Dealing with Different Views

Matt's Shoes Are FABULOUS

I am sad that you cannot see Matt’s shoes during the podcast. His footwear was FABULOUS.

At Dragon*Con in September, I was pulled into being a guest on the Secular Buddhist podcast, speaking on the subject of communicating with people who don’t share your viewpoint. Since I am not a Buddhist, I’d like to believe that I was asked to participate because I’m used to speaking to and entertaining large groups of people; however, it’s possible that I was asked simply because I’m fond of smoking cigars. Regardless of the reason, it was a treat to spend so much time talking with Ted Meissner, Matt Lowry, and Melissa Lee, as they are all truly Excellent People.

Here’s the summary of the podcast’s premise:

How often do we have conversations where all participants agree, completely, on all points? Just shy of never. Every day, we are going to run into an expected variety of thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Some of these will be held quite strongly, others not so much. It gets difficult when the passion about ideas is fierce, and the divergence between ideas is wide.

When we do find ourselves in situations where the discussion is going to happen, how can we engage in ways that not only leave doors open, but actively create bridges? Today’s episode is based on a situation that occurred at DragonCon, during the science track in a panel discussion about evolution and creationism. It was recorded in a crowded bar, so I thank you for your patience with the background sounds and ask for your understanding that we don’t always have the benefits of quiet, Skype based conversations.

Please enjoy Secular Buddhist episode 142: Dealing with Different Views.

The Great Geek Cosplay Debate

This is me, in my completely non-canon gender-swapped Boba Fett costume. This is before I started drinking alcohol out of the helmet. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Every few months, a geek debate flares up on the social networks, about whether it’s proper in geek circles to cosplay (aka wear a costume) from a property that you do not personally know much about. Specifically, this debate often centers around “booth babes,” aka ladies who have been hired to work booths at the larger sci-fi and gaming conventions, many of whom are paid to look good in a costume but who do not know much about the product. The debate often spreads from there to cover young (mostly female) cosplayers, who love wandering around in fun costumes but don’t wholly subscribe to the overall geek culture.

Given that the target of these debates is a largely female population, there’s likely an element of sexism here. Also ageism. But I’m not going to get into that. I’m going to tell a story.

Once upon a time, back when I was dating a comic artist named Christopher Jones, I was very nearly a Booth Babe. Mr. Jones was, at the time, working on a comic based on the old UFO TV series, which you may remember as the 70s-tastic Gerry Anderson show with the ladies on the moon who wore silver go-go boots and purple wigs. We were planning to go to San Diego Comic Con to stir up interest (and hopefully money) for the future of this independent comics project.

At one point, I volunteered to dress up as one of the moon babes and hang out at the booth. I mean, why not? I never was a fan of the TV series, but the costume was fun. Besides, most of the people I knew at San Diego Comic Con at the time were going to be at that booth, and it would give me something to do. I’d be earning my keep, in a way.

In the end, the costume never got made, and the comic project folded completely before a year had passed. So I never did get to be a Booth Babe and have my knowledge of UFO challenged by the mega-geeks.

Still, if that had happened, would I have been a poseur? I can go toe-to-toe with the super-experts on many geeky non-UFO subjects. I also worked in the comics industry at the time, which put me ahead of at least 75% of the population of the San Diego Comic Con.

Whatever your answer is for that, let’s set it aside and consider this: I wouldn’t know a damn thing about UFO if it hadn’t been for that project.

My take on this whole debate, whether it involves ladybits or not, is that everyone has to start somewhere.

We were all young and clueless once. It’s likely we’re all young and clueless now, compared to our future selves. Just because the person dressed as a lumberjack in front of you can’t quote any Monty Python aside from that one song doesn’t mean they have any less passion than you. It probably just means they haven’t been exposed to the rest of the oeuvre yet. If you have real passion for the subject of the costume, why aren’t you reveling in the chance to show a newbie how cool that thing really is?

Even if that Booth Babe is being paid to be at the show, if she has a good enough time while she’s there, she’ll probably start getting interested in the nerdy stuff going on around her. Maybe she’ll buy her first comic. Maybe she’ll pick up a crazy-looking DVD at the Troma booth. Who knows?

Fresh blood is a key ingredient for long-term survival of most populations. Those naive kids are the ones that will proudly wield the sonic screwdrivers long after you’re gone, but only if you get them hooked on Dr. Who in the first place.

The Art of the Power (Road) Trip

Mosquito Control

Miranda and I killed several states’ worth of mosquitos during our trek to Vegas.

Many of you reading this already know I’m a die-hard fan of road trips. I love to travel in general, but I especially love driving to get to my destination. Often, the journey is at least as much fun as the destination, and I feel like I’ve earned my time away. I get a chance to see the tiny corners of the vast and wildly varied country I live in. I get to spend hours and hours contemplating the most neglected areas of my .mp3 collection. I see sunrises, sunsets, storms, and wide skies. Also, airports suck.

I face another 1,170 mile trip (one direction) in December, and I’m already anxious to leave. A friend on Twitter, who will be making a similar journey for the first time, asked for advice on such trips, so here it is!

Continue Reading →

Now that I’ve finally seen Hellraiser…

My Fantastic Fest friend Cole was aghast (AGHAST, I say) when he learned that I had never seen Hellraiser. I was a bit aghast myself. Not only have I been a horror film fan since my childhood, that childhood included all of the 1980s. I was even an avid reader of folks like Stephen King and Clive Barker. Hellraiser should have hit my eyes soon after it came out in 1987. 

But the truth of the matter is that I just never got around to it. When I eventually saw Nightbreed, I found myself unthrilled with Clive Barker’s directoral style, so I never sought out any more of his movies.

Yet all these years, I’ve spoken fluent Hellraiser. I knew enough about the film series that I could name the characters, I knew many of the plot points, and I certainly knew the key quotes. I’m much the same way about Star Trek as a franchise. I can speak fluent Trek well enough that super-fans don’t eschew my presence, but in all honesty, I’ve seen the films, plus a couple episodes of the original series and Next Generation, and that’s really it. (I blame this on the guy I dated in early college. We’d turn on Next Generation to watch it, but within 5 minutes would be thoroughly ignoring it because we were engaging in less innocent activities. Yes, I prefer sex to Star Trek. Deal.)

(And yes, that is me in Trekkies 2. Shuttup.)

Anyway, I digress. I finally sat down to watch Hellraiser last night, mostly because I discovered Cole had never seen the original Assault on Precinct 13, and I wanted to guilt him properly. My verdict is that Hellraiser is a decent low-budget 80s gorefest with a uniquely overt sexual slant, but it didn’t have a whole lot of impact on me. It probably would have gotten better traction in my brain if I’d seen it 25 years ago.

On the plus side, I finally know what to do with this thing, which has been sitting on a shelf under an Atari 2600 E.T. game cartridge:

Well, now that I've actually seen all of Hellraiser, I now know what to do with this thing. (cc: @colewbradley)

Bill Stiteler says that I should sell it on eBay as a 50 Shades of Gray Rubik’s Cube.

Fantastic Fest 2012: Day 8

HONDOOOOOO! #ff2011 #fantasticfest

HONDOOO! (By which I mean, “I saw Future Folk play live at the closing night party!”)

Well, it’s been a couple of months since Fantastic Fest ended, but I notice that I never closed out my film reviews for the festival. So here it is: the final day of Fantastic Fest 2012!


It’s amazing that Combat Girls got made at all. Set and filmed in modern Germany, the story centers around two young women: one who is already hardcore white supremacist, and one who stumbles into white supremacy while seeking community and friends. The resulting film is an intimate, gruelling, and extremely sensitive look at the inner workings of people who fall into such groups. The characters are by no means forgiven for their prejudices or crimes, but the film gives the people tremendous dimension, which is perhaps key to understanding how stuff like this happens in the first place. It reminds me a bit of American History X, except starring German women.


This was one of the best things I saw at the entire festival. The plot is simple: the film follows a game of war, played in a neighborhood woods amongst a group of preteen kids. But the film leaps beyond this simple premise, simply by occasionally leaping into the kids’ heads, where they actually see their wooden-stick guns as AK-47s. The film quickly turns into an allegory for all rules of engagement, including the humane treatment of prisoners, use of strategy vs. brute force, the use of diplomacy, etc. It sounds heavy, and it kind of is, but the film keeps moving and never lingers too long on one concept. It also features a great cast of child actors. Great stuff.


Man, I could not keep my brain on this film. It may not be the film’s fault, as I was exhausted at this point and I may or may not have nodded off. I don’t remember. I don’t remember nodding off, and I don’t really remember the film. I do recall that it had a lot to do with time travel via video games, and it had some neat visuals. But I honestly can’t tell you more than that. Click that link to the Fantastic Fest review above; it will probably serve you better than I can.


Finally! I’d wanted to see The Entity for literally decades, and I finally had my chance at Fantastic Fest. It’s a 1982 horror film (supposedly based on a “true story”) where Barbara Hershey is an average single mother who suddenly becomes plagued by an invisible rape-demon. The interesting thing about the film is that, for most of the running time, it is readable from both the standpoint of a believer and the standpoint of a skeptic. Ron Silver plays a doctor who is pretty convinced that Hershey’s character is suffering from mental illness instead of demons, and that character spends a lot of screen time making very good points about how mental illness should be treated and not stigmatized. Ultimately, the film, because it’s a horror film, launches into paranormal territory, but I think it’s still an interesting movie to watch as a skeptic.


At the end of every Fantastic Fest, there is a closing night party of epic proportions. This time, the closing party was themed around the Red Dawn remake, so the FF folks turned an American Legion building in downtown Austin into a North Korean concentration camp (!). Seriously. There was barbed wire and lookout towers and a North Korean flag flying from the building.

We are in Texas, and this American Legion hall has a N Korean flag. #ff2012

I am so not kidding.

In keeping with the concentration camp theme, you could get your head shaved (for free) and/or get a tattoo (for free).

Read that again, and let me again stress that I am so not kidding. There were real tattoo artists working for hours, embedding Fantastic Fest tattoos into the skin of anyone who wanted one.

I did not get a tattoo, but only because I thought it would be weird to have a Fantastic Fest tattoo before I got a CONvergence tattoo. I did, however, let them shave my head.

On a different note, Future Folk were part of the live entertainment at the party, to the delight of pretty much everyone. I got a Hondorian helmet and wound up having my photo taken with the band.

Future Folk Group Shot


After that, and after a few beers, I wound up meeting the Twisted Twins, aka two Canadian film directors named Jen and Sylvian Soska. Indeed, they are twins, and they directed American Mary, which also screened at Fantastic Fest but I didn’t get to see. The Soskas are charming, though, and they completely went gaga over the fact that I shaved my head at the party. They were taking cell phone shots of my head and everything. It was pretty grand.

Really, everything was really grand. It was a really grand Fantastic Fest.