12 December, 2012

Keeping the 'Christ' in Christmas

I've been seeing signs here and there this early winter season with the slogan "keep the Christ in Christmas". Normally, I'm a "let people celebrate however they like" kinda guy, but there's something about this that bugs me. I can see where this perspective comes from, with the commercialization of Christmas and everything - there's nothing controversial about Christians wanting to preserve the true meaning of Christmas. I think the problem comes in where we have to accept that Christmas isn't strictly a Christian holiday (anymore).

Now, I personally would be on board with a widescale move to redesignate Christmas as a purely Christian holiday that only Christians celebrate - I would be more than happy to get rid of the pressure of being expected to celebrate Christmas within my family regardless of my religious beliefs (and level of devotion). But let's be realistic - that ain't gonna happen. Christmas has splintered whether the Christians like it or not, and now it is as much a secular holiday as it is a Christian holiday.

And I don't see why that's so bad. Christmas is, generally, a nice holiday (regardless of my personal feelings about it), and I don't see why people who are irreligious shouldn't be able to celebrate it in the commercialized, secularized form that currently exists. Ideally, we would call it something different, and disconnect it with the religious traditions of Christmas - call it Winter's Day or whatever. That way, the Christians could be all about "Christmas is about Christ", and the rest of us heathens could be content to celebrate our Winter's Day without feeling like we're locking horns with the Christians by subverting their holiday traditions.

But, as it stands, the holiday that so much of us celebrate, whether religious or not, and particularly when talking about the media outlets and the music and the decorations we see every December, is Christmas. So when I see a sign that says "keep the Christ in Christmas" I can't help thinking, "well, that's all well and good for you Christians, but I'm an atheist, and the last thing I want to emphasize in my winter holiday celebrations is some religious mumbo-jumbo."

See, in my experience, 'Christmas' is a word used to designate winter holiday celebrations (not specifically those of a devout religious bent), and anyone who is advertising the need to put the Christ back into Christmas is essentially telling me that I need to not only put religion into my winter holiday celebrations, but to put specifically Christian beliefs into my winter holiday celebrations - and that's offensive. But, that is characteristic of the Christians, after all, who have historically been overly concerned with conversion and saving souls and forcing everybody else to think the way they do.

Now, I'm a reasonable person, so I'm more than happy to renounce the name 'Christmas' for my winter holiday celebrations, but as long as everybody else I bump into (religious or not) is using that name, it's not really going to stick. So, if there is to be any kind of resolution to this dilemma, there are going to have to be a whole lot more people willing to do as I am. I can't force that to happen, so it's out of my power. I'm willing to concede Christmas to the Christians; whether or not it happens depends on the rest of you 'not really religious' Christians and ex-Christians, and you people who help to turn the commercial marketplace into an advertisement for Christianity each December, reinforcing the extremely offensive notion that America is a Christian country.

The ball's in your court.

08 November, 2012

On the Legalization of Pot

(In the wake of this article)

You know, worst case scenario - pot turns people into lazy, incoherent douchebags. Again, worst case scenario - legalize pot and people will use it indiscriminately, irresponsibly. I don't think this would realistically happen, but let's talk worst case scenario.

Is it really so bad? The way I see it, it's like natural selection - survival of the fittest. So, a subset of the human population gets addicted to pot and lays on the couch all day instead of going to work. So? They eventually become poor from not being able to hold a job, and guess what - that's more jobs for the people who are smart enough to avoid doping up (or the "few" smart enough to use pot responsibly, and not recklessly).

I fail to see why this is a bad thing. I think taking drugs is stupid, personally - although I believe there is such a thing as decency in moderation. The threat of addiction is, of course dangerous, which is one of the reasons I prefer to play it safe and not dip my toes in the water.

But then again, we can talk about different drugs and what they do (as well as how addictive they are). Some drugs are perfectly legal - like caffeine. Other drugs are legal but regulated - alcohol and tobacco. But that doesn't mean they're safe.

If anything, instead of outlawing pot for totally arbitrary reasons - there should be some kind of scientific inquiry into its effects and its level of danger, on the grand scale. Everything I've heard and read suggests that pot is more benign and less poisionous than alcohol and tobacco. So what's the big deal?

But, I would argue even further than that. Worst case scenario - legalize pot, and it opens the door for the bleeding heart liberals who want the right to decide what they put in their bodies (funny idea, that). So what? If some idiot wants to ruin his life and send himself to an early grave snorting cocaine and shooting up heroine, so be it.

It's one thing to want good lives for other people, and to want to guide them when you think they're making a mistake. But, ultimately, it's their life and their decision. And it would probably be a much safer decision without all the underground bullshit that comes with prohibition. You know, gang violence, impurities, and all the damn secrecy. I say, bring it all out into the open, and we'd all be better equipped to handle it.

You know, even from a Christian perspective, there's no virtue in forcing a man to avoid temptation - he has to choose it himself. Not that I put any weight in the Christian perspective, but it's worthwhile to point out the hypocrisy inherent in that view. Funny thing I was thinking the other day - God makes sketchy promises of rewards after death for avoiding temptation, but giving in to temptation is its own reward - here and now.

06 November, 2012

A quick note on voting

I understand that some people think voting is this uber-important thing. But there's this self-righteousness associated with voting that really pisses me off. "Vote, or you're a pathetic jack-ass." "If you don't vote, you're an idiot and you can't be my friend and I don't understand you."

If another person thinks voting is worth it, that's fine, it doesn't bother me that much, and I can still be friends with them. But the way people proselytize about voting - like as if it's not enough that they vote, they have to get you to vote, too. It reminds me of Christian missionaries, and you can probably guess how I feel about them. It's like, give it a break already.

All your arguments you have for voting may be entirely sound, and you may even go so far as to think that you can't believe in democracy and not vote. Well, let me tell you something, I don't believe in democracy. At least not in the sense of majoritarian rule. Voting for me is a broken system and I'm not going to participate in it because it doesn't do anything for me, it just takes my rights away from me.

Even if I happened to be in the popular majority (and that's never going to happen), and the elected candidate is working in my favor, it's still not fair to everyone else, and I still won't get the consideration I deserve because a) no one politician is that powerful, and b) the government on the whole isn't working for the good of the people, it's working for the good of the government.

Actually, that's just how the system works. If you think the patriots that built this country protected against that eventuality, let me just tell you one thing - the Constitution is open to interpretation. Whose interpretation? Why, politicians, naturally. And who puts them in their seats? The majority!

I don't believe in democracy. So go, enjoy your excitement on Election Day - you're entitled to it, and I wouldn't take that away from you. Just stop acting like if I don't vote, there's something wrong with me (and you, for not trying harder to change my mind), okay? Thanks.

18 October, 2012

The Green Pill

Meaning is a human construct. It is not a property the universe possesses, that only humans are capable of grasping. It is an artifice, that only the human mind* is complex enough to construct. And while it bears some decided advantages (I would wager that bestowing life with meaning is a powerful survival advantage), getting lost in it can bear grave disadvantages - most notably in a willing blindness to the truth, like when faced with the fact that our consciousness will most likely someday return to the nothingness from whence it sprang, and not live on in an eternal afterlife.

(*It is conceivable that an organism with a comparable percentage of the capacity of the human mind may experience some level of 'meaning', and that a hypothetical organism with intelligence surpassing that of man's potential could also experience 'meaning', perhaps on an even more sophisticated level.)

I would be a fool to suggest that fantasy can not have a positive impact on life - but to get lost in it, losing sense of reality in the process, is dangerous. I do not think anyone's enjoyment of movie pictures, for example, are seriously hampered by the knowledge that they are just dramatic fantasies. On the other hand, those that allow themselves to remain trapped within the theater - like those chained inside of Plato's Cave - who are ignorant or unwilling to recognize the true nature of the world outside, may be doing themselves a disservice; but, more importantly, on a mass scale, their influence can negatively affect the quality of individuals' lives, as well as the advancement of human civilization on the whole.

Yes, I'm saying that meaning is a fantasy - but I'm also acknowledging that fantasy can have meaning. The impetus for this whole line of thought was the classic philosophical conundrum that presents itself in The Matrix as the red pill/blue pill question. Yes, of course, life in The Matrix is more comfortable than life out in the harsh, depressing world of reality. That's probably why so many people have turned to religion over the course of human history. For some of us, like myself, there is perhaps some virtue in enduring hardship for the sake of truth, and being free from deception. But here's the kicker:

Life in The Matrix may be more comfortable than life in the real world, but it is those who recognize The Matrix for the artificial construct that it is that have the power to mold that construct to their will, giving them abilities and experiences they couldn't dream of whether in The Matrix and ignorant of its artifice, or out in the real world. It's the ones who recognize the deception, but do not shun its deceptive properties, that are in a position to control it and wield it for their own ends. It is not simply a question of red pill or blue pill - harsh reality versus comfortable illusion. I urge you to take the green pill - so that you can begin to recognize the code and program it to suit your needs - in a sense, becoming our own gods. And as a transhumanist, I believe this is what we ought to do as a society on the whole.

11 September, 2012

Pointed in a New Direction

I don't understand the point of having gotten a college education when what I've decided I want to do with my life at 28 is completely different than what I thought I wanted to do with my life at 18 - not that I was especially dedicated to it; I just picked something from the limited list of experiences I had at that point because people were pressuring me to pick something.

And when I found out, in college, what that something really consisted of, I discovered I hated it. So I ended up with a college degree in something I hated, and had no interest of pursuing a career in. And I was left with a big gaping void on the question of what I want to do with my life.

In hindsight, I don't think I should have been pushed to make such important decisions so early. Youth is the time for experimentation. You try a million different things, and you don't specialize until you're dedicated and passionate about something to the point that you WANT to specialize.

If I had spent 10 years discovering myself, and then decided I was ready for college, that college education would have been useful to me. As it stands, I went to college when I did because it was expected of me, and because it's a status symbol, and my parents were able to provide me with that opportunity and so I didn't want to throw it away.

Now, if I went back to college, I'd end up paying for it twice, and it was expensive enough the first time around. I'm 28 and I don't want to ask my parents, again, to spend all that money on me when all they've done my entire life is throw money in my direction. And because I've been aimless these ten years that I've been an adult, I don't have the kind of means or resources to pay for something like that myself.

It's frustrating, but I guess a college education (in the field of your interest) isn't the most important thing in the world, especially if you're interested in a field that's more creative than academic (I know, what a waste of my brain power - after a certain point, though, intelligence just becomes a burden). Still, I have zero connections in that world, and I don't have any clue how to get started.

09 April, 2012

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 6: Pics

I know I said it was going to be a few days at the most, and I apologize for leaving you hanging, but I wanted to wait for DeathCom's pics to go up (they're a company that attends cons, sets up a booth, and takes professional pictures of cosplayers that they can choose to order prints of, if they feel like it). They have a few pictures of me in my Sexy no Jutsu cosplay from Saturday - click here, and then try scrolling left and right through the images to see the other ones they got of me. I also found that amazing Lum that I got a picture of, and an anti-spiral Nia which I totally missed seeing at the con (here she is with Simon, who I did see). Also of note are this amusing Mario & Yoshi pair, the amazing bodypaint work of Darth Talon, and Muten Roshi from DBZ, who I saw wandering about the con (there was a really good Vegeta, too - I should have got his picture). Also of note is this very impressive Darth Vader without his helmet on, who was very intimidating in person. I overheard someone call him "Darth Vader", and he replied, "that's Lord Vader to you" in a calm but firm voice. I was afraid that if I dared to take his picture without asking politely first, he'd strangle me with the Force!

Regretfully, DeathCom did not, apparently, get a picture of that mystery cosplayer that I missed - who I have now found out was cosplaying as Siren, the Guardian Force (summon) from Final Fantasy VIII. I knew she looked familiar, but the closest thing I could come up with was a chocobo - which is another Final Fantasy character with yellow feathers (she was sure fast as a chocobo, when I was trying to chase her down for a picture). I also found out that she's the same person who cosplayed Sailor Neptune (formal gown) and Paine from Final Fantasy X-2 that weekend, both of which I did get pictures of (and I didn't even realize they were all the same person! She's a really good cosplayer). Here's another pic I found of her in her Siren cosplay. None of these pictures even do her cosplay justice! I wish I hadn't missed my chance to photograph her. :(

Now onto the pictures I took. I was less proactive in taking pictures of other cosplayers this year, but I balanced that with the enthusiasm I had for my own cosplays, which I got a lot of pictures of. On Saturday, I posed for a whole lot of pictures in my popular Sexy no Jutsu cosplay, and actually missed getting pics of some other cosplayers due to being otherwise detained! And I spent a lot more time standing around showing off my cosplay, waiting for people to ask for my picture, than walking around asking for other people's pictures.

Anyway, here is a link to my con photos for this year. The weather was nice, so we actually had a chance to visit Point State Park which is literally across the street from the hotel. This year I was in the midst of an obsession with my new cell phone camera, so I took a lot of those kinda pics. Low resolution, but the charm is all in the showcase of it, and the convenience of carrying it around, and the challenge of trying to take interesting pictures with a generally poor quality camera (though for a cell phone camera, I'm pretty impressed). I put the pictures from my own cosplay photoshoots in this set here, so make sure to check those out, too (look towards the end, the first half is my cosplay from last year). Last but not least, I have more pics of the figure I picked up in the Dealer's Room this year in this set - she's the pink-haired figure in the striped bikini - for all of you figure moe zoku types. ;-)

All that's left now is pictures taken by fellow con-goers. And I'm disappointed to report that tracking down pictures from this con is as frustrating as ever. I had tons of people taking my picture on Saturday of the con, and so far, I've found two of those pictures online. It's been enough time now that people should have posted their con pictures, especially considering that most people these days are of the point-shoot-share mentality, which requires less post-processing than I spend on my pictures. To be fair, I wait until DeathCom's photos go up to complain, because they take a lot of pictures, and they're professionals. I put my pictures up pretty quick this year, and it still took me a week or more, yet even then, I was weeks ahead of DeathCom. It might be true that some people take pictures at cons without intending to share them publicly - and that's entirely their prerogative - but when I have my picture taken at a con, I really do enjoy seeing that picture later on. Maybe none of those pictures turned out well at all. That would be a shame. And when people do put their pics up, it's not always easy to find them. That's what the 'post your pictures' thread on the con's official forum is for (which is right here, by the way). But not everyone uses it...

Ah, well. So far, I've found this picture, which, interestingly, I discovered was taken by someone who got my picture last year in my pink dress Chii cosplay! Points for consistency! And then there's this picture.

Yeah. That's it. I wanna see more! T.T

07 April, 2012

Easter Cheer

I know, I'm not a religious person, but Easter tickles me for two reasons.

1) Like Halloween, it's a holiday celebrated by the mass consumption of chocolate and other candies. (Although, rather than mass consumption, this year it's just an excuse for me to splurge and have a candy bar).

2) Regardless of the historical accuracy of the statements I've made in the past (which I do believe are at least somewhat accurate, but I'm not a historian; and anyway, history isn't as important as what it means to us), I think it's fun to emphasize the pagan traditions that underlie our modern celebration of Easter - namely, that it is a fertility festival (hint: fill in the blank - to ____ like rabbits), and one occurring during the spring, which in some pagan calendars is the time of year when one celebrates that phase of life that is characterized by the attainment of sexual maturity, both in pretty young maidens, and also in sporting young lads. So in other words, it's a very sexy holiday. :D

And, to emphasize that aspect,
I provide you with the following bunny chicks:

Have a fun and morally ambiguous Easter!
And don't do anyone I wouldn't do! -_^


01 April, 2012

Reflexive Gifting

Finding gifts for the people you know and love is a pain in the ass. Finding gifts for someone you don't even know that well is downright frustrating. Well I've discovered the solution to your woes - it's Reflexive Gifting!

The original concept of gifting implies non-reciprocation - gifts are given unexpectedly, without expectation of any return favor. But these days, organized gifting has turned the concept of gifting on its head, undermining the very generosity and surprise that it represents.

Most organized gifting is Reciprocal Gifting. Like on Christmas, you give the people you know and love gifts, expecting to get gifts in return. Even birthdays, which are seemingly one-sided, also involve reciprocal gifting because there is an assumption that you will eventually return the favor once the gift-giver's birthday comes around!

In the end, Reciprocal Gifting is not really gifting, it's just an exchange of goods, that is ideally, but not always, more or less equal. But if you're sick and tired of the hassle of picking out gifts for people, and don't enjoy the surprise that entails having to pretend you like your gifts whether you really do or not, might I suggest you try Reflexive Gifting instead?

Reflexive Gifting means buying "gifts" for yourself. That means you can get what you *really* want! But in order to not have to spend money on gifts for yourself AND your friends and family, you need to tell them that you're a Reflexive Gifter. That means they can save the money they would have spent buying you gifts, and instead buy themselves something! And then you don't have to buy them anything, because you're giving them the gift of being able to buy their gifts for themselves, in exchange for their agreement to do the same for you!

The result is, nobody spends more money than they really would have otherwise, and they get the same amount of gifts - they just have the opportunity to buy them for themselves, so they know they'll like them! It takes the guesswork out of gifting, and as an alternative solution to hunting for gifts, it doesn't put a price on your friendships like gifting cash tends to do!

Reflexive Gifting may not be for everyone - surely, there are people who enjoy hunting for gifts, and the surprise of not knowing what they'll get. But not everyone is alike, and I know there are other people out there like me who would much rather engage in Reflexive Gifting, and be able to enjoy the tradition of gifting once again!

So find out which of your friends and family would prefer Reflexive Gifting over Reciprocal Gifting, and even if you don't like it, try it, for them. You can still give reciprocal gifts for everyone else on your list! That way, everyone will be happy! Know any introverts or antisocial loners? They'll probably love this idea! Or, you can engage in Reflexive Gifting in groups, by organizing a shopping trip, for those who prefer to buy their own gifts but still enjoy the social atmosphere!

And if you yourself are interested in Reflexive Gifting, make sure to tell your friends and family, and let them know what Reflexive Gifting is all about. That way, they'll feel confident about spending their money on themselves and not expecting a gift from you, and they'll know you're serious, and not just saying you don't want a gift because you like to be surprised!

Spread the word about Reflexive Gifting today!

27 March, 2012

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 5: Sunday/End

I was originally planning on going back to the con on Sunday for once, because I really didn't want to miss the Lolita 101 panel ("lace, frills, and petticoats") that was scheduled for that day. And since my schedule was adjusted such that getting up in the morning was actually normal for me, it would be much less of an effort to get out there to the con on what is usually more of a non-day (at least compared to Friday and Saturday). However, after staying out till 3am Saturday night, I was willing to bet that most of the Lolita 101 panel would be a rehash of stuff I've heard or read before. So we stayed home.

But I'm not complaining. In spite of the emergency our group had, I had lots of fun at the con this year. Maybe as much as I've ever had at a con. Maybe. Certainly I was at least as excited about my cosplay this year as last, if not more. And I'm so buzzed on cosplay right now that I'm already thinking ahead to next year. I want to do another version of Chii, because she's sort of become my trademark cosplay, and she has so many various outfits to wear. It's going to be an incredible challenge, but I'm really dedicated to doing a "Chii in bandages" cosplay (like so). Getting the clouds in my Sexy no Jutsu cosplay to work was tough, but I think this will be even tougher. But if we can figure out a way to make it work, it'll be so totally worth it. The other cosplay I'm considering is a sexy Pikachu. My seamstress thinks that's a boring idea, but I'm not bothered by cliches. I've seen some sexy female pikachus in my day, and like the Misty cosplay, I'll never get tired of seeing them. So it'd be fun to do a sexy male Pikachu once. Or hell, even a sexy female Pikachu crossplay. But there's still lots of time to change my mind before next year.

I was less proactive in taking pictures of other cosplayers this year, but I'm not gonna beat myself up about that since I put so much emphasis on my own cosplays (and I got lots of great pictures of those, which I'm still working on putting up). Anyway I did get some, so I can be happy about that. I was excited to get to do a couple things this year I'd been meaning to for years; namely, get to the AMV contest, and take in some 18+ programming. On the other hand, I started wondering how come I never pay attention to the bands that play at these cons. It's probably because I'm not familiar with them, so they're easy to ignore, but as a musician and a music fan, I should really look into attending some of these concerts. I might like them. And if I don't, I can always walk out.

I didn't even look at the video gaming rooms this year, as I think they were stuck up on the fourth floor, and I didn't have any real reason to go up there. It's okay, though, I'm not really into communal video gaming - even in the video game club I attended in college, I went mostly for the atmosphere, and when it came to playing games, it was something off in a side room by myself or with close friends. Plus, with all those people looking to play, how can you even really get into a game? Well, I know a lot of people like playing games at cons, I guess I'm just not one of them. But that doesn't bother me.

I had one other thought about attending conventions this year, and that was the possibility of hosting my own panel for a future con. I've seen several panels by now, and the quality varies greatly. I certainly have the skill and talent to produce an adequate Powerpoint presentation, if my high school and college experience is worth anything (sometimes I wonder...). And given my experience both as an anime fan and as a student of Japanese language and culture (I know most American anime fans have atrocious Japanese pronunciation, but you'd expect a little better from someone so versed in a section of Japanese fandom as to have the desire and the ability to host a panel at a convention - well, at least I would), I'd like to believe that I could be at least an adequate presenter of some facet of the fandom.

Of course, the question is what facet - and whether it's not already covered by someone more versed than I am. Actually, that's not the problem, as it's what gave me the idea of doing a panel in the first place, as I had perceived an opening, an omission that seemed (to me) to desire filling. And one that has a particular appeal for me. Unfortunately, though, it's a pretty fringe and highly controversial aspect of the fandom, so I doubt it would ever be accepted by the convention. Nevertheless, I think I'm gonna work on it anyway, for my own benefit if noone else's. And I'd like to tell you what it is, but I don't want to open myself up for misinterpretation. So feel free to speculate instead. :p

Or, distract yourself with pictures from this year's con. I'll be back shortly (a few days at the most), with links to my pictures taken at the con, both of my cosplays and of the other people's cosplays that I got pictures of. Plus, I'll probably have some links to some pictures of me that other people have taken, if I can find many. Look forward to it!

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 4: Saturday

So Saturday morning my traveling companions had to make a trip to the emergency room, to take care of the eye injury I mentioned last time. I felt a little bad going off to enjoy the con by myself, but it's not like I could have done anything staying behind; and if one or both of my traveling companions' con weekend was more or less ruined, I could at least still enjoy the con.

So, still tired though I was, I headed off early Saturday morning to catch the Tekko X AMV contest at 9am. I may be forgetting, but I don't think I've attended the main AMV contest at a con ever since that one time at Otakon. So I was excited to finally be able to fit it into my schedule. Although, first thing in the morning doesn't seem to me like the best time to do the AMV contest. I got there right on time, and there was a line already forming, but it was less than twenty people long, and didn't grow much by the time we were let into the main events room to take our seats. So I got a nice front row seat right in front of one of the two screens. Some more people shuffled in as the three hour (or so) long AMV contest continued, but it seems inconvenient that so many people would arrive to vote on the AMVs, not having seen however many they missed before they got there.

Anyway, there were some interesting AMVs. The upbeat category started off with some magical lolis to set the mood, and included an amusing DBZ video that was actually really good, if not for the song being kind of not to my taste. The action category had some good ones, including both a Fate/Stay Night (actually Unlimited Blade Works, I think) and a really good Gurren Lagann AMV. I, of course, enjoyed the Romance category, which included a sweetly controversial relationship video for Usagi Drop/Bunny Drop set to Nat King Cole's L.O.V.E., and a video celebrating tsunderes to the tune of Katy Perry's Hot n Cold. But my pick for best in show was a touching video for a series I am unfamiliar with titled "Ano Hi Mita Hana..." (there's more to the full title), about a girl who I think died as a child, and her friend's attempt to move on (or something like that). I liked it a lot, and am thinking that maybe I should watch that series some time.

I started getting antsy approaching the third hour of the contest, and when the Comedy/Parody category started, I left. Sorry, comedy isn't my favorite category (I know that for a lot of people it is). I'm sure I would have enjoyed some of those videos if I stayed, but I was eager to get back home, check on my traveling companions, and change into my long-anticipated Saturday cosplay (I had gone that morning in my backup outfit, my Tentacle Sex t-shirt :3). And that cosplay is Sexy no Jutsu Naruto! So after painting my nails orange, showering, putting my hair in pigtails, and having lunch, I headed back to the con with the one of my two traveling companions who wasn't suffering from an eye injury (the other one needed bed rest). And then the fun began!

I decided to change into the actual costume part of my cosplay (minus the hair, makeup, and accessories a.k.a. forehead protector) at the con for simplicity's sake. So I headed into the same handicapped stall in the men's restroom where I changed into my pink dress last year for my sensational Chii cosplay, and this time I got undressed and put on my homemade cloud bikini! After I came out of the stall, I was adjusting my clouds in the mirror over the sinks, and several men walked into the bathroom only to glance at me, and then quickly turn around and walk back out - thinking, naturally, that they had walked into the wrong bathroom! This was a recurring theme throughout the day - apparently I make a pretty convincing girl!

But not only that, regardless of my gender, or what gender people thought I was (correctly or mistakenly), my Sexy no Jutsu cosplay was a huge hit! I got lots of compliments all throughout the day, including from people who thought I was a girl only to discover that I'm really a guy, and more picture requests than I've ever had before! I only had a couple comments that were less than totally positive, and those included one person who was concerned about whether I was covered up beneath my clouds (does she think I'm stupid?), and one who had a "Naruto sucks because it's popular" sort of attitude. But all in all, the response was positive by a vast majority, and I had tons of fun in my cosplay! I'm just waiting for the pictures to come in of all those people who wanted a snap of (or with!) me! I also regret missing the big Naruto photoshoot, but I couldn't help it given the change of plans after one of my traveling companions had to visit the ER...

So Saturday I spent a lot of time just hanging around the halls, waiting for people to ask for my picture, while simultaneously looking out for cosplayers that I wanted to take a picture of. I got some good ones, but not nearly as many as I got last year. It's okay, though, because I was more focused on my own cosplay this time. But there were a couple cosplays I wanted a picture of that I missed. Like this one really awesome cosplay that looked like a Chocobo; it was a girl who was practically naked, but decked out in yellow plumage. I missed getting her picture because I got stopped by a [non-Sexy no Jutsu] Naruto for a picture, and by the time I caught up to her, she had slipped into the bathroom to change out of her cosplay! Bummer. Here is a picture of her that someone else got. I'm hoping to see some more (ooh, here's another!). The other girl I missed was cosplaying as Misty (from Pokemon). I actually got another really good Misty, but there were at least two floating around, more if you count the not-as-good ones. I know Misty is a cliche cosplay, but I'll never get tired of seeing her. I love her outfit. So simple, so casual, yet so sexy. :3

One of the all-time cosplay highlights of the weekend was a super-sexy Darth Talon walking around (with a smaller-statured Darth Maul companion), decked out in red body paint. The costume itself was really impressive, but the cosplayer had the perfect figure for it and the resulting effect was truly spectacular. I should have got more than one picture of her... Another cosplay that blew me away on Saturday was an impeccable Lum (as seen in Urusei Yatsura). As far as characters go, she is one of the classic sexy chicks of anime fandom. I think this may be the first time I've seen one at a convention, though. It was great!

Saturday night I had a lot of panels I wanted to see. It's unfortunate that they have to squeeze all of the 18+ panels together at the end of the night, because if you're like me, and most of the stuff that interests you is 18+, then you end up having a huge scheduling conflict. But I've missed out on the adult material at these cons in the past, probably not infrequently because you have to stay so late to see them, so I was determined to stick it out this year. I wanted to visit the rave again this year (now that I've gotten over my fear of it), but they wouldn't let me in with my bag, and I didn't feel like paying to drop it off at bag check, especially given that it was already so late in the day. It's a shame, because I wanted to see how my white clouds glowed in the black lights of the rave, but oh well. I had other things to do, anyway.

Half an hour after the rave started, I had a panel to see. It's the one panel in the whole con I was most excited to see. The title of it was "My Cosplay Brings All The Boys To The Con", and my first impression was that it would be a panel discussing sexy cosplay (right up my alley, obviously). Reading the description in the booklet, however, revealed that it was going to be a feminist panel. I should have given up right then, but going by the (ambiguous) description, I thought it still might be an interesting discussion on the feminist implications of sexy cosplay (and I was rather curious how a feminist would interpret a man crossplaying as a sexy female character at a con, breaking down gender expectations and all that). In other words, the panel still had potential, but I'm sad to report that it was a huge letdown, as it turned out to be little more than a bitchfest by a couple of angry feminists who were jealous because they weren't sexy.

I know, that's harsh, but when you try to implement the tool of shame (in this case, sex shame, and guilt), I'm not gonna play nice. The panel heads actually had some insightful points to make, about the ubiquitousness of sexy females in media, and the need for more positive female role models that don't rely on their sexual assets, but they ruined it by attacking sexual expression and neglecting the legitimacy of sex. They seemed to be implying that although a girl who wears a sexy cosplay is not herself at fault, she still represents the symptom of a societal problem - a view that entirely ignores the possibility that the girl might enjoy being sexy, feel empowered by it, and not believe that sex is just a tool of the patriarchy to force women into submission and degradation.

To put it very simply, regardless of whatever feminist cred they might have had, these were people who had utterly failed Sex Ed 101, and were the type who bitch about the fact that sex is popular. Get over it. If you want alternatives, I'm behind you 100%. But if you're gonna try to cut down people who like sex, then get out of my way. You ain't gonna earn my sympathy that way. But the most pathetic part for me to watch were the sexy girls in the audience who were backpedaling and making hypocritical statements to try to appease the feminist ire and earn brownie points, at the cost of their integrity. I've heard people say, "I only let people take my picture if they know the character and like the series, not just because they think I'm hot", but when have you ever observed a cosplayer quizzing a photographer on their knowledge of a series, and turning them down if they can't pass? Not once has it happened in my experience as a cosplay photographer.

I've seen cosplayers modify their characters' costumes to make them more modest, and I'm fine with that if that's what they're comfortable with. But how often does a person make a point to wear a specifically sexy cosplay, and then not expect to get compliments - not necessarily series-specific - but on how hot the cosplay is (whether in those words or not)? I know I wore my Sexy no Jutsu Naruto cosplay because it was sexy. I know the character. I'm a fan of the series, and I take inspiration from the character's massive self-confidence, something I could use a little more of myself. But if it were Naruto alone I wanted to do justice to, I'd have gone as regular Naruto, and I wouldn't even need to gender-bend. But no, I did Sexy no Jutsu because I wanted to be sexy. And I appreciated every compliment I got, no matter if it was the kind where the person complimenting me was admiring the craftsmanship or creativity of my costume, the success of my ability to crossplay, or whether they were simply admiring how sexy I am.

I mean, if it's about popularity and recognition, then you have the same issue with characters from popular series (like Naruto) getting more recognition than unknowns, even if the costume for your unknown is really good (unless it's unusually flashy). It's not like sex is a unique problem, it's just that it's really popular. And if you don't like that, that's a bummer. Believe me, I know what it's like to be in the minority, but the solution is more tolerance, not less of it. More choice, so that people who like sex aren't made to feel bad about it, while people who don't, have an opportunity to feel good about themselves, too. That doesn't mean bashing female sex icons in the media, that simply means providing more alternatives, without disparaging what's already there.

I probably should have walked out of that panel in protest, but to be honest, I was embarrassed just being there, and didn't want to draw that kind of attention to myself. On the other hand, walking out would have been too predictable, and I don't want to be accused of not giving my opponents an opportunity to express their opinion. If anything, it's not that there are people in this world who disagree with me that really makes me mad, but the people who suggest that I shouldn't be allowed to voice my opinion in the first place, whether because it offends them or runs counter to common "wisdom".

So after that debacle, it was time to cool off with the Extreme AMV contest, open to 18+ only. Compared to the AMV contest I attended that morning, the extreme AMVs were definitely more to my style. Both the videos and the music used, interestingly. Some actual nudity, even a little bit of softcore sex (unfortunately nothing truly hentai, though), and lots and lots of violence. But it was great. There was an End of Eva AMV, but I ended up voting for the one romance AMV, which featured the most sex and nudity. :3 After the videos were done, I unfortunately didn't have time to stick around for what else they had in store for us, because I had to rush to the other panel I had been greatly looking forward to - The Ninja Legion's League of Dirty Old Men!

As the league professes, Dirty Old Man is not an age, nor a lifestyle - it's a state of mind. Their panel was mostly humorous, but also a little informative. We looked at some of the classic DOM (Dirty Old Men) of anime, including the venerable Master Roshi from Dragonball, the lead character in City Hunter, and Happosai from Ranma 1/2, among others. We were then treated to a series of tips and tricks both in identifying DOM, and in avoiding them. This was followed by a live demonstration wherein three women from the audience (including one in knee-high leather boots) were invited to demonstrate self-defense techniques (slapping, kicking, etc.) against the three DOM on the panel.

It was a fun panel. I definitely identified myself in a lot of the DOM's characteristics, especially "takes pictures of pretty young women at cons. Exclusively pretty young women." Lol. I think it's great to be able to laugh at yourself. And it's also good that they made a point to distinguish dirty old men from dirty old rapists. However, I felt there was a little bit of playing into the stereotype of pervert vs. perved-on wherein the pervert admits that he is doing wrong and deserves whatever treatment he receives. Obviously, if you're being a pest, or invading people's privacy, or whatever, you can't complain if you get slapped or what have you.

But I'm coming from a rather alternative direction where I believe perverts should be better respected, and people in society should learn to tolerate natural sexual behavior (not including abusive sexual behavior, thank you), and not assume that perversion is necessarily a vice. Like, there should be a distinction between someone who clearly prefers to take pictures of pretty young women at a con, and the type of person who will grab a stranger's ass just for the thrill of it. One is an honest and open sexual being, while the other is a molester. That, to me, is the difference between a pervert - who does not deserve ridicule and retaliation - and a predator - who does. Maybe it only bothers me because, even though I'm a pervert, I can't see myself doing anything for which a swift kick in the nuts would actually be justified. So emphasizing that it's okay (let alone righteous) to treat perverts (as opposed to rapists) like that understandably makes me uncomfortable.

I also felt that the serious note at the end of the panel gave off some mixed messages. I believe they wanted to reiterate their emphasis on the difference between perverts and predators, but what they used as a scary example of the latter was a man who was charged with "enticing" a minor at some anime con (not Tekko). Not raping a minor, but enticing a minor (age unspecified, so anywhere from 1 to 17). Enticing? What does that mean, anyway? I'd be willing to bet that I enticed more than a few minors in my Sexy no Jutsu cosplay without even realizing it, let alone intending to. And focusing on the fact that the victim was a minor seems to make the suggestion that the difference between a harmless DOM and a potential rapist is the age of the girls he pervs on. From another angle, that would seem to imply that the age of a person is more important than the manner in which you treat them. Yeah, great lesson.

But it's really just the fact that you have to put a disclaimer like that at the end of this sort of panel that is such a buzz kill. It's like, yeah there are bad perverts out there. But there are good perverts, too. And the good perverts don't need to be subjected to a disclaimer like that, which only serves to scare people straight, into thinking that all perverts are potentially bad, and to be careful. It also seemed to blur the all-important line (at least it did in my head) between the dirty old men and the dirty old rapists, considering the demonstration on self-defense tactics earlier. Is this a panel about perverts, or predators? If the former, then why talk about the latter, if not to conflate and confuse the two? I'm probably getting pedantic at this point, but I thirst for a brand new societal discourse on sexuality, one that puts all our old prejudices and assumptions at last to rest.

After the panel ended, it was pretty late, and I was freezing in my near-naked cloud bikini (that panel was on the cold side of the building), not to mention exhausted. I changed back into my street clothes, and we left the hotel just as we were beginning to get kicked out, apparently because the hotel announced they wanted everyone out by 3am. We made it home by that time and collapsed into bed. And in the final part of my con report, I'll briefly discuss Sunday and my lingering impressions of the con!

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 3: Friday

After catching the midnight showing of The Hunger Games the night before, we were all pretty tired come Friday morning. So we reluctantly skipped the Japanese Food in Pittsburgh panel and slept in, rolling into the con around lunch time. My cosplay for Friday was a partial rehash of one of last year's cosplays - I dressed up in my sailor fuku and went as a Japanese schoolgirl (minus the tentacles I had wrapped around my arms and legs last year, since they're very unwieldy). I love the outfit and think it's very cute, but iconic though it is, it's not any specific character, and so doesn't seem to draw as much attention from other cosplayers/con-goers. The chef behind the pizza counter at the food court we had lunch at actually thought it was a German uniform (I'll concede that with my hair in braided pigtails, it did kind of have a bit of a "fraulein" look to it), and it was very awkward walking into the men's room, filled with men in business suits, dressed as a schoolgirl - not that there were any problems...

But for Friday I had resigned myself mostly to taking the role of "tourist" or "exchange student" in the sense that I intended to carry my camera around and get a lot of pictures of the other cosplayers on Friday. That didn't entirely work out the way I intended. I was sitting in a panel about the history of Tekkoshocon (something I'd wanted to learn about since I missed the first five cons, and was curious about how they got started), when I learned via text that one of my traveling companions had an eye injury and needed to be taken home. So I reallocated my block of picture-taking time to shuttling him back home. Unlucky as this was for him, I at least was able to return to the con immediately afterward, and in time for the big fashion show I'd been looking forward to.

If you've followed my previous excursions at Tekkoshocon, you might recall that the fashion show is in fact an EGL fashion show - that is, for Elegant Gothic Lolita fashion. You might also recall that I had resolved last year to dress Lolita at the con this year. I'm sorry to report that that didn't work out this time (again). Putting together a Lolita coordinate (particularly as a newbie) is difficult, and can be very expensive if you're not good at hunting out cheap but not cheap-looking materials. Plus, I'm probably bigger than most Lolitas, so finding stuff that'll fit me adds yet another dimension of difficulty. And I got absorbed into my other cosplay ideas this year, so I put it on the back burner. I'd still like to dress Lolita some day, but I'm not sure when or if it's ever going to happen. As pretty as the style is, I'll admit that the Lolita community's emphasis on modesty doesn't do much to inspire me.

After the fashion show, I think I visited the Dealer's Room before heading out to dinner. I didn't spend a lot of time in the Dealer's Room this year, but not because it wasn't fun to browse the goodies on offer. I was either too busy with other things (likely), or miffed at the difficulty of not being able to take my bag (with my camera in it, which is why I wanted it close at hand and not hiding in bag check) into the Dealer's Room (last year they let you put your bag right inside the door; I liked that system, why did they get rid of it?). Anyway, I was pleased by the Dealer's Room's nice selection of dakimakura body pillow covers this year, including quite a few H-rated ones. I'd have bought one if they weren't so expensive. I was hoping to find a charm to put on my cell phone, but pickings there were slim. I also looked at a cute vinyl dress that would have been perfect for the rave, but again, expensive, and this time, possibly not in my size.

Every year, my goal - explicit or not - is to get something sexy at the Dealer's Room, because come on, anime girls! Ultimately, I decided to get some hentai, but since you never know how good any of these titles are, and they're probably easy enough to preview online, I bought a copy of Urotsukidoji/Legend of the Overfiend, which is one of my favorite hentais of all time. It says it's the movie edition (as opposed to the OVA edition I suppose), and I haven't watched it yet, but if there are scenes missing (whether edited for content or time), I can always burn a copy of the full thing on a disc and stick it in the box. The great thing is that I can put that box on my shelf and proudly display my fandom for classic tentacle rape! The other thing I bought in the Dealer's Room was a figure of Hinagiku, the pink-haired girl from Hayate no Gotoku/Hayate the Combat Butler, in an extremely skimpy string bikini. She's totally hot. :3

We had dinner at a noodle restaurant in Market Square, just a couple blocks from the hotel the con was being held at, and ate out on one of the tables set out in the square. It was nice. Being there (Market Square) all three days of the con, dressed up in my cosplay, surrounded largely by "normies" - especially Thursday at lunch when it was swarming with business men and women on lunch break - was an interesting experience. I kind of liked standing out and being more radical than everyone else, and it's not like we got any negative attention. There were actually a lot of people curious about the con, and we were asked some questions by a few groups of people, who (to me) appeared amused and excited by the presence of the con-goers in the city.

I also forgot to mention that on Thursday I was stopped by a photographer with a press pass on my way back toward the hotel. He asked me the usual questions about the con and my cosplay, and my name and hometown, with the expectation that a photo of me might turn up in the newspaper, but as far as I can tell, that didn't happen (for better or worse). And I got stopped again (more than once, actually) on Saturday. The worst thing that happened out on the town (and it wasn't so bad) was on Saturday, when one of the workers at McDonald's told me I had to put something on over my cloud bikini if I wanted to be served. But I didn't let it get to me. Before that, one person in the restaurant (who didn't even look like a con-goer, though she could have been) asked for my picture. So take that, polite society. :p

Back at the con, I took a few more pictures, of myself and others. Cosplay highlights for Friday include a Black Rock Shooter (I just adore her outfit), and a CC from Code Geass in her vaguely bondage-like prisoner uniform. I don't remember when it was, but I visited the Artist's Alley at one point, but it was horribly crowded this year, with aisles barely large enough for two lines of opposing traffic to squeeze past each other. My Friday night finished with two more panels. First up was Cute Japanese Fashion which, despite my interest, was little more than a rehash of things I've heard before. I think, perhaps, the panel would be more exciting with more real live examples of the different fashions (i.e., models - I know, I know, this isn't the fashion show), or at the very least, more pictures and variety of examples within each fashion discussed.

The final panel of the night, for me, was Anime Horror. It was hosted by a woman cosplaying as Wesker from Resident Evil, and the highlight was a Korean ghost comic she showed us. There were three girls in the audience dressed as vocaloids, who appeared to be acquainted with the host, one of which was terrified of this comic. So the host and the girl's two friends insisted on torturing her with it, which was partly funny, and partly disturbing, and overall, I guess, completely in tune with the mood of the panel, which focused on the psychological nature of Asian horror. Another centerpiece of the panel was a clip from Higurashi involving both physical and psychological torture. I've been meaning to watch that series for a while now...

At this point, I was thoroughly exhausted. I didn't have the energy to jump at any of the scares in the comic even if they were good enough to make me jump. So after the panel, it was time to go home and crash in bed. Saturday was planned to be a big day for me, because the AMV contest I wanted to attend was first thing in the morning, and I knew I wanted to stay late for the 18+ panels that night. So until then, oyasumi!

26 March, 2012

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 2: Thursday

Two things struck me about the scheduling of this year's Tekkoshocon X. First, that it was scheduled about a week earlier than last year, and second, that it was scheduled over a five day period.

The local Comicon I had gotten used to attending before I discovered Tekkoshocon had a habit of occurring during the last weekend in April. Tekko, on the other hand, had in my experience had a habit of occurring at the beginning of April. So, almost a month earlier. Which means, in general, colder weather. This year, in particular, I had a kind of skimpy cosplay planned, so I was disappointed to learn that this year's Tekko was pushed back to practically the middle of March! We had had frigid winds and rain in past years, and it puts a real damper on any plans one might have to take cosplay pictures outdoors, which is always a nice deviation from the usual hotel/convention center hallways you see in the background of con cosplay pictures.

Ironically - being that it was the middle of March - this year's con weather was warmer and milder than usual! All on account of an unseasonable warm spell that stretched just long enough to make the first two (full) days of the con feel almost like summer! Saturday was considerably cooler and even a bit wet (and was unfortunately the day for my skimpy costume), but it was at least mild enough during part of the day to go outside and still get some pictures. I couldn't have been happier about that!

The other strange thing about this year's scheduling was that the con was planned for five days. It seems to be becoming standard for big anime cons to stretch out to include the Thursday of the weekend, so that's something to get used to, but Tekko X had some programming planned for Wednesday, which was just bizarre. They could have been a lot clearer about just what their plans were, but Wednesday was sort of a non-day, where they had some vaguely con-related programming at a location far removed from the main hotel.

In any case, the con really began on Thursday, and my travel group had planned to attend on Thursday - which I think is a first for me. Moreover, my regular sleep schedule had been readjusted to a point that I could actually comfortably make it to the con before noon for once. So what was an anime con like on a Thursday, when a lot of people planning to attend later that weekend were still in school or at work?

Well, there was actually a lot of good programming planned for Thursday, even though I had to miss most of it for a very special reason. I think Thursday is probably a good day to go in the afternoon/evening rather than the morning, although my schedule this year required the opposite, seeing as I had dinner plans, followed by a midnight viewing of the opening premiere of the first movie of The Hunger Games series! But that's a topic for another post...

Crowd-wise, Thursday was expectedly thin. Even so, it wasn't exactly dead, and there were still some impressive cosplays - just not a whole lot of them. I picked out my Thursday cosplay based on which of the two I had planned for Thursday and Friday (I had to save my big cosplay for Saturday, obviously) that was easiest to change in and out of, since I could only spend half of the day at the con. So for Thursday I cosplayed as Chii, from the series Chobits. Last year, I did an incredibly elaborate Chii cosplay in her elegant pink dress (more about that here), which was a big hit. Chii is one of my favorite anime girls, so it's an honor for me to cosplay her. What's more, we have very similar hairstyles, so it's like fate that I should cosplay her.

But I wanted something a little simpler this year, to give me a break from the elaborateness of last year's pink dress cosplay. So instead of formal wear, I decided to cosplay as Chii in her pajamas this year. Simple, yet still cute & sexy. The costume officially consists of only a large shirt (the kind a girl would borrow from her boyfriend to wear to bed), and the ears & hair spools that are characteristic of Chii's look. Technically, Chii should be either naked, or just wearing cute panties underneath, but because there are rules, I wore a pair of really short white shorts that (usually) couldn't be seen due to the length of the shirt I was wearing. And for shoes - since you're not allowed to roam the hotel barefoot - I had a pair of fuzzy pink flip flops, which are cute, totally in Chii's style, and the sort of thing a girl might wear as bedroom slippers if she were obsessed with flip flops (the way I kinda am).

Well the cosplay was a hit. As I found myself saying, everybody loves Chii. And she's not only a popular character, but pretty easy to recognize due to her ears and hair and general style sense, despite appearing in a remarkable variety of outfits. I went outside across the street to the Point State Park to take some outdoors pictures, and among a group of students walking through the park (who to my knowledge were not convention attendees), a couple of them even recognized and/or complimented me on my cosplay! For the small amount of effort I put into that cosplay, it was a lot of fun to wear, and I think I might wear it again sometime in the future if I need an extra cosplay at the last minute.

I actually didn't do a whole lot at the con on Thursday other than take pictures of myself in my cosplay. My traveling companions watched some AMVs (past years' contest winners), and I got a few pictures of some of the few awesome cosplayers roaming the halls on the first full day of the con. But there was much more in store for me (for better and worse) on Friday!

Con Report 2012 (Tekko X) - Part 1: Intro

2012 marks the year of my fifth consecutive attendance at Tekkoshocon, Pittsburgh's anime convention, that is now in its tenth year (that means I've attended half of the Tekkos!). Unlike certain of my friends (:p), I have not yet gotten burned out on attending conventions (or anime conventions specifically), and if anything, I am getting more excited and involved every year.

Glancing back at my journal from the first Tekko I attended back in 2008 (the transitional year between when they moved from Monroeville to the inner city), I mentioned something I had heard spoken in the company of attendees to the Burning Man festival in Nevada (which I attended once, that same year). They were talking about people's experience of the festival, and how the first time you go, there's a lot of excitement. The second time can either be a disappointment, because the novelty is gone, or even better, because you know what you're in for and are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities for fun that are available to you. After that, you tend to either get burned out on the experience, or else you become attached to it. I suspected back in 2008 that I was getting attached to attending anime cons (though it's much much more fun going with friends, than going alone), and it seems after a few years that I was not mistaken.

Granted, cons are still not magical wonderlands where everything that happens is good, and there are never any frustrations or disappointments. But I am of the opinion that you get as much out of a convention as you put into it. You have to find the things you like about it, and then make the most of them. I will concede, however, that the greatest portion of my enjoyment of anime cons probably comes from all the cute girls dressed up in sexy costumes and outfits (of which there is no shortage whatsoever =3). But anime itself is an outlet for me wherein I can revel in the hotness of [anime] girls, and that's reflected not just in the cosplaying (or not -_^) con-goers, but in the merchandise in the Dealer's Room, the AMVs and videos they show, and so on. So that if some of the panels suck, or some of the fans are immature, or I'm exhausted and hungry, or what have you, there are always those parts of the convention that I can enjoy.

The other major excitement of a con for me is my developing interest in doing cosplay myself. It's taken until now for me to develop that interest on two fronts: first, my continuing experience as a model, as well as my burgeoning interest in fashion (specifically, girly fashion; which is, for me, to say - cross-dressing); and second, having a friend who actually has the skill and the desire to help put together costumes for me to wear. And so, this year, the most exciting thing I have to talk about the con is the costumes I wore, and with the con only a day behind me, I've already begun brainstorming cosplay ideas for next year!

But that's not all I have to talk about, so read on, to the next section of my con report!

18 January, 2012

On Darkening The Internet

It's too much, and not enough.

Some background.

I don't like the whole darkening trend that's going on. Not because it's raising awareness for a good cause, but because it feels too much like censorship. I understand it's to be taken as a warning of what we stand to lose, but is it necessary/appropriate to resort to the enemy's tactics to get the point across? Do the ends justify the means? It's not that I don't support these efforts to keep the internet free and open (I do), I just feel conflicted about them. However, they're much better than the alternative, which is real censorship and loss of freedom.

But this isn't the first time a bill has been pushed through that seriously undermines the rights and freedoms of the citizens in a free nation. That doesn't mean we should just lay back and take it, but how much are we willing to sacrifice? The fight against this one bill is symbolic, but it doesn't help change the system where corrupt politicians can take away our rights easily, compared to the effort that's required for us to defend those same rights. In this system, we have to stay ever vigilant - and we STILL lose rights at a regular pace.

Frankly, I think this whole notion of legislators coming in to your room while you sleep to take away your rights, unless you stay ever-vigilant (which is unfortunately how the system works) is more alarming than the specific nature of this one (or two) bills. It shouldn't be my responsibility to call up my representative to tell him how I feel on every issue; it should be his responsibility to call me. But the whole 'representative' system is flawed anyway. I don't want my representative (or anyone else's) deciding what my position is, without my input. Assuming I voted for him, that doesn't mean we are of one mind, and that everything he thinks and decides is agreeable to me. And if I didn't vote for him, then what, my opinion is irrelevant because it doesn't comprise a statistical majority?

Freedom of expression is a joke in this world. We don't have it now, so what's the big deal if we "lose" it? What we need is a complete overhaul of the system. We need to make it harder to take away a person's rights than it is to defend them. The system should be such that for SOPA and PIPA to go through, the entire population has to vote on it. (And even then, there are rights and freedoms that can't be infringed by majority rule - the Constitution is supposed to protect those, but the concept of 'basic rights' is unfortunately open to subjective interpretation). Then, awareness and education campaigns will actually mean something. I don't trust some greedy, moralizing politician to make my decisions for me. And you shouldn't either.