tape and rope. I am now unable to buy either without gagging… hmm, can’t even use the word.

After more super-creepy controlling behavior, Christian and Anastasia eventually get it on. You see boobs, possible inner thigh kissing, ass from both parties, one shot of thrown panties and hands hitting a bedspread. I’m unsure of the exact proceedings. It’s all so inky and moody and stupid.

“Why can’t they turn on a light,” whispered a nearby woman I nicknamed Berta. Her husband, who I will call Burt, responded with a distracted “Eh?”

The next morning, Anastasia dances to “Beast of Burden.” It’s now the second thing I think when I hear that song.

After this, Christian attempts to convince Anastasia to sign a contract. A contract filled with descriptors like “The Dominant” and “The Submissive.” And nothing is sexier than a table read of legalese jargon. Those court documents get all the ladies hot and bothered.

And when Anastasia asks for regular couple stuff outside the kinky weekends, Christian rebuffs with…

“Dinner and movies aren’t my thing. Try to keep an open mind about this. Agree to be my submissive, and I’ll be devoted to you. This is what I want.”

To her credit, Anastasia runs away from this creep. But she relents after a walk, where Christian reveals that he was a “submissive” at age 15 (!!!) for one of his mother’s friends. He tells Anastasia of the many benefits of bondage, of being free from all choices. Because… I can’t even make a joke.

Real talk: Are any of you turned on by this horseshit? This damaged, molested jackass talks about the “freedom of giving up control,” freedom “from making your own decisions.” Is that what anyone wants, to be a brainless piece of meat? To be used by a sadist in manipulative mind games? To be stripped of personhood for sexual gratification? I am volcanically outraged by this.

Afterward we get a semblance of denouement. They have a long, dark scene of veiled BDSM set to underwater Beyoncé. The slap-happy couple go rich-people plane gliding. Christian calls Anastasia his “girlfriend,” which shouldn’t be a character peak but is played thusly. And it all ends with an angry Anastasia storming out and boarding an elevator, the threat of “sequel” hanging in the air. But I admit, I was almost too angry to care.

I wrote, “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND” in my notes, underlining a few dozen times for irate emphasis. But I think I found some answers. Thank God for Burt and Berta.

As the credits rolled, Burt asked his wife, “Well, did you enjoy it?” And Berta, bless her soul, responded with an unamused “Eh. Nothing I’d want to try.”

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked awesome.

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked AWESOME.

As Cracked author  points out in his article “4 Reasons ’50 Shades of Grey’ Is the Limp Bizkit of Sex,” you can tell a lot from ticket sales. He links to a couple different lists, one for the most pre-order ticket sales for Fifty Shades, the other for most religious states. Bell eloquently asserts, “it’s the same fucking list.” And while Bell writes about commercialism, I choose a different tangent.

I’ve read calls to boycott the film and Christian pleas for purity, but the uproar speaks to the fact. Many of the ladies seeing the film are religious. Some of those women must be a little… well, bored. Maybe outwardly prudish. A little curious. Maybe sexually repressed.

If they’re turning to this, they must be desperate.

This is hotter.

Better than the movie.

If nothing else, maybe Fifty Shades of Grey shows a need for communication. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your marriage and sexual life, there are ways to liven it up. BDSM is one of those options, but not as depicted in Shades. BDSM folks hate this series with a passion. They say it’s an unsafe and unhealthy depiction of their hobby, and I’d trust the lady with the leather whip.

Burt and Berta were uninterested, but maybe they displayed the point. Openness about possible kinks is a surprisingly good goal. Most of the ladies watching Fifty Shades might find it embarrassing or perverse to talk about their fetishes. A lady must be a lady at all times. But here’s a guy secret:

We kinda like when you talk about fetishes. I know, what a surprise.

"Martha, is this what you meant when you..." "Shh shh shh... let me have this..."

“Martha, is this what you meant when you…”
“Shhhhh… let me have this…”

It helps to not be sadistic, and to not demand someone give up autonomy. I don’t respect power plays and selfishness. But it’s not really about what I respect. Maybe that’s what some people need.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m disturbed and deeply repulsed by the idea of sexual dominance. But some people are weird. Fifty Shades might be for them. After all, I represent a minuscule portion of their intended audience. The “misanthropic, moronic young male” market probably isn’t a high seller.

In the end, I’m forced to admit that Fifty Shades might help couples feel more fulfilled.

There’s other admirable discussions derived from this series, like thoughts on gender equality and amount of change required for a relationship. And most importantly, there’s articles about abuse, and not the “fun” kind. I’m talking about psychological and emotional abuse, like Christian displays repeatedly in this (need I remind you?) terrible, terrible film.

Granted, this series might convince people in abusive relationships that everything will turn out alright, that their sadist partner can be normalized and that free will is bad. I weep for that possibility. But I believe it’s more an exception than a rule. And who knows, maybe the sequels (good god no) will correct the flaws of the source material. Like… this movie did?

I just recoiled. Another part dead. Oh well, I’m not defending the source material. I don’t want to talk about Twilight fan fiction.

See you next week, when I’ll defend… dammit, fan fiction? Really?

Dammit.

“Let’s do something stupid.”

In Defense of Sony Pulling ‘The Interview’

interviewhead

“To be fair to North Korea…” I wrote that. Fantastic.

Thanks, Sony! Because of your movie and controversial decision-making, I get to play devil’s advocate for an infantile dictator and his posse of yes men. I already defended rapists and child abusers and perverts, and I just love sliding further into the murky swamps of evil. Times are good/bad.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy my future classics like, “Let’s be nice to serial killers, because they’re people too!”

She doesn't look so bad OH GOOD GOD.

She doesn’t look so bad OH GOOD GOD.

But old murderesses have to wait. This week, I need to defend North Korea, their terrorists, and the American company that caved to their demands. Fan-fucking-tastic.

So here we go. To be fair to North Korea, we did make their leader’s head explode. Kinda a gimme.

Kim-Jong-un

Subtle.

Technically, the cranial fireworks were in a rough draft of the movie. According to leaked emails, Sony showed that version to US State Department officials and a North Korea specialist. Of course, they reacted by explaining the possible international tensions this could cause, advising that removing the scene might be a tactful course of action.

Kidding!

"MOOOOOORE!"

“MOOOOOORE!,” they exclaimed.

According to this article at Breitbart.com, the head-explody version got the blessing of at least three government officials (but was cleaned up slightly, meaning darker head goop). And one praised showing the assassination in gory detail.

North Korea specialist Bruce Bennett claimed that the untimely death of Kim Jong-Un is “the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” and backed up those claims in his essay for the RAND institute.

Here’s a quote from Bennett, verbatim from the weirdly hilarious NKnews.org (and if you don’t trust that, Mediaite.com and FOXnewsradio.)

“Thus while toning down the ending may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will).”

Pretty much saying, “We want them gone, so let’s goad people into assassination.” Like ordering a hit via Hollywood. I’m all for freedom of speech, but subtlety is occasionally a good idea.

Fatty like industrial lube? What's that fatty, can't hear over all your fat!

Fatty like industrial lube? What’s that fatty, can’t hear over all your fat, fatty!

But this is clearly just a comedic film, no real murder meant. And true, Kim Jong-Un could stand to have his ego deflated a bit (dictator after all). But maybe we aren’t ones to judge.

After all, how would we respond if a foreign nation made a comedy about presidential assassination? Let’s say the French made a madcap farce titled “Lorsque la Tête du Président Washington a Explosé.” 

georgewashingtonfacemelt

It’s this, for three hours. French.

Instant classic. Historical figures are fair game. Lampoon the hell out of Chester A. Arthur. Accidentally dismember Woodrow Wilson. Inflate Ronald Reagan to bursting, then have him fly around the Oval Office…. France, if you’re reading this, call me.

But “Lorsque la Tête du Président Obama a Explosé”? A harder sell. At least, to non-crazy people.

teaparty

Tea partiers tend to throw off my stats.

Regardless, it’d be an international incident. We’d get offended and vow action against the French. No war or threat of war, but tense. Again, tea partiers might throw off my assumptions and demand war with France, but c’est la vie. But the French, they’d just say we have no sense of humor.

Because we don’t, at least not when the joke’s at America’s expense.

No nation has a sense of humor about itself. It’s playground politics. Sorry, politics, gotta remove redundancy. So is it weird that North Korea doesn’t like it when an American movie explodes their leader’s (considerably inflated) head?

To be fair to North Korea… I kinda get it.

But should we accept that terrorists are telling us what we can watch? That Sony caved and pulled their own movie like a bunch of cowards? What the hell, Sony? You made a (kinda poor) decision here, but you have to follow through! Why would you pull it?

Wait, what?

Firstly, a few clarifications. Sony claims to have pulled the film after theater chains refused to air it. So, theaters could also be blamed here. But those claims only came after the backlash, prior to which Sony said it was their decision. Again, politics. But passing the “coward” label isn’t the point.

I’m not accusing them of cowardice. I’m accusing them of greed and manipulation.

Question: Would anyone have cared about The Interview before all this? And now that we can’t see it in theaters, how many people are going to watch this middling stoner comedy when it’s on DVD? It’s patriotic duty and natural curiosity combined.

poster

As the saying goes, “Curiosity filled the fat cat’s pockets.”

If anything, this Cracked article accuses the American public of being cowardly. Sony and multiple theater chains are just reacting to our collective pants-pooping.

Robert Evans writes, “The theaters backed out not because they were super worried about the threat of terrorism but because they thought we’d be scared and avoid going to the movies altogether. They bet their money on the irrational fear of the American people. And they were right.”

So that’s my cynical, cynical defense. To recap: I understand North Korea being upset, believe film companies are being manipulative and think our public is far too paranoid. I’m so getting flagged by the NSA.

Speaking of flags, here's a neat one. It's...

Speaking of flags, here’s a neat one. It’s…

AMERICA. HE LIKED THE AMERICAN FLAG. I MEAN... I... LIKE...

AMERICA. HE LIKED THE AMERICAN FLAG. I MEAN… I LIKE…

The murky swamps of evil are certainly here. The wicked North Korean dictatorship might be the worst thing I’ve mentioned (seriously, pure evil), but reacting to evil does not give us permission to act poorly and stupidly. I hold us to high standards.

Pulling the movie seems to have been the only option for Sony, at least for now. Blind bravado wouldn’t have worked great here. Just think of the lawsuits if anyone did get hurt, or the loss of possible revenue when theaters started to abandon ship. And think of how much more money could be gained by making it into a talking point. OH, and all that delicious free advertisement and air time. And when it’s released on DVD… more of everything. Seriously guys, pulling The Interview was the only decision that made (fiscal) sense.

To be fair to Sony… I get it. I understand. But I don’t feel fantastic.

pun

That’s it. I’m dun. DAMMIT!

In Defense of Furries

furryhead

Why are people afraid of furries? Most haven’t even seen one in person. They haven’t been to a convention, or met the human underneath. Heck, most haven’t even watched furry porn.

I join people on most of these fronts… oh God, fronts. For I too have never seen a furry in person. Oh God, furry in person… I haven’t been to a convention. Good lord almighty. Or met the human underneath… nnnnnnnn… a furry costume. But…. nnnnnnnnnn… I am defending them. And in my curiosity… nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn no no no no no no no no no no.

And now I’m very afraid of furries. For good reason. Reasons. All the reasons.

No no no no no no no no no no

No no no no no no no no no no

But I need to defend them. It’s what I do. So let’s get right into it and down to business… ew.

Some of you innocents might be wondering what exactly a furry is. And guess what? These images will not be voided!

furry1

Lupine

furry2

Feline

bovine

Shia LaBeouf

They’re people who enjoy/dress up like anthropomorphized animals. You know, animals with human characteristics, like walking on two legs, talking, dancing, posing… other things a gentleman doesn’t mention. It’s like being a fan of high school mascot costumes.

That devotion goes from like to like, love to love.

I am no gentleman.

Ew. A red leather sofa.

But let’s start with the easiest thing to defend. Which, surprisingly, is most of furrydom.

You see, it’s not as creepy as people like to pretend. Most of the hype is all bluster and hoopla. Let’s start with an article from vox.com, titled “9 questions about furries you were too embarrassed to ask.”

According to author :

  • Only about 30% of furries at a convention dress up in full body suits. Most are there in regular clothes, some with ears and/or tails.
  • It’s not primarily sexual. “Men reported spending 34 percent of their online roleplaying time on sexual content, and women reported spending only 21.4 percent. Nearly half of male furries, and a large majority of women, reported that sexual content played little or no role in their introduction to the fandom,” Matthews writes.
  • Fan art is practiced by nearly 90% of furries, making drawing their most important pastime.
  • “Furries are overwhelmingly male and white, are disproportionately likely to be gay, bi, or trans, and skew younger, with an average age in the mid-20s.”
  • About a third of furries don’t feel 100% human. “(8 to 14 percent) report meaning this in a physical sense, with many more stating they feel not fully human mentally or spiritually. About 38 to 53 percent report a desire to be 0 percent human, if they could be.”
After which it just gets confusing.

After which it just gets confusing.

So people uncomfortable in their own skin, finding community in art and self-expression. That’s pretty much any fandom ever, from comic books to drag queens to Trekkies. And pretty much the entire human race, if our brushes are broad enough. If that’s all I have to defend, this’ll be an easy post.

Unfortunately…

It gets weird.

It gets weird.

And as we all know, no other fandom gets creepy with sexually-explicit material. What’s that link, you ask? Why, it’s a Google search for “Star Trek porno.” About 1,000,000 results. Sure, none have polar bears with strap-ons, but is that less creepy than boinking a green alien with tentacle hair?

Stupid cheap slacks...

I checked. The answer is no. Or more accurately, no no no no no no no no no no.

I’m actually hard-pressed (I hate myself) to think of a reason behind all the furry hate. What could spur the creation of www.godhatesfurries.com, a website so stupid I refuse to link to it?

But I can provide an answer. It’s the petty need to be better than someone.

I fear we’ve accepted furries as the universal butt of an easy joke. “I may be a duct tape fetishist, but at least I’m not a furry,” someone might say. No matter what kind of weird, deviant geek you might be, you can be normal in comparison. Somehow we’ve accepted this thought process, like most “normal” people are united against the furry scourge. Do we need that tribalism in the 21st century? Because it’s petty and, quite frankly, disgusting.

As is all pornography, but one thing at a time.

As a side note, my internet search history is fuuuuuuuucked.

As a side note, my search history is fuuuuuuuucked.

Now to why I picked this topic: Last weekend was Midwest Furfest, the second most popular furry-based convention in the country. Midwest Furfest suffered a terrorist attack, an intentional Chlorine gas leak. The convention center was evacuated, and nineteen people were sent to the hospital. To be clear, some scumbucket hated furries so much that he tried to poison thousands of them.

And people laughed.

Most notable was Mika Brzezinski, a host on MSNBCs Morning Joe program. She discovered what furries were on-air, and ran off in an uncomfortable giggle fit. And people found it appropriate, because it’s furries. If you’re not enraged, you should be. Newspeople should be better. We should be better.

If you count Morning Joe as "news."

Morning Joe should be… nevermind, asking too much.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who’s upset by this.

 of the themarysue.com writes, “Forget about the fact that ‘furries’ is such a hot Internet buzzword for just a second. Forget about how their relatively harmless kink might squick you the heck out. Can we at least agree that no one deserves to be gassed while at a convention, and that maybe now is not the time for jokes to the contrary?… Heck, what happens when it’s somebody who hates one of your hobbies?”

duct

“We have ways of dealing with scumbuckets.”

But seriously, furries are people. Interesting people, flawed people, weird people, mostly good people. This article by Patricia Hernandez at Kotaku is particularly enlightening, if you’re interesting in first-hand experience. As I mentioned, I’ve never met a furry. But it doesn’t take much for me to empathize when they’re getting gassed at their gatherings and no one seems to care. I’m immediately and fully on their side.

Can’t we get past the urge to belittle other people for their hobbies? Having a geek hierarchy is just the stupidest thing ever. It’s petty and snooty, which are some of the worst qualities to have as human beings. I’d rather be aroused by Looney Tune cosplayers than to possess either.

"Oh Gossamer, no one can know of our forbidden love."

Oh Gossamer, no one can know of our forbidden love.

I’m not getting into the weirdest stuff, like spirit animal names and fursonas (mine is an elk, according to this quiz). I’m not saying furries are necessarily easy to get along with, or simple to understand. But I do think abject rejection is unfair, and being unaccepted to the point of universal ridicule is tragic. I truly hope we can agree on that.

That said… guys, the pornography is really creepy. Sorry furries. For the porno, it’s just a long string of no no no no no no no no no no.

elk

But something about this elk costume seems so very yes…

In Defense of Columbus Day

columbushead

I normally defend funny things. You know, bad movies and beauty pageants and Waffle House. I occasionally delve into darkness (here’s my Furby article), but I try to avoid actual evil. I can’t use my skills to defend slave traders or murderers. I want comedy. Defending actual evil in search of humor is akin to squeezing juice from a rutabaga. I get nothing out of it except tired muscles and weird analogies.

SDF

Though this picture is considered evil by my rutabaga readers.

So it’s with great… pride?… that I get to defend a truly wicked man. Or at least, his holiday. For this past Monday was Columbus Day, a day set aside for a slave-trading, greedy murderer. And, um, schoolchildren. And postal workers, bankers, librarians, DMV workers, Catholics, Italian-Americans…

NO, no defending yet! Not until I bash Christopher Columbus!

columbus

That face! That hair! HA!

But seriously, the man was evil. As if that face wasn’t a dead giveaway… because even the dead would give it away, ZING! But seriously, evil. And apparently floating on one leg, but that’s more of a diss on the artist. Take that, Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla Tolín!

But enough insults. Here’s a Columbus Day gift. It’s a great infographic on Columbus-related atrocities. I know, just what you wanted!

In return, I'll take your house!

In return, I’ll take your house.

The infographic first shows what we all know about Columbus: that he discovered the Americas, proved the earth wasn’t flat and in 1492 sailed the ocean blue.

Thing is, lots of people knew about America before Columbus, pretty much any educated person in 1492 knew the earth was round, and the ocean is more of an aquamarine. EVERYTHING WE KNOW IS LIES!

PROOF OF THEIR LIES!

PROOF!

But let’s get away from petty deception. Let’s get into murder.

Columbus first encountered the Lucayan natives when the Santa Maria sank, and the natives rescued his crew and cargo. Columbus called them generous, healthy and hospitable. He then concluded his 1492 journal entry with, “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased.” I imagine the word “pleased” trails off as Columbus fetches a black cape and twirls his mustache in sudden realization.

Columbus then started bringing weapons from Europe, demanding food, women and gold. When the Lucayans refused, he cut off noses, ears and hands as a warning to the others. Some of his men would hunt the dissenters, murdering them and using their bodies as dog food. Not always in that order.

He sold 9-year-old girls into sexual slavery, tortured natives, spread smallpox… the infographic says, “(Columbus) discovered the New World much like a meteorite discovered the dinosaurs.”

"Give me your dino-women!"

“Give me your gold and dino-women!”

And he’s celebrated on the same level as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., neither of whom fed people to ravenous canines.

But I’m not defending the man. I’m defending the holiday celebrating his legacy. You know, genocide and slave trade and…

NO, bashing is over! Now is defending!

Mattia Landoni of columbiaspectator.com points out that Columbus can hardly be blamed for genocide. He committed many horrible crimes “to earn his place in hell,” but widespread disease wasn’t really his intent. Sick slaves aren’t good slaves. And Columbus didn’t introduce slavery to the world. Just the entrepreneurial form that plagued the Atlantic for centuries.

But you know, a criminal can say, “Give me a break, I didn’t murder everyone, just a lot of people!” That criminal likely wouldn’t get a holiday.

At most, they get a book.

At most, a lame book.

But what about pre-criminal Columbus? You know, the one who had the guts to boldly sail unknown-ish waters. What about the Columbus who accomplished a feat worthy of epic poetry?

Landoni continues, “We deserve to be able to celebrate the young, Odysseus-like Columbus, who accomplished all his heroic feats before he even knew Native Americans existed, let alone hurt any of them—a man who could have hardly imagined what he was getting himself into. At the same time, we should condemn the later Columbus—a little man, overwhelmed by personal fatigue and external pressures, who made many horrible decisions.”

columbus

Like that hair, ZING!

Rick Menzel of startribune.com approaches a different angle. He claims that Columbus can be a hero for two minorities: Italian-Americans and Roman Catholics.

Menzel writes, “The successful lobbying effort that resulted in Columbus Day becoming a federal holiday in 1937 was an important victory for Italian-Americans, one that other ethnic and interest groups would seek to emulate in the years to come.”

Roman Catholics had similar reasons. They too have long been a minority in the largely-Protestant America, and having a Catholic hero in 1937 was a huge boon.

Of course, this is small comfort for another minority, namely Native Americans. But small steps.

So while I can understand those attempting the change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, I can also understand why some want to keep a holiday that brings them a modicum of pride.

Though the clip art is unforgivable.

Though the clip art baffles me.

However, this New York Times defense is my favorite. Historian William J. Connell says, “‘Celebrate’ is a word we could use for Columbus’s genius, his persistence against the odds in getting people who were much more powerful than he was to back him in a risky enterprise that had results way beyond anyone’s imagination. We can celebrate his enterprise and ingenuity.”

As for the rest, Connell suggests “celebrate” might not be the right word. Perhaps, he hopes, we can “commemorate” Columbus’s legacy.

History, you see, is filled with evil. And not just world history. Our personal histories are filled with poor decisions and wicked failings. However, it’s history, and we learn. And from Columbus, schoolchildren can learn that the world is not simple. That you can take something evil and make something good, or vice versa. The world is complex, and we have no idea what our actions might precipitate or whose champion we might become.

Columbus was a bold explorer who murdered natives for profit. He was also a slave trader who has encouraged millions to dream bigger. Maybe that dichotomy is worth a holiday. Maybe history itself, however complex, is worth commemorating.

So party away, federal workers! Since, you know, most of us forgot it was even a holiday. I’m sure your Columbus Day party was quite a hoot.

tolin

Dammit, Tolín! You painted the worst Columbus Day party ever! At least they all have two legs this time…

In Defense of Florida

flordiahead1

Wha? That’s not the Florida I want. Sunshine and beaches? What’s to defend? I want the weird Florida, the crazy Florida. C’mon Sunshine State, give me something bizarre!

flordiahead2

There we go.

Those headlines come from a Buzzfeed article titled, “24 Crazy Things That Have Already Happened This Year in Florida.” Published Jan. 8, 2014. I… I included less than half of them, and that’s only eight days… EIGHT DAYS!?! Maybe they’re connected, just covered from different angles. Like, the Baptism Brawl happened at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And the combatants used tomahawks and spatulas and… bananas.

I’m clearly in over my head here. But that’s alright, my empathy powers and lawyerly logic haven’t failed me yet. I’ll just have to think like the weirdest Floridian, get inside their head. Maybe…

D'aw, just ruin my fun will you?

… nope nope nope. I don’t have the money or disposable limbs necessary to fondle vicious swamp dinosaurs. But feel free to send me cash, I’ll put it in my reptile snuggle fund.

Let’s get away from things that can kill me. I prefer not to die, if you don’t mind. Let’s find some reasons Florida tends to be so very very bizarre.

Steven Rosenfeld of alternet.org compiled a list of possibilities. One of those reasons? The curious mix of people drawn to Florida.

No!

You don’t say?

Rosenfeld asserts that Florida has a higher concentration of live-in visitors than any other state. That means, few native Floridians and a ton of rowdy house guests who stay long past their welcome. Everyone’s chasing that subtropical climate, including the elderly, the immigrants, the rich, the poor, the rednecks, the tourists, the circus freaks, and the nudists.

It’d be like having an all-night rave with old carnies and redneck nudists. And… you’ve stopped reading my blog to move to Florida, haven’t you? I lose so much of my audience to redneck nudists…

But if weird-ass raves don’t float your party pontoon, maybe loose laws will. Because Rosenfeld’s second reason concerns the loosest laws this side of Dodge City in the1800’s.

"I told ya'll not to molest that ther 'gator, but didja listen, NO!"

“I told ya’ll not to molest that ther ‘gator, but didja listen, NAW!”

“To say that Florida has a loose regulatory environment barely states it,” he writes. “People move there to buy homes that can’t be siezed in bankruptcy proceedings. There’s loose gun laws, of which the Stand Your Ground law is but one example.”

There’s also no system for monitoring prescription drugs, no state income tax, no enforcement of copyright law, few zoning restrictions… it’s like the Wild West gone even more laissez-faire.

Craig Pittman of Slate.com points to another side-effect of this attitude: bad hookups.

“The combination of warm weather with millions of tourists means we have a lot of people dressed in skimpy clothes who aren’t staying long,” he writes. “Add in that aforementioned no-rules, YOLO atmosphere and you can see why illicit sex is such a constant temptation—and why it can so easily go haywire.”

So Florida might foster an atmosphere where this kind of living is easy. You can get in a lot of hot trouble. But there’s something else, something more worrysome. Rosenfeld’s Number One reason points to it:

“Florida cops don’t keep quiet.”

How could they?

How could they when this is their job?

Rosefeld points to an interview. “NPR’s Brooke Gladstone, the New Yorker who co-hosts On The Media, last year interviewed Florida newspaper reporter Will Greenlee about the state’s off-the-charts crime stories. The police reporter said Florida’s permissive open-records laws give the media inordinate access to detailed police files, where they find the lurid tales.”

Craig Pittman offers the same explanation, saying, “Florida has long enjoyed a tradition of open government records, which means a lot of the weird stuff that the cops see winds up available to reporters looking for something to make their readers’ jaws drop. So when a retired Tarzan actor got arrested because his pet tigers kept escaping, it made the papers. When a woman claiming to be a vampire attacked a man outside a vacant Hooters, it made the papers. When Vanilla Ice’s kangaroo and goat got loose, it made the papers.”

So everything comes together to reveal the truth. But notice the scary thing there. Florida’s weirdness is known only because of loose coverage laws. So in your home state… what is being covered up?

"Local blogger molests alligator"

“Local blogger molests alligator, dies for joke”

All our weird people may be hiding, their misdeeds never reaching public light. What if we are all living in “Florida”? What if your world is filled with redneck nudists and Baptism Brawls, and you don’t know it? The reporters in Florida have the biggest, easiest catch, but that certainly doesn’t mean Florida is the only weird state. And they have beaches to compensate.

So don’t get too comfortable. “Florida” might be closer than you think.

And if you’re scared your neighbors might be cosplaying congressmen with snake farms, you might want to call some cops or buy some weapons. A whole bushel of them.

Maybe they'd help with gator attacks?

Maybe they’d help with gator attacks?

In Defense of Camo Fashion

camohead

White for purity. Black for new-age elegance. Ivory for traditionalism (and perhaps tainted innocence, let’s not pretend). Blue for serenity, pink for inappropriate flirtation, green for sheer insanity. According to my bridal research, I’ve summarized the essentials of wedding dress chromaticity.

So what the hell does camo mean?

So what the hell does that mean?

Let’s play wedding dress analysis. I see a lot of green and off-white, both of which make sense for Mama June of Honey Boo Boo fame. But orange in a wedding dress? Hm. According to weddingwire.com it represents energy, which I guess is fine. I prefer the association with traffic signs. Danger, fear, warning… makes more sense to me.

But I have no need to criticize Mama June’s designer sense. I could, but I’d have to devote many more words than I’m able.

And some moments of shocked silence...

And some moments of shocked silence…

But the wedding of Mama June and Sugar Bear last Saturday made me curious. Why does camouflage carry a negative connotation? Outside of the military, why is it reserved for trailer trash or rubes or ironic jerks? Also, what fancy camo pics could I share with my readership?

There are lots.

Traffic sign orange is a great accent, especially paired with a garbage bag suit...

Traffic sign orange is a great accent, especially paired with a garbage bag suit…

But I found that clothes are only the tip of the trash heap. It may technically be outside my topic of “camo fashion,” but you haven’t known camo-disgust until you’ve seen…

"Awkwardly uncomfortable on the camo-couch,"

“Awkwardly uncomfortable on the camo-couch,”

"Camo-SUV for muddin', gettin' kids to soccer practice,"

“Camo-SUV for muddin’, gettin’ kids to soccer practice,”

and "Appropriate."

and “Appropriate.”

So let’s not pretend camouflage carries a positive connotation, despite association with the army. With the military, it makes sense. It’s practical. The army has something to hide from, whereas a toilet seat doesn’t need the tactical advantage of semi-invisibility. If anything, that would hinder it’s function.

I’m talking about camouflage in the civilian world, where the net result is highly negative. It’s not the type of pattern that screams “couture,” since it’s considered tacky by many and hilariously abhorrent by others. If you agree with neither sentiment, you are either brave or silly. Possibly both. I tip my hat to you.

I may never wear it, but I digress.

I may never wear it, but I digress.

Camo serves a function for hunting or… well, that’s essentially it, so the practice of using the pattern in wedding or prom dresses is an interesting trend. For some people, the lifestyle association with camouflage so perfectly encapsulates their life that a camo wedding dress is fine. At least, in their eyes. Somehow.

I admire the ability to do something that makes you feel comfortable, despite what others may say. I can’t fault the people wearing fancy camo, unless they’re doing so to belittle through mockery. You know, the “ironic” people. They’re just turds.

I’m just not sure how people could wear something like this and feel anything other than embarrassment:

And they look so happy and cute and...

And they look so happy and cute and…

…wait, what is that in the bottom left corner, just out of frame? Is that…

Good lord, they match the living room set. I feel sick.

Good lord, they match the living room set. I feel sick.

I don’t think I’ll get to bottom of this. It’s a pattern with an association, one I probably can’t overcome. However, there are lots of people who absolutely love it. A gaudy camouflage pattern somehow represents their passions, and I respect commitment to that ideal. And if something like camoformal.com can exist without mockery, I’m… mostly fine with that.

And to be fair, not all of them are horrendous.

And to be fair, not all of them are horrendous.

Just don't wear them in the forest.

Just don’t wear them in the forest.

So we can associate camo couture with hicks and crazies, but I imagine most of them would be fine with that. For the people who love it, it’s who they are. They’re proud of their camouflage wedding dresses. Or at least, they pretend to be for cameras. Honey Boo Boo hadn’t been in the news for a while…

Camo couture is something even the people who like it can jest about. It takes events or occasions with certain expectations (proms, weddings), merges them with something tacky and gives rise to some form of humor. In fact, I think camo couture requires a pretty fantastic sense of humor, and I’m all for that.

You know, maybe a camo wedding dress represents willingness to find humor in life. Or maybe it’s unhindered passion for something you love. Or possibly self-confidence in the face of adversity. Which are all great things for a wedding, actually… makes white look kinda boring. Hmm.

Crap. My wife’s gonna hate me.

"JUSTIN! We NEED to talk about this 'dress' you thought I should wear! COME OUT, YOU COWARD!"

“JUSTIN! We NEED to talk about this ‘dress’ you thought I should wear! COME OUT, YOU COWARD!”