9.25.2012

When You're Done With Someone / Something...


Just walk away.

If you're done, you're done. Anything less than simply leaving is posturing, presumably either for show (see: Moral High Ground Attention Whoring) or mental masturbation. In any case, at any point in life, if you're not willing to fix what's wrong (in this case, by leaving), you're posturing.

The opposite of crazy is not sane, it's still crazy. Casting yourself as a victim or a hero in a situation that's unhealthy for you is just as unhealthy as staying in that situation. Trading misery for attention is the worst kind of sad, because it wears off and eventually you find yourself putting your misery on display again and again for a fix of that attention.

Dont: 
  • Announce on Twitter or Facebook how you're done with Twitter or Facebook.
  • Play the Moral High Ground Attention Whore by lambbasting someone over their posts and how racist/insensitive/whatever they were, then block them. Just block them. 
  • Continually ask your former coworkers about the state of things at your previous job, then puff your chest out at how right you were/are. 
  • Threaten to leave your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend. Just go.
  • Warn.
  • Warn again. 
  • Give a "final" warning.

Do:
  • Leave.
  • End it.
  • Move on.

(Some might think I am being unfair about not giving warning. If you're truly done, whatever could be said has either already been said or will be irrelevant to the situation, so why waste your breath and the time it takes to figure out you're still done with it? Why threaten? Why put on a show? )

A saying I abuse constantly, because it's so goddamn relevant to so many things in my life, is one I've paraphrased from Dave Sim, who paraphrased Alan Moore:
When you find out you've been standing in shit, don't stomp on it to punish it, just scrape as much off your shoe as you can and walk away. 

Just. Walk. Away. And then, stay gone.

9.21.2012

On Fear.


“Where ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Imagine the frontiers that Tyson describes above as borders. There's the land of where you've been, and the land beyond, which is the land which you've never been.

Some people see these borders and shrink from them. After all, they're borders. They're there for a reason. You're not supposed to go past them. Going past the borders is out of bounds, and that's bad.

The reasons for it being bad are myriad. Someone told you it was bad, so you believe it. Mom and Dad will be mad at you. Your family will disown you. Your husband won't be pleased. Your wife will complain. Your girlfriend will break up with you. Your boyfriend will hate you. Your friends will think less of you. God forbids it.

Fear is what keeps people from exploring those frontiers of discovery and imagination. It's always fear.

Fear of reprisals.
Fear of learning that everything they've ever known is wrong and they might have to relearn.
Fear of the work involved in trying to discover whatever it is just past those borders.
Fear of realizing their dreams and fantasies of what they wish they could be and who they wish they were are simply wishes.
Fear of being bad at something.
Fear of being good at something, and realizing they have been wasting their lives doing whatever else they've been doing.
Fear of finding out Mom and Dad and family and husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends and God just might not be who they should spend the rest of their lives with, because they're afraid of being alone.

To say "so stop being afraid" is the greatest lie any human could tell another. Because the truth is, we're all afraid. No exceptions. It's just that some of us are thinking in voices that are not our own, We're listening to the wrong audio track in our own heads.

The trick is not ending fear. It's staring it right in the face, gritting your teeth, and taking one step forward. And when that doesn't kill you, taking another step.

It's not easy. In fact, it's goddamn hard. It's hard to get up the courage to even go to the edge of what you know, whether it be a new subject, a new life endeavor, or even getting to know someone you've never known.

But it's okay to be afraid. Fear is natural. It shows up and forces you to be alert. You will be afraid. You will want to turn around. You will want to go back to comfortable, to warm, to familiar. And that's okay, too... Just don't lament your life when you do.

To get something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done.

Go on. Walk right up to that border. Look at it. Consider it. Take your time. And when you're ready, take one step.

9.20.2012

Fuck Everything.


Fuck you.

That's right, you. Reading this. Fuck you. Fuck your expectations, fuck your opinions, fuck your reaction to being told "Fuck you."

Fuck your tastes in authors, writers, bloggers and books. Fuck the games, music, movies, comics, anime, magazines, fanzines, and even pamphlets you like. Fuck every great thing you think you've read, regardless of format. Fuck blogs that turn into books. Fuck the people who write them. Fuck the publishers who publish that mindless drivel. Fuck the sheep who buy such obvious attempts at cash grabs.

Fuck blogs, period.

Fuck today's comics. Fuck digital publishing that charges the same price as cover. Fuck every single panel having to be some stage for fine art. Fuck these new artists who do graphic novels with the hopes of selling the movie rights. Fuck "Sequential Art" classes in art schools. Fuck your portfolio.

Fuck today's music. Fuck bleeps and borps of 8-bit chiptune sounds. Fuck autotune. Fuck popstars. Fuck "Rap". Fuck Koren pop, Japanese pop, Chinese pop, UK pop, Antarctic pop and everything in between.

Fuck politics. Fuck faking feelings in order to woo people's vote. Fuck the people who smile into cameras and convince the dumb among us they're sincere, and give the less dumb among us enough material to Facebook and Tweet about.

Fuck Facebook, Twitter, Google+, instant messaging, texting and everything else that gives us the semblance of relationship without all that pesky human interaction. Fuck your addiction to posting your opinion thinking everyone else cares. Fuck your addition to everyone else's posts so that you can react to them. Fuck your addiction to reaction. Fuck your need for instant stimulation. Fuck attention whores. Fuck validation junkies. Fuck people who beg for acceptance.

Fuck gaming. Fuck gamers. Fuck "achievements" that get you nowhere in life with nothing to show for it. Fuck MMOs, FPSs, TBSs and RTSs. Fuck XBox Live. Fuck Playstation Network. Fuck social time wasting. Fuck DSs, PSPs, iPods, iPads and iPhones and other handheld babysitters that negate parenting and reinforce infinite feedback loops of uselessness.

Fuck dieting. Fuck obsessing about weight. Fuck being vain. Fuck daily gym routines. Fuck max bench pressing. Fuck squat thrusting. Fuck burpees. Fuck the treadmill. Fuck checking in at the gym on your social networks. Fuck announcing what songs you're listening to while there. Fuck posting your weigh in, run mileage and photos of how much you lifted.

Fuck being fat. Fuck eating your feelings. Fuck Dollar Menus. Fuck Super Sizing. Fuck every "box" meal from every fast food restaurant. Fuck Dorito-flavored everything. Fuck showing skinny fake ass models on TV selling beefless burgers with barbeque and fried things on it that will ensure you can never be a skinny fake-ass model. Fuck your lack of self control. Fuck your lack of self esteem. Fuck your lack of self. Fuck you for making your kids fat.

Fuck ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, Borderline, Bipolar, Caffeine-related disorder, Depression, Exhibitionism, Factitious Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Generalized anxiety disorder, Hypochondria, Impulse Control Disorder, Kleptomania, Manic Disorder, Night Terrors, OCD, Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (yep, that's a thing), Reactive Attachment Disorder, Social Phobia and every other over-diagnosed (and usually self-diagnosed) thing people claim to have in chat rooms for attention, which could be fixed with a stiff drink, running a mile and a slap to the face.

Fuck pessimism. Fuck hating everything to feel superior to everyone. Fuck venting. Fuck holier-than-thou attitudes. Fuck this bullshit. Fuck you. Fuck me. Fuck "Fuck everything."

I'm going to get a fucking cup of coffee.



9.19.2012

Stop Thrashing


"Don't go down without a fight."

That's been my life mantra for as long as I've been alive. Don't be passive. Fight. Stand your ground.

But what happens when the ground breaks down right under you and takes you into the water? The torrent sweeps you under and you're whisked away in the rapids? What do you do when life simply won't let you fight?

Fighting will wear you out; you will run out of breath and you WILL go down. When you have no ground to stand on, it's impossible to fight.

So stop fighting it.

It took me many years to finally learn this lesson, and I continually forget it. It goes against my natural instincts and all of the things I thought I knew about life. But when things get out of control, it's no longer a fight that can be won. In fact, it's not even a fight anymore. It's like driving your car into a river; steering and hitting the brakes won't help.

Sometimes, you have to surrender to survive. It's a horrible fact of life for those of us who never want to surrender. Surrender sounds like weakness. It's not. It's acceptance -- and acceptance is sometimes the most courageous act we could ever perform, because it goes against everything we know and everything we are.

Now, standing and fighting is about self respect. Never lose that. Never let anyone push you around. But when life dumps you in the river, you're not facing a someone anymore. When life itself begins tossing you back and forth and forces beyond your control take hold, shaking your fist and cursing its name feels brave, but you have to realize: the river is the river. It's not that it's mightier or stronger than you; it's a force of nature. It doesn't care. It doesn't think. It's not there to beat you. It's just there. It's going to keep flowing whether you fight it or not.

Ride it out. Find the calm spot. Use the energy you saved to swim to shore. Get back on track. Rebuild. Keep on living.

That's the victory. Not drowning. Not being broken. Surviving to fight another day.


Going against your own instincts is scary, and courage is strength in times of fear. Accepting that you cannot control what's going on around you and accepting that you have to stop trying to swim against the river, turn with the tide, point your feet (not your face) forward and go with the flow is scary. It's also the only way to keep from slamming your head against the rocks in your path and surviving.

It's important to know that sometimes, giving up the struggle is actually the only way not to give up on life. And while you may want to fight it, sometimes the only strategy that makes any sense is to ride it out. In the immortal words of Paul McCartney, "Let it Be."

And when in doubt just remember to breathe.


9.18.2012

The Etymology of Human Male Non-Verbal Communications (or, Why Men Fist-Bump)



(Note: This article is a classic from the archives -- in fact I forgot I even wrote it, until the New York Times called me this weekend to interview me about my "expertise in male-male non-verbal communication", or simply, fist-bumping. Apparently they're doing a piece on it in the next few weeks, which highlights something I always tell people: just because you don't get attention *now* for something you do doesn't mean it doesn't matter. You never know when, 4 years later, the world's most read newspaper will call you to interview you about it. I figured since it's about to be relevant again, I'd dig it up and dust it off. I hope you enjoy it.)


From insects to reptiles to mammals, all living things share between one another a set of instinctive communication that, through evolution or out-of-the-box, we all understand.

But there are a special subset of non-verbal tools that are used predominantly, if not exclusively, between human males. Sure, women might engage in sharing nods, handshakes, fist bumps, and other forms of communication, but they do so as mimics; not fully understanding the subtleties and subtexts of these communicative forms.

I’ve taken it upon myself to create this guide to these male-specific gestures and actions, so as to extend an olive branch of understanding across gender divides (and also, to make up for laughing at my wife when she asked me about fist-bumps earlier this morning... Hopefully this will get me out of the doghouse and, possibly, a new XBox 360 game).

Non-physical communication:


The Nod

Nods are fairly simple in their execution. Eye contact between two men is made, and a choice between two types of nod is instantly made:
Up-nod
Usually friendly, and used when one has met or seen the intended recipient before on good terms. Can and usually does lead to further forms of communication, such as the fist bump.

Down-nod
Politeness in a gesture, quite simply. Used when the two parties are unfamiliar with one another and are on positive grounds, or when the two have met previously and aren’t exactly comfortable with talking to one another. Almost always indicates “I am no threat to you, and I hope you aren’t one to me.” Not to be confused with a head-duck to avoid eye contact.

Note: The upnod and downnod are sometimes transcoded and interchanged by a special subset of users, the “White Suburban Gangster.” Men typically pay no attention to this subset of their gender, as they are a backwards group and tend to get a lot of things confused.


The "Power Fist”
Seen pretty regularly in gym or fitness settings, this indicates that one is to do whatever it is they are about to do with great force or power. It’s usually used before the event, but is sometimes given after the event as a sign of affirmation and pride from a coach or a father. Sometimes abused by douchebags in photos while wearing fake tans and too much hair gel, and always abused by politicians.

Good Power Fist:
Bad Power Fist:



Peace Sign
Doesn’t actually mean “peace” between men... Usually means “I’m too cool to use all five fingers when I wave to you.”


Sideways Peace Sign

This says “I’m a douche.” There are NO exceptions.


“Metal Hands” / Hook Horns (not at a concert)
In a concert or musical context, this means "OMG RAWK", and is used freely between both genders. In a non-music context, this is usually celebratory, or to show extreme excitement for an upcoming event. Similar to the "Power Fist”, but not reserved for jocks and athletes. One might give “Metal Hands” to another for an exceptional joke, for performing a gnarly stunt, or for making a saving throw when the Wood Elf Ranger ambushes a party in the Woods of Despair.


Bow
Normally reserved for Asian cultures, or extreme forms of respect in Western cultures (subjects bowing to their King, etc). When done by an American male to another American male, it’s usually going to be a sarcastic gesture intended to embarrass the other for being too commanding.


This never happens in America. Ever.


Salute
Salutes can mean two things, based on context:
Respectful: playful form of rank-establishment. When done to a person in position of authority who is also friendly with the saluter, it means they heard the instruction loud and clear and will do what was asked, but the saluter also wishes to establish a playful note so that he doesn’t seem “obedient.” It means “I’ll do this because I respect you, not because I was ordered to.”

Disrespectful: See “Bow.” Usually leads to argument, and in extreme cases, a Knuckle Bump to the face.

KneelOnly performed before Zod.


Who the hell WOULDN'T kneel before this man? Not you, right?




Physical


High Five
Extremely casual and versatile. Ranges from brand new acquaintanceships all the way to lifelong friendships. Can be a greeting, a form of celebration, or just a simple “Right on.” This particular form of communication is heavily context-sensitive, and as such, stands as the one form of communication that can be used in just about all situations.

Low Five
Usually followed after high-five, especially when done with 5-year-old nephews. Can sometimes be followed by clasping the recipient nose, pulling away, and saying “I’ve got your nose.” If you see two adults doing this, look around for your time machine and get the hell out of the 1970’s.


Fist Bump (AKA Knuckle Bump)The reason for this article. The male fist bump is a varied and nuanced ritual, but really only boils down to a simple concept - an informal greeting between casual friends.

Classic Fist bump (vertical)
Used by those who truly understand the fist bump. Simple contact between two clinched fists. Used liberally between men who aren't trying to put on airs or seem hip. In most casual circles, this is the predominant male greeting. In "hip" circles, this is seen as "played out" because those circles are fucking douchebags who care far more about wearing oversized $300.00 sunglasses intended for women.

"Dap" double-tap overhand fist bump
Sometimes done by your dad when he wants to be cool. One male taps the other male on the top of a closed fist, the other male repeats, and the the two tap knuckles straight on. This might have been casual and cool in the mid to late 1960's in the inner-city, radiating outward into the Caucasian suburbs by the 1970's. These days, it's only used by the type of men who want to keep only a touch of gray (note pathetic cross-gender peace sign usage in link).

“Exploding” Fist Bump
A Fist Bump (either vertical or horizontal) followed by a mock “explosion” by flinging all five fingers outward and making a “Bwooosh!” sound with pursed lips. See “Sideways Peace Sign” (except if done after a particularly spectacular touchdown by an NFL player... And that’s only on a case-by-case basis).

Forearm / Elbow Bump
This is a slightly advanced form of Fist Bump, reserved for acquaintances who see each other often, or newly created friendships. The Forearm Bump is done almost always because one of the parties has their hands full, has just soiled their hands, or has just washed their hands but does not want to be rude. There are exception cases to the forearm bump, such as a late-notice of a passing acquaintence where it is just slightly too late to make hand contact, but can be saved with a quick bump of elbows or forearms.


Hand Clasp
The most advanced form of casual physical communication due to the many variations and contexts. This is one step above Fist Bump and one step below Handshake in terms of formality, and the highest form of friendly greeting between men.


Overhand hand claspSometimes called the "soul brother handshake" by dipshits. This form of handshake looks like the form of grip that is used in traditional arm wrestling.



Overhand hand clasp to finger clasp (Bonus - add finger point)
The grip from the Overhand Hand Clasp is loosened, and the hands slide backwards into a finger-lock. The grip is re-tightened. This is usually an added feature to the Overhand Hand Clasp to indicate level of urban sophistication, and is usually laughed at when white people do it (unless said white person has demonstrated a keen understanding and appreciation for all things hip-hop, meaning they can name at least three Eric B. and Rakim tracks, understand what "doing an Ep in my Jeep" means WITHOUT GOOGLING, and have completely disavowed anything ever even remotely attached to 50 Cent).

Overhand hand clasp to shoulder bump
A human equivalent of two rams butting heads with one another. This greeting is fueled by testosterone and Red Bull. Usually used by people who obsessively call each other "bro."

Overhand hand clasp to one-arm hug (AKA “Man Hug”)
Brothers, or friends as close as brothers, will do this. It's a safe display of positive emotions one man might have for another. If the two are not exceptionally close, this particular greeting is acceptable ONLY if there has been a notable span of time between the last time they've seen one another and now.

Overhand hand clasp to heel-kick-lock to spin dismount
Reserved only for Kid n’ Play.


Classic Handshake
Ah, the defacto male greeting. Yes, females use it too, but it’s usually JUST a greeting if done by or to a female. The male handshake, however, is rife with subtlety and subtext, depending on point of contact, grip, pressure, length of duration, and the stature and status of the two parties involved.

This could really be an entire article unto itself, and probably one day will be. But for now, I’ll touch on some of the more prominent components of a male-male handshake and their associated meanings:

Hand Placement: Deep-set hand placement, where the webbing between the thumb and forefinger is set as close as possible to the same on the other male's hand, indicates a general respect for people. It shows that one's father showed them how to give a proper handshake. The further back the hand is set when the grip is closed, the less respect you apparently have for the person you are shaking hands with (and for most people in general).

Pressure: Pressure equals confidence. The more pressure applied to a grip, the more confience the male is presuming to communicate they possess. Not enough pressure, and you are seen as weak. Too much pressure, and you are seen as overbearing and boorish, overcompensating for something. A firm handshake, where pressure is applied by both parties so as to create an equilibrium, indicates confidence on both sides.

The added hand: a second hand clasped over the extended hand of a man one is shaking hands with indicates a formal form of familiarity and warmth. When a man shakes hands with someone and places their left hand over the back of the other man's hand, he is saying "We are friends. Feel comfortable." Whether or not he means it depends entirely on how much he desires of the person he is shaking hands with.

The inner-palm middle-finger tickle: Leads to man on man UNF-ing.

I hope this guide has helped shed some light on the world of male-to-male non-verbal communication. At the very least, I hope the Kid-n-Play animation was entertaining, because it took forever to find a high enough quality video on YouTube to grab screenshots from.


9.11.2012

9/11/2012

(Update, 9.11.13: I wrote this a year ago. In that year, there's been some changes, including the wife mentioned in this story becoming my ex-wife. Yet more perspective on why moving on is healthy and obsessing over tragedy simply leaves you stationary and in pain.)

I woke up just like any other morning. The alarm went off on my cellphone. I hit the snooze and laid awake enjoying the moment. A cat jumps up onto the bed and walks up onto my chest, begging for some early morning cheek scratches. My dogs begin whining a little, reminding me that there's only a few minutes left before their bladders explode.

The alarm goes off again, and instead of hitting snooze, I go ahead and turn it off. Begrudgingly, my wife and my cat both lift themselves off me so we can begin the process of getting on with the day. I turned on the television to catch up on the morning news and, much to my horror, I was greeted with images of two majestic towers in flames and smoking.

Our nation had been attacked... Eleven years ago today. 

My response was immediate. "Really?" I asked my wife as I watched file footage of the most horrific event our nation has experienced in my lifetime. "Do they honestly need to do this?"

"What?" she asked. 

"Remind us just how painful that day was?" I said.  "Do they need to actually show the buildings on fire? Do they need to show the planes colliding with the towers? Do they need to discuss the deaths and horrors of that day? Are those things truly necessary in order to honor the victims and remember what happened?"

She didn't have an answer.  And I don't think I do, either. What I do know is if my father died in an automobile accident, the last thing I want to watch year after year is the video footage of the collision. If someone I loved died of cancer, the last thing I want to see is video of their last days in the hospital, suffering. 

Two people I know died in Tower 2 on 9/11/2001. I don't want to watch that building burning and collapsing every fucking year. It reminds me that they were in there and they were crushed alive, simply because they went to work that day and 19 crazy zealots decided to make a point that ended with 2,977 exclamation points.

And yet...

It's on every news channel, on repeat. It'll be the topic of political candidates' talking points today. It'll be bandied about by every person in this nation who wants to prove their patriotism or make some point about foreign policy. It's everywhere... Just like it was last year, and the year before, and the year before...

I think that many (too many) people feel that, if you don't stop and make a public display of paying tribute, you don't care. And God forbid you don't care about a tragedy, lest you be thought of as a heartless bastard. It's like all these personal moments are made public simply so we don't look bad in public about our personal feelings.

At this point, we are past the grieving stage. We are not grieving as a nation. We are now posturing; making a presentation for the sole purpose of avoiding the appearance of not caring. 

Paying tribute does not necessarily mean you have to bring up the tragedy of the event. You don't have to remind people of the pain they suffered that day in order to honor the fallen. My grandfather never told me stories of dropping bombs all over England and France after D-Day. Instead, he always told me funny stories about the things the crew of his bomber did. I'd ask him about the war, he'd tell me about the time they put soap in one guy's canteen. I remember very clearly the day I asked him why he never talks about the war. His words to me resonated only very recently: "If you keep picking scabs, they never heal." 

Have we healed as a nation? No. Have I healed as a person? Mostly... I knew people who died in Tower 2 that day. They weren't close friends or loved ones, just people I worked with at one point -- and even now, I think of them and I am sad that they died in the process of going to work just like any other day. It fucking sucks to think about -- and they were just work acquaintances. I don't want to imagine what it would be like to have a family member or best friend lost that day.

And that's the point. Why are we, as a nation comprised by a vast majority of people who knew no one who died that day, bringing this out every single year as if we did? Do you think putting this out there every year in "tribute" helps the families of the fallen move on? Do you think it honors those who gave their lives, either willingly or unwillingly that day? 

It's time to move on. 

And it doesn't mean we forget -- we will always remember the events of that day, regardless of how many "Never Forget" stickers we see on the backs of jacked-up trucks in states hundreds or thousands of miles away from New York. We don't need that to remember... But I feel that the person inside that truck needs it. They need the branding as a "Real American" and "Patriot." They need everyone else to know just how much they care about that day. They need it known. For what reason, only a psychologist can truly discern. 

I'm not saying don't mourn. I'm just saying that maybe, 11 years later, it's time we quit picking scabs and let the healing process truly take hold. Remember always the lessons of that day. Honor those who lost their lives, either by being part of tragedy or by willingly rushing into those buildings to save the victims. 

But there's definitely better, healthier and more respectful ways than by dragging out file footage of burning & collapsing buildings and by metaphorically dragging the corpses of the dead out for public display every single year. 

Here's some stuff you could do to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost on 9/11 that, while they won't get you any attention for being a Patriot and won't make you feel super awesome for clicking "LIKE" on someone's jingoistic image tribute on Facebook, will actually help:
  • Make a donation to your local Fire Department's burn unit and charity drives
  • Make a donation to the local Police Department's injured officer fund
  • If you lost a loved one or friend and know what charity or cause they supported, donate to that in their name
  • If you are so inclined, say a prayer for the fallen. 
  • Discuss the event with friends
  • Send a care package to our troops stationed overseas -- they need movies (decent ones, and send DVDs, not Blu-Ray -- most laptops and station TVs don't have Blu-Ray players), magazines, books, Crystal Light packets for water bottles, and if you're really crafty, you can dye some decent vodka blue and put it in a Listerine bottle. Trust me, they'll thank you.
  • Vote this election season

9.07.2012

Taking Other People's Shit

Today's Note To Self (wait, you don't read my notes to self? What the hell... Come on, now, you're missing out!) is something I want to expand on: "If you take other people's shit for too long, you become full of it yourself." 



You complain about your job, or your spouse, or your roommate... And it's not just venting, you seriously say how badly you want to leave. You fantasize about leaving or telling them to leave you... Oh, the freedom! Oh, the peace!

And yet, here you are again, complaining about the shit they give you. Little do you know, it's filled you up to the point you're full of shit yourself. You SAY you want to leave -- why don't you? You SAY you want them gone -- why aren't they? 

The truth is, you're scared to leave. Or, you're in it for something you can't do without (money, sex, whatever). Or, you're afraid to be alone. Or any number of reasons, all of which amount to you're full of shit. You're lying to yourself. You're not telling the truth about why you're still around, because you've decided the sound of your own voice threatening to leave is enough to get you by.

If you really can't stand what's happening to you, make it stop happening to you. 

If someone holds a lit match to your skin, do you not flinch and slap it away? If someone is headed straight for your car at 50 miles an hour, do you not swerve out of the way? Then why are you still working at that job where the manager yells at you? Or dating that girl who hates all your friends and complains about you? Or married to that guy that cheated on you? Or overeating, or drinking alcohol to excess, or whatever it is you supposedly hate? 

Come to terms with the fact that you're happy where you're at and shut up, or leave and shut up. Talking incessantly about change does nothing but deafen you to listening to your heart to find out the real source of your issues. 


9.04.2012

Sex? At MY Dragon*Con? It's More Likely Than You Think...

Geeks have sex at conventions.

Scandalous, right? Gasp, shriek, oh the shock and the horror... Someone catch me, I believe I've caught the vapors, all that. Well, what do you expect when you bring together a community of consenting adults with similar interests with a celebratory atmosphere of belonging and acceptance? From what I've heard and seen at other conventions across the country, it's universal.

But for some reason, Dragon*Con in Atlanta  (hereafter, "DragonCon", because the asterisk is annoying) has cultivated a reputation amongst the major conventions in the United States for having the most amorous adventures after hours. The term "HookupCon" has been bandied about for the past few years. You can bet that everyone who has attended DragonCon for at least two years has some story that begins with "Well I heard..." and ends with something involving sex. For instance, I heard this one girl kissed an alien. There's even photographic proof, above.

I was curious if the staff of DragonCon knew about some of the rumors whispered about their convention, so I reached out to Dan Carroll, head of media relations. "Obviously, Dragon*Con leadership understand that a twenty four hour event filling so many hotel rooms bring with it some opportunity for romance," he told me.

"I myself have many friends who met at Dragon*Con, got engaged at Dragon*Con, and even broke up at Dragon*Con. As for the reputation for causal encounters at Dragon*Con, I think that it occurs, but not as at the scale that would make it the focus of Dragon*Con."

So how did DragonCon, of all the pop culture cons, end up with this reputation?

Anything goes at DragonCon -- you might see a xenomorph 
getting its freak on with Santa Claus


Given the people I know and the circles they run with, I thought I'd dig a little deeper. So I had some of my friends in various circles give me a rundown of their experiences over the past 20-some-odd years of attending after hours parties, events, and other activities that have contributed to a reputation of DragonCon being "HookupCon".

(A note: I will not be using full names in this article, nor will I go into detail about the events that take place behind closed doors. Going into those details is salacious and adds nothing to the actual story. Using real names is saying "here's who you can't trust anymore if you're in the scene" and describing the events in detail is saying "hey 'normal' people, CHECK OUT THE NERD SEX" -- and I won't do it. If you really need this information verified, I would suggest exploring that part of your sexuality yourself, attending DragonCon, and experimenting a little. Otherwise, voyeurism ain't happening here.)

"Fritz," a convention attendee who is celebrating his tenth year of coming to DragonCon this year, has some keen insight. "[The term HookupCon] pre-dates me," he said, "but my best guess is that it evolved over time just from friends telling stories. When you have that quantity of like-minded people, many of whom are from the more socially liberal spectrum of society,  spending 24 hours a day for four days together, things are more likely to happen than at a con that only lasts two days or one that shuts down at night."

And once the reputation of people being able to hook up at DragonCon started, it began to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as more and more people began to get comfortable with the idea that it could happen.

"Lander," a fifteen-year veteran of DragonCon and volunteer member of the convention's security staff, thinks it's only natural. "You have people who are very passionate by nature, and are generally accepted by the people around them," he told me. "Some are able to drink and most are above the age of consent in Georgia. So why not? It's nerd Mardi Gras, time to let our freak flag fly."

"Whether you're straight, gay, bi, transgendered, furry, Klingon, Time Lord, asexual, pansexual, omnisexual -- it doesn't matter," Lander says. "You have a shot at finding someone there who fits your bill."

"Anastasia," a 20+ year DragonCon attendee and a friend of mine from high school, thinks it goes a bit deeper than just that. "There are organized events, meet ups, and parties geared toward sexual encounters, and there are also random events," she explained. She's attended the convention since 1990. "In all the years that I have attended, I have attended many organized and random events. I look forward to them all."

This Dalek is ready to put his... Um.. Something in Master Chief



Personally, I was 16 years old when I attended my first DragonCon in 1993. I didn't stay overnight, I went during the day with some of my convention-going friends from high school, so I didn't really know about any of the nightlife. It wasn't until my third year attending, when I was 19, that I learned about what goes on after hours. A girl I knew from the few months I spent in college gave me a quick tour of some of the room parties taking place.

I wasn't shocked at all. It made perfect sense to me. The people I attended the convention with, myself, the girl who was giving me my first nighttime tour of DragonCon... We were all "freaks." And when we went to 'Con, we went especially to find people like us, who we felt comfortable around and shared interests with. It was only natural that attractions would form and people would act on them.

But never once, in my years of attending, have I seen anything openly sexual take place outside of the privacy of a closed room. "There are conscious efforts to maintain discretion," Lander told me, "because honestly it is no one's business what two (or more) consenting adults do behind closed doors."

"In the seven years I have been with Dragon*Con, I have seen a lot, but I have hardly ever seen any public behavior that I wouldn't see at a wedding reception, nightclub, or other public setting," Carroll said. "Dragon*Con is a private event, but we have standards that are enforced in terms of public behavior in the hotel open spaces or any where else where families will be."

With the proliferation of geek culture into the mainstream, attendance has exploded. As the great folks from DragonCon TV show us in this video, attendance has been growing at an exponential rate through 2009, and according to the official DragonCon statistics, exploded from roughly 30,000 in 2010 to over 46,000 in 2011 -- and they project well over 50,000 this year.




That sudden appearance of "everyone" had a dramatic impact on the nighttime culture of DragonCon. The culture of acceptance among geeks, coupled with the inherent nature of geeks to share what they love with anyone who is interested and the spreading of geek culture into mainstream culture has opened wide the doors of almost every convention.

With that come the folks who, in years past, weren't very interested in conventions. But having heard that DragonCon is a great place to see costumes, learn more about the new Sci/Fi and Fantasy shows they've seen on television, or meet artists who draw the comics that the Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman and Avengers movies are based on, curiosity set in. When you combine this with the fact that the evening and overnight parties at DragonCon are legendary throughout the city, you get a throng of people showing up to see what all the fuss is about.

Not all of them were curious about superhero movies and steampunk.

"I have encountered guys from the non-geek world that show up at DragonCon under the assumption that they can simply "hook up" with a geek girl," Anastasia told me. She explained that in the past few years, she "witnessed males being escorted from the hotels for being too forward and even sexually assaulting women. For the most part, I have only seen this happen when the 'crashers' would come to the con."

The crashers in question, according to everyone I spoke with, mostly refer to the college football fans who ended up staying at the same hotels as the DragonCon attendees in 2010. Despite some fun and fanciful media coverage stating otherwise, as an attendee who had to break up seven different fights and ended up in one of my own, I can tell you -- it wasn't a good pairing.

"It really brought about a bad element, honestly," I was told by a longtime attending photographer, who asked to remain anonymous. "Jocks, frat boys, Buckhead-types (a stereotypically 'Yuppie' part of town known for bars, bars and more bars, and the people who frequent them)... They crashed DragonCon to see if they can score some "easy [sex]" from geek girls -- or worse, fondle, grab, or molest in the crush of the crowds."

At a certain point, people who weren't even attending the convention showed up for the nightlife. So many, in fact, that in 2011, DragonCon instituted a policy that you have to have a paid DragonCon badge to even enter a hotel that hosts the convention, and after a certain time, you also have to have a room key for that hotel.

"Dragon*Con is a private membership event that has expanded in size consistently since 2000," Carroll told me regarding the decision to institute the badge check policy. "There was no longer room in the hotel lobbies for non-members to congregate. The secondary factor was addressing security concerns involving harassment of our members. Room parties were not a deciding factor."

He added that the times and locations of these badge checks will be expanding in 2012.

"I say things have gotten better [since the new policy]", Lander told me. "Because of the new policy, we have less "party crashers" then we did before, where you had drunk football fans getting into fights with the 'sissys in skirts' as I heard them called." The sissies being referred to are the Scottish Highland Reenactment group, wearing full Tartan (kilts) with Claymores on their back. And they don't take bullying lightly.

Kilts and leafblowers are but part of the fun. Why pick fights wit these guys (aside from your being drunk or an asshole)?


The policy also limits the people at the con to the ones who truly want to be there enough to buy a badge. It has created a safer environment for people to meet and get to know each other. Not the least of which are women who want to cosplay, sometimes as a sexy character, who can now walk around in nothing but Empire Caution Tape without a fear of being harassed by someone who isn't part of the culture.

So, is DragonCon really a "HookupCon," as some have rumored it to be?

"This question also seems to be driven out of a believe that sees Dragon*Con attendees as stereotypes," Mr. Carroll said. And I can see his point -- why does there have to be a special occasion or event for a geek to get laid? Especially since the definition of "geek" keeps broadening?

"We are doctors, lawyers, business professionals, store clerks, moms, dads, brothers," Carroll said of DragonCon attendees. "We are as diverse at any moment as the population of Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport.  We are geeks, but in the 21st century, 'geek' just means enthusiast and fan.  We love Star Wars or Star Trek, gaming or costumes, independent film, or music. And most people out there enjoy at least one of those those things."

"Not everyone with a Star Wars DVD comes to Dragon*Con, and not everyone with an XBox comes to Dragon*Con," he added, "but it is likely they would enjoy it, whether they 'hook up' or not."

9.03.2012

Just Some Thoughts On Abortion And Welfare...

I try really hard not to get political on my blog, but sometimes I just can't help it.

I argued with a man for 20 minutes this afternoon about abortion rights and welfare. I won't even bother recapping it, as it was RIDICULOUS. My point boils down to this:

If you feel that a woman should have a child, regardless of whether or not she's ready or able to afford it, you should support welfare. You're advocating the law prohibit a means of avoiding taking on the responsibility of a family without being able to afford it, so it's on you.

If you expect people to behave responsibly and live within their means, only taking on expenses they can afford, you should support a woman's right to have an abortion at her discretion. You are advocating every person be responsible for their lifestyle and live within their means, so you should be okay with the decision not to bring a life into the world that one cannot afford to raise.

From a purely "This must be law" standpoint, it's one or the other. To say "Women cannot have an abortion, even if they can't afford the child -- so say we," and then you say "Oh, and also, the government -- which mandated she have the child in the first place -- takes no responsibility in helping families who can't afford to maintain a bare minimum of living standards without help."

That's called bullshit, my friends.

And before you go all "abstinence" on me, if a woman is raped or cannot afford conception, the argument "she shouldn't have sex" is null and void. There are conditions by which a woman can get pregnant that don't add up to simple desire. Also, adoption is no guarantee that the child will be raised well, it's a wildcard at best... Not to mention you're dictating what must happen to a woman and her body without being that woman and having that body, which is just disgusting.

And lastly, no, I do not think it's actually an "either/or" argument, my point is not to advocate policy, my point is to point out the hypocrisy in dictating both of those laws. If you're going to put someone in a position, legally, that they really should have the freedom to choose to be in, you have to take responsibility for doing that to them.

That's all for today.

**Update**

As @BreeBrouwer on Twitter said: "Sure! Most of those people believe in life, but fail to recognize QUALITY of said life."

I couldn't have possibly said better myself.