01 November, 2018

The Problem With Involuntary Solipsism

I was part of the Amazon Associates program for eight years, and I never made so much as a penny. Now, I'm not saying the program is broken. Nor am I saying it was Amazon's fault, and not my own, for not doing whatever it is the program was designed for users to do to be able to make money. But I produced original content - mainly horror movie reviews (hundreds of them, all tailor-made to provide relevant product links to Amazon) - over the course of that period. And I've had several people tell me that I am, at the very least, a competent writer, so it's not like I was mass-producing bullshit.

Yeah, I know, if you want to earn money in advertising you need viewers, and that requires a different sort of skill set than producing the content. But that's exactly my point. Without content, there would be nothing to advertise. So how is the value of that content worthless, next to the value of having the skills to properly manage it? I'm not even saying I should make a living off of just producing content, if I don't know what to do with it. Even if it's good content! (So fuck off if you think I'm acting "entitled"). But not even a penny? You make a little bit of chump change, and it teaches you two things. 1) That you can make money off of this strategy, but 2) that to make any amount of money that matters, you have to work harder. That inspires you to work harder (including learning new sets of skills). If I haven't even made shit in eight years, then how am I supposed to motivate myself to work more? Nothing multiplied by ten, a hundred - even a thousand - is still nothing.

Isn't there anybody out there willing to invest in the future? This is why all the talent in the world that I have for writing is pointless, and why I'm better off just producing porn. Their standards are such shit, that I can do a half-assed job (and I normally try to apply myself 110%, like an idiot) and still make bankable profit. And that's in spite of how much free porn there is on the internet. So I can exert myself for eight years writing reviews - which I enjoy to some extent, but I still consider work - and make nothing. Or I can exert myself for two and a half minutes cumming in front of a camera and make fifty bucks every six months or so. Neither one is going to pay the bills (maybe if I were female...), but I can tell you that only one of the two seems like a worthwhile investment in my time (less of which I have the older I get). So you need to sit back and ask yourself what this system is teaching people in this society, and then stop being such a dick to anyone involved in the sex industry, until you're ready to actually get off your lazy, hypocritical, porn-watching fat ass, and do something to change it.

20 October, 2018

Super Metroid - The Kraid Challenge (A Walkthrough)

So, to preface, I finally got my hands on one of those Super Nintendo Classic systems, and while the game selection is far from exhaustive, I now have the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite games from the heyday of retro video gaming - Final Fantasy III, Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World (as if I haven't already played through that game enough for one lifetime), Donkey Kong Country, Super Castlevania IV, Contra III: The Alien Wars, et cetera (the only reason I don't mention Mega Man X is because I already have the Collection for the PlayStation, and never really stopped playing them). Having recently finished Final Fantasy on the NES Classic (and in the process, introduced someone new to the wonderful world of classic 2D VG RPGs), I fired up Super Metroid and decided that I was going to take on the Kraid Challenge again, for old time's sake. Completing this was one of my proudest accomplishments as a gamer when I was a kid.

Explanation: although the world of Super Metroid is very non-linear (representing a form of gameplay/architecture referred to as "Metroidvania" - which the Metroid series pioneered, and Castlevania later piggy-backed on), there is a relatively straightforward progression of enhancements and power-ups that lead you further and deeper into new regions of Planet Zebes. Nevertheless, it is possible to bypass the first region boss (Kraid), and still complete most of the rest of the game. This, however, requires mastery of the self-propelled wall jump technique to ascend a chamber that normally would require a weapon that freezes enemies to be used as stepping stones, as well as a mad dash through the life-draining heat of a lava cave - without protection. Just for fun, I'm going to walk you through the steps required to complete this challenge.

Stage 1 - Reaching the Hi-Jump Boots

From the start, you may proceed through the game normally, until you reach the Hi-Jump Boots. Be sure to pick up these two Energy Tanks along your way (although, to be honest, you'd have to go out of your way to miss them):

Location: Crateria, just before the elevator to Brinstar proper

Location: Norfair, just before you find the Hi-Jump Boots

Stage 2 - Preparing for the Heat

With the Hi-Jump Boots now in your possession, you are expected to fight Kraid (but we're not going to). Defeating Kraid earns you the Varia Suit, which will protect you from the intense heat present in certain sections of Norfair. In order to bypass this heat without the Varia Suit, you will need as much life as you can get. Luckily, there are two more Energy Tanks now available to you, but to get them, you will need to use the wall jump technique to climb a vertical chamber in Brinstar that would normally require usage of the Ice Beam. Observe:

I edited out a lot of failed jumps - especially at the top. It's all about timing and placement on the wall. You don't have to get it on your first try. You just have to get it.

Ascending said chamber in this fashion gives you access to the Power Bomb out of sequence, which you'll need to get one of the two Energy Tanks you're after. It's located in Brinstar, in the first vertical chamber you encountered, below a false floor, on the way to the room where the critters teach you the wall jump (that you should already have mastered).

Watch out for the false floor! And be sure to grab the Super Missiles in the next room. The other Energy Tank you need is near where you first picked up the Morphing Ball. It's hidden in the ceiling. Use the Hi-Jump Boots to reach it.

Stage 3 - Into the Inferno

With four Energy Tanks in tow, you are now ready to face the searing heat of Norfair. Use the Save Station at the bottom of the first passage you encounter in Norfair, and practice your run over and over until you manage to reach the end before your life drains out completely. Watch how it's done:

This was one of my better run-throughs (I tried it in vain with just three Energy Tanks at first, so my instincts were pretty honed) - but as you can see, I stepped in the lava twice. So, there is room for some error. Just not a whole lot.

When you get to the other side (the large room looks like it should drain your health, but it doesn't), use the Save Station above you to record your progress (but watch out for flying baddies!) before you get yourself killed and have to do it again. You'll have to replenish your health by repeatedly killing the critters in this room. It's monotonous, but necessary.

Two of the three doors within reach above you lead to a Reserve Tank and the Wave Beam. I don't know if you can make it through the heat with just four Energy Tanks, but even if you can, it's not worth the trouble. You'll come back for them soon. Right now, what you want is the Speed Booster. Use the wall jump technique to reach the upper right corner of the large room (via the upper left corner - this is a tricky jump to make, but it's doable), then make another mad dash through the heat. Like so:

With the Speed Booster, you can now return to the vertical chamber where you first entered Norfair (via one of the lower passages), and complete another short heat run to get the Ice Beam. You should be getting the hang of this by now, but here's what that will look like:

Congratulations, you no longer have to rely on the wall jump technique! After replenishing your health (again), you can clear away those Power Bomb blocks you saw in the last scene of that video, which will lead you to yet another heat run. But don't worry, this one is pretty low risk. A long, Speed Booster passage will deposit you in another vertical chamber, where the heat will continue to drain your life away. You now have three choices. Through the door to your right is a long tunnel leading to an Energy Recharge station which will keep you alive if you're floundering. Above you is a door to a Save Station (and above that, a one-way route that returns you to where you started - after you pick up the Grappling Beam). But most importantly, through the green door directly beneath your feet you'll encounter Crocomire. Rest assured, the heat will not drain your life in Crocomire's tunnel. Defeat the mid-boss, and the Grappling Beam will be within your reach.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere!

Stage 4 - The Road to Phantoon

With the Grappling Beam, you can now access the Wrecked Ship. But before you go charging off, I consider Phantoon (the guardian of the Wrecked Ship) to be one of the more difficult bosses in this game. Without the increased damage mitigation of the Varia Suit, you're going to need all the life you can get. So you'd better take some time to collect all the Energy and Reserve Tanks available to you now, with your new weapons and abilities...

...starting with the Energy Tank at the far end of Crocomire's tunnel, accessible with the Grappling Beam. Between this extra Energy Tank, and the Ice Beam, you should be ready to pick up the Reserve Tank you skipped earlier, across from where you got the Speed Booster.

The Grappling Beam will also help you to snag the Wave Beam (which you'll need shortly) - though not without demonstrating a little bit of agility. (Don't forget to heal up before you go charging through the heat again).

Now you can return to Brinstar/Crateria, and make a loop, collecting the remaining items in the order of your preference. There's a Super Missile upgrade just off the evacuation chamber below your ship in Crateria, accessible only after collecting the Power Bomb, Ice Beam, and Speed Booster. Every bit of firepower helps!

Location of a Super Missile upgrade

Below where you got the Charge Beam in Brinstar, there's an Energy Tank that seemingly requires you to have the Gravity Suit, in order to use the Speed Booster underwater. But if you use the wall jump technique, you can find a just-long-enough patch of dry ground. Here's how to pull it off:

Located not far away is another room sealed with a yellow door (which requires a Power Bomb to open), and an Energy Tank accessible only if you have the Wave Beam. Here's it's location:

A Power Bomb and the Wave Beam will yield another Energy Tank

Our last stop in Brinstar will net you your second Reserve Tank - and another Super Missile upgrade!

Use the Speed Booster to get this Reserve Tank

Last, but not least, you will find one more Energy Tank in Crateria, above your ship. You'll need to use the Speed Booster (and a liberal sprinkling of Power Bombs) to reach it. This should bring your total up to eight (with two in reserve).

Use the Shinespark technique to reach new heights!

Now you're as ready as you're ever going to be to fight Phantoon!

Stage 5 - Business as Usual

Once Phantoon is defeated, locating the Gravity Suit should be a trivial matter.

In addition to being a further upgrade, and allowing ease of movement underwater, this suit also duplicates the heat-resistant effects of the Varia Suit. Once you have it, you can continue to play the rest of the game normally...

Stage 6 - The Taste of Victory

...until you've defeated Ridley, that is. Progress will then be halted until you go back and finish off Kraid (enjoy taming the great beast with as few as two shots!). But first, you can take a screenshot of the statue blocking access to Tourian to prove that you've defeated Ridley (and the other two bosses) while Kraid still lives:

Congratulations, you've completed the Kraid Challenge!

13 August, 2018

Opinions On

Saw this on Facebook. A MySpace quiz for the modern, political age!

But first, an aside. I hate how politicized certain issues are. If you support the second amendment, you're a conservative. If you want access to abortions, you're a liberal. Why can't we just give assault rifles to conservatives, and abortions to liberals? There's no reason everyone can't be happy, unless your happiness depends on everyone else in the world following your own personal moral compass, a position which should be recognized for what it is - lunacy! But is there a platform for that? I like the idea of libertarianism, but I'm also a socialist. Individuals should have the freedom to pursue their dreams. But in this overpopulated world, it behooves us to have some form of government infrastructure. I don't give a crap if the government is "infringing" on a corporation's "right" to pollute the Earth. Freedom isn't freedom to rape and plunder. If anything, my political views run along the lines of the Wiccan rede: "an it harm none, do what ye will." Obviously, there's a lot of room for interpretation there, but it's a really solid starting point.

Anyway, let's begin. Twenty issues and my opinion on each of them:

1. abortion

Pro-life is a rationally indefensible position. Even if you're a hard-line onanist, you're killing countless potential babies for every sperm that reaches an egg, turning the act of procreation into statistical mass murder, and thereby condemning the human race to extinction. Whether it's conception or the first trimester or the age of majority, we're all just drawing lines in the sand, and I feel like science and medicine should rule on this issue over superstition. In any case, if you publicly condemn abortion but do not promote or support access to birth control, then you are the worst kind of person.

2. lgbt community

I, of course, support them, but every establishment has its flaws. I much prefer LGBT people to any sort of LGBT community (not that I disparage them having one - they deserve it as much as anyone). I just distrust any entity that purports to speak unilaterally for a large number of individual minds (Borg much?).

3. non-binary

What's so great about the binary anyway? Why are people so resistant to this idea? Do people actually like limiting their options? Or are they just dumb apes who only feel comfortable with what's familiar? I know that sounds like incitement, but it's a serious question.

4. breastfeeding in public

Perfect example of male entitlement: a woman exposing her breasts in public is awesome, unless somebody else gets to suck on them.

5. feminism

Good in theory. But humans are fallible and capable of destroying anything.

6. meninism

As much hate as men's right activists get - and much of it is well-deserved - they are not any worse than feminists. Equality is a coin with two sides.

7. long distance relationships

Not ideal, but sometimes you gotta deal.

8. gun laws

I'm not personally a fan of guns, but I will defend your right to own them, provided you use them responsibly. But I think it makes sense to regulate the ownership of weapons specifically designed to kill. If you can't at least concede that point, you're being obstinate, and a real public danger.

9. saying the n-word

I'm a hard-line free-speecher. But there's a difference between what you say, and how or why you say it. Any word can be used as a weapon. But creating a taboo just gives it more power. We should never reach a point where merely saying a particular word constitutes a crime, regardless of any consideration as to intent. That having been said, after a cost-benefit analysis, I can't see any point in me, personally, using this particular word.

10. pedophilia

A very poorly understood sexual minority. We harm ourselves more by condemning them, than we would if we tried to help them manage their feelings.

11. trump

I'm not in the best position to judge Trump as a person, or even as a president (and I'm one of the few people, it seems, humble enough to admit that), but what I can tell you is that I don't like the effect he's having on this country, and I don't like the sorts of people who feel encouraged by him.

12. obama

I don't normally pay much attention to politics, but what I've seen and heard of Obama leaves me with nothing but a positive impression.

13. rape in marriage

Marriage is not a license to rape.

14. anime

Liked it before it was trendy. Still do. People who judge the medium based on a subset of its offerings, or its fanbase, are just as immature as the people they're criticizing.

15. hentai/porn

As a matter of principle, I can't trust anyone who's never jacked it to Legend of the Overfiend.

16. pansexuality

My own tastes are fairly particular, but as with the non-binary issue, I don't get why anyone would insist on criticizing someone for expanding their options, or seeking an appropriate label they identify with. "Oh, that's not a real thing." That kind of attitude just shows really poor character.

17. aliens

I want to believe. See: the "Fermi Paradox". I don't think we've been "visited" by intelligent life for the same reason I don't believe in God - the evidence isn't there. Doesn't mean it's impossible, just implausible. Call me agnostic. Certainly, the universe doesn't appear teeming with life, the way science-fiction often depicts it. Maybe someday we'll change that. For better or worse. I like to believe in a more transcendentalist future, though, where there's more to existence than just the four spacetime dimensions we're familiar with. Not necessarily in a "spiritual" way. But, like, networked consciousness or something. Maybe the reason outer space is so barren is because all the good stuff happens in inner space. Assuming, of course, that you're able to avoid the lava men.

18. cultural appropriation

Is there anything more fundamentally American?

19. fake freckles

I'm not gonna judge. I think freckles are cute, but whether you have them or not, I think you should embrace who you are and what you've got. That having been said, if you want to try on freckles for a change, then by all means, go for it.

20. he/him lesbians

No idea what this is or means. But I can't imagine I'd have any problem with it. Live and let live is my motto. Embrace the wonderful diversity of human nature, and don't be so quick to judge. None of us is half as smart as we think we are, but we all know ourselves better than anyone else does. So mind your own business. Or, as Miley Cyrus put it, stay in your lane, bitch.

03 July, 2018

Gay Wedding Cakes and Sex Robots

Marty Klein explains how the recent and controversial gay wedding cake ruling is NOT about "freedom of religious belief" (an utterly bogus argument), but about "freedom from forced artistic expression". The bakery does NOT have the right to refuse service to LGBT customers (and indeed, it did not - it offered to sell the couple a pre-made cake). What this ruling means is that the couple cannot coerce the cake artist to express himself artistically (in the form of designing a cake) in a way that involves the expression of a belief he does not hold (and is in fact opposed to) - regardless of whether or not religion is the source of this belief.

Is this baker's bigoted beliefs a crock of shit? Absolutely! But remember the saying, "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Incorporated in the freedom of expression is the notion that you cannot be coerced into expressing beliefs you do not hold. Not only is it important that your voice is not silenced, but that you should be free to choose your words, and not forced to make statements you do not believe in. The same principle that defends this baker's refusal to design a gay wedding cake defends your right to refuse to draw a bloody fetus in icing, with the words "all life is precious" around the edge of the cake.

Once again, it's the public and the media that has distorted the story and turned it into another battleground for partisan warfare, obscuring the truly important matters at stake. Leave it to Marty Klein - one of the few brilliant and properly-oriented minds in this age - to straighten things out and find the silver lining in this storm cloud.

In more sobering news, however, Congress has decided to criminalize sex robots.

12 June, 2018

Miss America to Compete in Burkas

(I'm extremely pleased that somebody has actually written an article along these lines).

In another move to anesthetize (in the sense of an-aestheticism, not anesthesia) modern society, the swimsuit competition is being removed from the Miss America pageant. I read a blurb in Time magazine about this by an author (a former Miss America pageant winner) who appropriately questions the point of aesthetics in the role of Miss America as an ambassador to the world, and a social justice warrior. But why is being physically attractive a detriment to this position? If you're interviewing hirees for a job, and two people are equally qualified, is it wrong to pick the one who, in addition, is also easy on the eyes? Unless you think it'll be a distraction - but that gets into dangerous victim-blaming territory.

Why shouldn't America's female ambassador to the world also be physically attractive? Why are we awarding ambassadorial positions via pageants in the first place? What is the purpose of the Miss America pageant, anyway? Why has the "what would you do to change the world for the better?" speech become more important than the swimsuit competition? There's no reason why that has to be the case.

I'm not against the Miss America pageant - I'm against pretending it's anything other than a pageant. Why does it have to be Miss America anyway? Isn't the whole thing kind of antiquated from a gender studies perspective? Why not just get rid of or revamp the whole thing, rather than twisting its very meaning around in such a way as to send the message that beauty is irrelevant in this world? I know an excessive obsession with it is dangerous, and this disproportionately affects females, but the solution is not ignorantly pretending that humans are blind.

There doesn't have to be a swimsuit competition in the Miss America pageant, necessarily, but I want to live in a world where there are still swimsuit competitions. For fun. I honestly think it's only a matter of time before The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is discontinued in order to appease feminist factions who complain that it is demeaning to women.

Look, this doesn't have to be a gendered issue. I think men and women both should be judged for their appearance and sex appeal when wearing swimsuits (among other things). And I'll be the first one to sign up as a contestant (call me). I also think this value should be kept in check - and that people should understand its limitations. Being beautiful isn't that important. But it's something. And it affects people. And that's not only okay, it's worthwhile. And we shouldn't lose sight of that. Nor should we get rid of it because not everybody can be equally beautiful, and that makes some people uncomfortable.

God, it's times like these that I feel like I can relate to conservatives.

Here's a counter-argument by another Miss America pageant winner:

"I like looking at pretty girls, and I believe pretty girls can be smart, talented and relevant."


14 April, 2018

Tekko 2018 (Part 4)


I neglected to mention this yesterday, but I had more than enough to talk about for Saturday, so it's just as well. Anyway, we parked in the same place on Saturday and Sunday. The convention center garage was full all weekend, as I mentioned before. So were our second and third choices, all within a block or so of the convention center. But, to our luck, we happened to notice a sign advertising vacancies in the garage underneath the hotel attached to the convention center. So, after that parking garage debacle on Friday night, we had the good fortune of being able to park on Saturday and Sunday, go up the elevator into the hotel, walk across the sky bridge and take another elevator directly into the convention center, all without ever having to step outside! It's perhaps a few more steps (and probably more expensive) - although it depends which end of the convention center you're headed to, as the hotel elevator opens up right next to main events, while the escalators from the convention center garage (where most people enter) put you adjacent to the Exhibition Hall, and a longer walk from the panel rooms and everything else - but in terms of avoiding cold and blustery weather (as we tend to get during Tekkosnowcon these past few years - the weather this year was so cold, I never even made it up on to the roof of the convention center at any point during the weekend), it really is pretty ideal!


Not much to do on Sunday except make one last sweep of the Exhibition Hall, and soak in the con atmosphere for as long as it lasts (which is 'til about three or four in the afternoon). Some people question the point of going to the con on Sunday, but being there is the whole point of the weekend. As soon as you leave, you're going to miss it. You might as well get as much of it as you can, while you still can. Plus, for someone like me who's racked up a bunch of cosplays (more than I can wear in one weekend), it's another excuse to get dressed up in something you probably couldn't wear back home. Like my sexy seifuku that I used for my tentacle rape cosplay last year. Though I left the tentacles behind, just because they're a real pain to deal with (getting all needy and everything).

At one point, a girl who herself was wearing an ultra skimpy cosplay (little more than a thong bikini with accessories), looked me over while I was sitting in a panel, and asked, "are you a trap?" It took me a moment to get my bearings - since I don't really see myself that way, even though I guess that's exactly how you could describe me when I'm dressed up like that - then replied with a straight face, "yes". She told me she had been about to remark at what a pretty girl I was until she sensed that there was more to the picture than meets the eye. -_^

As for activities, we caught the announcement of the winners of the AMV contest - although I didn't see anything super exciting this year. And then there was an 18+ panel I wanted to catch titled "The Cute Side of Rule 34". These things are always a gamble, but seeing as how I seem to have my wires crossed for cuteness and eroticism, I thought that maybe, just maybe, there might be some loli-friendly content. I should have known better. It was mostly yaoi - guys (and the occasional girl) in "adorable", yet also sexually explicit, situations. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but it's not really what I'm interested in. Honestly, the panel was pretty much the panelist just showing some of her favorite porn. Which, I mean, is fine and all - if you share her interests - but I can have a better time on my own, finding stuff that better suits my own tastes.

The end of the day came too fast, as it always does on Sunday, but con staff were already starting to shoo people off the con floor, so we took our leave. We headed out to Oakland for one last meal at Lulu's Noodles before we hit the highway. Though I have to say that, now that we've discovered the Ramen Bar, I think the heyday of Lulu's Noodles has passed.

Before I wrap up this year's con journal, let me take a moment to discuss the cosplay we saw all weekend. I've been less obsessed with other people's cosplays than I have been in the past - and certainly taking less pictures - but it's still a joy to see all the people dressed up (and down). I already mentioned how many bare asses there were, which was awesome. Of the few cosplays that stood out to me, I saw at least three different Negans - one of which was clearly the standout. I was tempted to shout out to him, "I am Negan!", but every time I got close, I felt intimidated. Just by him standing there! That's how you know it's a good cosplay.

Seeing as Rhonda and I had just finished up watching season 2 of Stranger Things, I was disappointed that there weren't more Stranger Things cosplayers. It wasn't until Sunday that I spotted a really good Steve, hanging out with Billy (I didn't recognize him with his shirt on :-p). I actually walked past him, and had to stop and turn around, and walk back to compliment him on his cosplay and ask for a picture. He had the hair and the sunglasses, but the nail bat really gave it away. Not much later, Rhonda spotted an Elle cosplayer not far from that same spot, and texted me a picture of her.

If there's a cosplay that was over-represented this year, I'd have to say it was Rick from Rick & Morty. Not that I disparage those cosplayers - it's a good character from a great show. Besides, it's a pretty easy cosplay - just put on a blue shirt, a lab coat, and a spiky blue wig, and you're set! But seeing all of them around made me feel like I was lost at the Council of Ricks (there's a group photoshoot idea)! It's actually inspired me to do a lab coat cosplay of my own - an idea I had while watching World Conquest Zvezda Plot a couple years ago. The character - Natalia Vasylchenko - is a scientist with long, blonde hair, who likes to wear little more than a lab coat over her underwear. The great thing about the outfit is that it's skimpy (which I enjoy), but it has something I can wear over me to keep warm in those frigid panel rooms and convention corridors!

And I think that's it! Another con here and gone. Time to reluctantly go back to the default world... :-(

13 April, 2018

Tekko 2018 (Part 3)


As it always seems to go, we didn't get in to the con on Saturday as early as we did on Friday, on account of our wild, late night previous. Doug didn't even make it in until later that evening. But as soon as we got there, I noted that the convention center was a lot warmer than it had been the previous day. Which was a godsend, because I had two nearly naked cosplays lined up for that day. Both recycled from previous cons, but two of my personal favorites. The first I picked after reading the description for one of the panels I wanted to attend on Saturday. It was Anime Old Enough To Drink - celebrating anime that turns 21 this year (that is, anime that was released back in 1997). The synopsis for the panel described three animes without naming them, and not only was I able to recognize each one, they were all ones that I like - Perfect Blue, Princess Mononoke, and the original Berserk series. I figured this might be the perfect audience for my Griffith cosplay, since it's inspired by an obscure scene from one of the episodes of the old series (not duplicated in the new movies, which is probably what all the newer fans of Berserk are mainly familiar with).

So, I changed into my Griffith-in-a-towel cosplay, and headed for the Exhibition Hall for an hour or two. As usual, there were a few people here and there that recognized me, although many of them took a moment or two to place the character (probably because my outfit is not so iconic and from such an obscure scene). My favorite one was a guy who asked me if I was "that bird guy?" I was thinking, like, Micheal Keaton in Birdman? (Although it's true that Griffith is called "the White Hawk", or "the Hawk of Light", and his transformation is also kind of birdlike). But then he said, "the guy who literally screwed everyone over?" And I was like, "yup, that's the one." Lol. I had one girl in line at the bag check who approved of the fact that my cosplay basically consisted of a towel. And another girl later who, upon seeing me, stopped in her tracks and said, "what. the. hell." I asked her if she'd ever seen Berserk. Without a further word, she turned around and stormed off. You get a mix of reactions, but the good generally outweighs the bad.

Xib Hall

So, moving on to the Exhibition Hall. I was a man on a mission. I had $120 in cash tucked into my g-string (hidden beneath my towel), and I was looking for a souvenir. I'd already picked up two things the day before - a pretty Chobits shirt (to complement the one I bought last year), and a cute Sailor Moon drawstring bag, because I specifically needed a new bag (not too big, but not so small I couldn't stow my phone camera tripod in it) to carry whatever stuff I wanted on hand (and not stored at bag check or left in the car) around the con with me, and that wouldn't get in the way too much of my cosplays. But what I really wanted was something cute (and not a little bit sexy) to take home with me - ideally, a figure.

Trouble was, I was paralyzed by indecision. Maybe there just wasn't anything (for a reasonable price) that jumped out at me. I saw some cute figures, but I prefer to get characters I recognize. Not because of principles, but just because it has more meaning to me. That hasn't stopped me before, and in fact it's been the catalyst leading me to watch some good series I wouldn't otherwise have known about (Index/Railgun, Bakemonogatari, Prisma Illya, etc.) - and, indeed, I've just started watching Re:Zero out of curiosity after seeing a bunch of cute figures at the con with that title on the box. But I kept going back and forth and not being able to commit to picking a figure to take home with me. I decided that I really wanted an Ero-Manga Sensei figure, since I enjoyed that series (in spite of its over-inflatedly negative reputation), and there were a few to choose from. I could have gotten one for $25, but the one I really liked was a whopping $110! I didn't want to pay that much. If I was going to pay that much, I could have gotten a really badass posable Femto figure. But I didn't want to pay that much. I ended up doing a little comparison shopping online, and I came to the conclusion that I could get something better and cheaper on the web.

This figure's really cute.

Now, I don't know how these Chinese knockoffs square up, but for $10, I'm willing to give them a try. In the past, it was the excitement of going to the con and picking up something at the dealer's room just because it was there, and because you couldn't find shit like that anywhere else. Nowadays, you go to stores like fye at the mall, and it's a little mini-convention! Not to mention what you can find on the internet. I'd hate to see the dealer's room at conventions go the way of these brick-and-mortar stores that can't compete with the internet, but it's just such a grab-bag of what you can find. The series you happened to watch over the last year and love isn't necessarily the one that all the booths are going to be stocking merchandise from. I wanted to get some Japanese snacks, too (what's a convention without Pocky?), just for fun, but what's the point when you can just pick some up at the local grocery store back home? (Which, incidentally, is exactly what I ended up doing). I didn't buy a single other thing at the Xib Hall all weekend, as it turns out. For better or worse - I guess I'll just save that money for other things I can buy online.

Panels, then Dinner

So, around 3:30, I headed to the other end of the convention center to catch the panel on Iaijutsu - one of my favorite demonstrations Tekko holds. But by the time we got there - and I was kind of expecting this, to be honest - it was already packed, with people lined up against the walls. I know they need their space to be able to swing their swords around and all, but this is one of the coolest parts of the convention - they should give them more room. I didn't want to stand around peeking over people's shoulders at the door, though, so I ditched it. It's not a con if plans don't change fifteen times over the course of the day!

Instead, I just hung out, maybe hit the Xib Hall for a little bit longer, and then met up with Doug at the Anime Old Enough To Drink panel. It was fun to start - remembering all those old, obscure series you haven't thought about since the '90s - but got boring quick. I don't want to rant too much about the amateur quality of panels at Tekko (what can you expect from amateurs?), but if your panel consists of reading a series of synopses from a list of titles all released in a certain year - I mean, you can do this quicker and more easily yourself online. There should be more interactivity, to make it more interesting for the audience.

For dinner, I changed back into my warm, civilian clothes (which was a welcome change after shivering for an hour in those frigid panel rooms), and we walked a couple blocks to try out a different pizza place we hadn't tried before. On Friday we had our usual Pizza Parma, which is always delicious. But on Saturday we decided to try Joe & Pie, which was also delicious. They have a sweet sauce which I'm very partial to. Add it to the list of approved restaurants to visit during the con.

While we were there eating at the restaurant, I also saw my favorite cosplay of the weekend. There were four girls, aged around twelve or so (with adults in tow). One of them was dressed in serafuku with Sailor Moon's iconic red go-go boots. That would have been enough to get my attention, but I swear, she looked more like a fashion model than an anime geek. She was beautiful. I lament that we live in a culture that makes me paranoid about expressing my appreciation, lest anybody read some sinister intent into it. I would have loved to have taken a picture to remember her by. Alas, it's harder than ever to follow David Hamilton's words of inspiration ("if you...notice a face, or a body, that stands out from the crowd, the sight of which makes your heart leap in your breast, then stop. If your feeling is honest and sincere, it will help you find the right words") living in the anesthetic (as in, anti-aesthetic) world that actually killed him...

Sexy Pokémon

Back at the con, we warmed up for a bit and digested our dinners, while Rhonda played Pachinko, and then found our resolve to change into our speedos for our hotly anticipated Sexy Pokémon group cosplay. Two years ago I debuted my Sexy Pikachu. Last year Joe joined me with a Sexy Charmander (the fans all adore his "geek chic" tattoos). This year, Doug threw his hat into the ring and dressed up as Sexy Poliwhirl. And Rhonda played the part of Ash to lead us through the con.

But first, a digression. I made a point to try out the changing booths at the Cosplay Repair workshop this year. They were essentially cloth partitions set up in one of the convention rooms. It was an interesting experience. It's a vital resource - not having to rely on occupying limited restroom space to change into and out of your cosplays. But there were only four rooms, all very spacious. Which is good for large and involved cosplays (I especially appreciate the chairs and tables, and the mirrors, although only one of the two booths I tried had its own mirror). But I think the con would do well to make the booths a little bit smaller, but double or even triple the quantity.

A minus for some people, perhaps, would be the questionable level of privacy these booths provide. The cloth partitions were not fully opaque, allowing for the visibility of silhouettes. Even so, I had one person mistakenly open the curtain while I was changing, unsure if the booth was occupied. And in one of the booths, there was a huge gap in the corner such that anybody walking into the Cosplay Repair workshop, if they stood in the right place and looked in the right direction, could basically see everything as I stripped naked and struggled to position my genitalia in my Pikachu briefs (such that its outline wouldn't appear too "suggestive" to sensitive audiences). Personally, this sort of thing doesn't actually bother me. In fact, I appreciate the more open atmosphere. It feels like being behind-the-scenes at a fashion show, where everybody's half-naked and getting dressed, and nobody really cares (another good thing the feminists are trying to eradicate in our society). But I could definitely see where some people would find this off-putting.

So, for several hours, the four of us (three Pokémon plus Ash) paraded around the con. I swear, it really felt like we walked for hours without much in the way of a break. But that's kind of the point - giving people an opportunity to see us. We did stop to take some pictures here and there, and even caught a fireworks show visible from across the river. Reactions were largely positive (Tekko features a pretty accepting crowd - that's one of its major draws for me, personally - and the people who don't like it usually do a pretty good job of keeping it to themselves). One guy asked me if I was the "shiny" Pikachu (a Pokémon GO reference, I presume). One of my favorite exchanges was when a[nother] girl dressed as Ash with a cute Pikachu plush poking out of her backpack asked our Ash if she could trade Pikachus! We had a few people pose with us, standing in as temporary trainer. I liked that. I want people to feel involved with the cosplay. To have fun with it. Joe did a great job of communicating the point (that I've stressed in the past) that it's accepted (even a bit expected) for girls to walk around half naked at conventions (I swear, there were a whole lot of bare asses at Tekko this year - it was great!), but for guys not so much. We're just leveling the playing field!

And hey, for all the talk about how these cosplays may be "inappropriate" for younger audiences (personally, I've found in my experience that it's always the parents who complain, and not actually the children - kids love pulp, it's their parents that don't want them exposed to it), there was one familial unit late Saturday night, consisting of a rather more modestly dressed Charizard, and a little girl with Pikachu ears, who insisted on getting their picture taken with our group. Now that's the right attitude!

Anyway, I was very excited that Doug joined us this year (he did an excellent job on his cosplay!), and that we were able to expand our group again. His outgoing attitude definitely helped sell the experience; one girl specifically mentioned that his inclusion was vital to the group's reception. It's like Arlo Guthrie explained in Alice's Restaurant: people will write just one guy off as crazy, two guys they'll figure are queer, but if you get three, they'll start to think it's a movement! I feel like in the past a lot of people have been too shy or embarrassed to approach us. But now that the concept is taking hold...I feel like we're becoming something of an institution at the con. Whether or not we can expand our group beyond our limited social circle, and inspire strangers and more distant acquaintances to join in the fun, will determine how much further this escapade will go. I'd love to see a whole army of sexy Pokémon of all genders having a photoshoot together, but that's up to you, the crowd, and not me. It's been three years now, though, that I've worn this cosplay, and I think maybe it's time to adjust it to make it more sturdy and long-lasting.

Winding down to the end of the night, I skipped the Extreme AMV Contest this year for two reasons. One, I think I was having more fun strutting around in my Pikachu cosplay. And two, I always seem to complain that the AMVs aren't that good, anyway. Not to sound like a prude (believe me, I'm not), but the sexual content is all too often puerile and immature - the sexual equivalent of a fart joke, laughing at boobs and dicks, instead of telling a serious, erotic story (I imagine most people are more comfortable laughing at sex in a crowd than letting themselves actually get turned on - it's the adolescent giggle effect). Besides, I'm more into the cute side of erotica (more on that tomorrow). To illustrate, I thought High School of the Dead was dreadful, but not because I'm against fan service on principle. Ecchi shows are my favorite subgenre. It's just a matter of taste, is all.

To be concluded...

12 April, 2018

Tekko 2018 (Part 2)

A bad hair day for cosplay...


Friday was a bit of a last minute cosplay for me (to coordinate with a cosplay Doug's been wanting to do for a year or more). He was toast Rei, and I was yellow sundress Asuka. Casual versions of two of the main characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In spite of this series' pedigree, its popularity seems to have waned significantly. Most people just wanted to inform me that they didn't recognize me as a member of the Straw Hats (from One Piece) >_>;. One girl even thought I was the trainer Yellow from some version of Pokémon I'm not familiar with (the only yellow-adorned Pokémon trainer I'll acknowledge is Misty :-p). We did happen across a Misato and Kaji, with whom we took a picture - that was an unexpected surprise. Aside from that, the only recognition I got was when Doug pointed out a figure in the dealer's room (I'm sorry, Exhibition Hall) of my cosplay's namesake in the outfit I was wearing.

Asuka (yellow sundress version)

A perfect demonstration of the difference
between "crossplay" and "gender bending"

Asuka with "toast" Rei

Featuring Misato and Kaji!

I have more to say about both the cosplay we saw this year, and the Exhibition Hall, but let's do these things one at a time. As for panels on Friday, there was one earlier in the day that I was interested in - NEETs in Anime, but we (unsurprisingly) didn't make it to the con early enough for me to catch it. I did catch the tail end of the fashion show after dinner (Pizza Parma), but I have to admit this is becoming less of a priority for me. You just see so much great fashion among the crowds - and you can get much closer to them - it hardly seems worth it to sit around watching people walking out on stage in samey Lolita outfits (as much as I love them). But it's something to do.

Not that there aren't plenty of things to do at the con. I always feel overwhelmed - like the first time I step into the Exhibition Hall, and I can't even fathom where to begin. There's so much going on at any given time. Surging crowds of people. Panels and main events and the Exhibition Hall (can I call it, like, Xib Hall for short or something?). And then you have cosplays to change into and show off, and then change out of so you can go and grab lunch or dinner. Running back and forth between bag check. It's madness, but I think that's part of the appeal - you just get so wrapped up in the whirlwind of excitement and activity (even when you're exhausted and resting in the corner as the con continues on all around you), and you can't keep up, and you have no choice but to just submit to the experience. There's definitely such a thing as a con high (and it doesn't even require alcohol or other drugs, although I do know some who like to "enhance" their experience that way), and there's definitely a come down at the end of it all. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Magical Girls

Come Friday evening, I made it to one of the many panels about the mahou shoujo subgenre of anime - a Tekko Gakkou panel (which means more educational than usual) on the Genealogy of the Magical Girl. It was actually the panelist's thesis that she was presenting. It was informative - she identified seven waves of the subgenre (and did you know that Japan's magical girls were directly inspired by Bewitched?) - but I was not without certain criticisms. For one, she did not have a proper appreciation for Puella Magi Madoka Magica - treating it as an "intrusion" into the subgenre, rather than the intelligent deconstruction it is. Her stance was also too dependent upon gender politics - anything pandering to a male audience (as one of the earliest magical girl series, Cutie Honey, did) was similarly considered an "intrusion", rather than an expansion of the subgenre. Yet, at the same time, hyper-femininity (as presented in Sailor Moon and its derivatives) was considered "problematic".

I would have enjoyed more discussion of some of the most popular titles during the subgenre's heyday, delving into what makes a magical girl show tick, and a comparison of how different shows approach those things (e.g., transformations, costumes, magical artifacts, pet familiars), but this panel was focused more on a historical perspective, than an analytical one. It wasn't a debacle like "My Cosplay Brings All The Boys To The Con" from all those years ago (there was a panel this year titled "Cosplay is Not Consent is NOT Enough", but I wasn't going to touch that one with my ten inch pole (giggity)). I even got wind of a couple titles criticized for "inappropriate sexualization" of "very young" girls (Majokko Megu-chan, and Magical Angel Creamy Mami, welcome to my anime list!) - yet there was no mention whatsoever of Moetan, which does this in a very clever and self-aware manner.

The Parking Garage Fiasco

By around midnight on Friday, I was anticipating making a compromise on leaving early (yeah, anything before midnight is "early"), but my crew was surprisingly gung-ho about staying later (considering that one of them isn't used to staying up late, and another's schedule was all out of wack due to adjusting from working the night shift, and having already been up since the morning). So I was able to catch a late night panel on Crossplay. It was informative, and much better than that one we attended in a previous year. Then it was time to go home and rest up for another day of excitement. But that's when things started to get weird.

Let me start by explaining that it's hard to find parking on weekdays in Pittsburgh. Weekends are usually better (except when there are sports games or concerts going on). We always look for vacancies in the parking garage attached to the Convention Center (and I think it violates some kind of cosmic logic to purchase a badge for a convention and not be guaranteed a parking spot in the attached garage), but we didn't find a single one this year. On Friday, we ended up parking at some place a few blocks over. So we had a bit of a hike at the end of the day, through the snow, all of us exhausted. And me in the pair of thin ballet flats I wore for my cosplay!

So we eventually made it to our garage, with a little hesitation as to the block on which it was to be found. But when we went to the pay station to insert our ticket, the machine wouldn't take it. We tried it every which way, but to no avail. So eventually we queried the parking attendant on duty. He took one look at the ticket and said, "wrong garage." Which is weird, because I could have sworn, walking in, that it looked exactly like the garage we drove into earlier that day. But, assuming this guy knew what he was talking about (and, it turns out, he sort of did, and sort of didn't), I figured there must just be different parking garages with identical layouts. So back out into the cold and snow we went, to wander up and down the streets looking for a mythical parking garage that we wouldn't know even if we stumbled across it.

Normally, I would have been more game on this adventure, but I was seriously concerned about the lack of protection for my feet. My shoes had already been hurting me from a day of walking around (apparently the largest size of ballet flats they have still crush my feet), and now I was adding to that moisture and freezing temperatures. I seriously did not want to end up having to get my feet amputated. So I picked the nearest garage (which we were sure wasn't ours), and went inside just for the relative warmth (although there wasn't much of it, as this one wasn't underground), and shelter from the elements. I decided I'd wait there while the the other half of my crew kept searching for the right garage. Doug stayed with me.

At this point, even in our consternation, we were laughing about the absurdity of our situation. It reminded me of the time at Burning Man when Doug and I had to walk back to camp after the Temple Burn while it was snowing (in the desert!). Visibility was poor. The beacon we'd been using as a landmark kept moving around. People had stolen all the street signs. And somehow, in an art festival in the middle of the desert, we managed to stumble into a construction site. Standing in the parking garage waiting, Doug kept talking about how cool it would be if we were in the midst of a horror movie. I would have agreed, except that I recognized that I'd be the guy who tripped and broke his ankle, and ended up being the first one picked off by whatever killer or monster was stalking us. I also couldn't help thinking about how everyone watches horror movies and then shouts at the screen when the group splits up, saying it's a stupid thing to do, when I had done just that, thinking it was a good idea (and I stand by that). Turns out real life isn't like the movies.

Finally, the car pulled up. The other half of our crew had found it! Turns out, we had the right garage all along, just the wrong ticket. Reassured (after walking up and down the block) that there was no other garage in the vicinity that could be the one we'd parked in, Rhonda had gone back to the first one and decided to look to see if our car was actually there, ticket machine be damned. And, sure enough, it was! The correct ticket was inside the car. The one we'd had with us was actually the one from the day before. (It was prepaid, so we never had to turn the ticket in when we left). Madness. We got home by about three o'clock in the morning, making for an exhausting Saturday waiting for us over the next horizon.

To be continued...

11 April, 2018

Tekko 2018 (Part 1)

When I coined the term "Tekkosnowcon" three conventions ago (counting this one), I thought it was going to be a one time thing. This past weekend it snowed again, with daytime highs in the forties. That's only slightly above freezing. -_-;

As anticipated, and as appropriate for the cyclical nature of these things, as the [personal] theme of last year's con was growth, this was, in many ways (excepting one important one), a fallow year.

The con snuck up on us fast, in the midst of an unrelenting winter (I mean, it was eighty degrees in February, but it hasn't been mild again since the beginning of March), and zoomed past us - four short days of excitement, only for us to turn around and see it already receding into the distance behind us.

It doesn't even feel like it should be con yet, and now it's gone. I hadn't been putting much effort into prepping cosplays, or even watching a lot of anime (like last year) - except for catching up on Dragon Ball Super (I just finished the future Trunks arc). But it was, as always, still a lot of fun.

Dragon Ball Super


We got a late start on Thursday, but made it in to the city for our new annual tradition of dinner at the Ramen Bar in Squirrel Hill (where I had a delicious bowl of curry ramen) - this year, with Doug in tow - and then to the convention center barely in time to pick up our badges. Probably because it was so late (almost nine - when registration closes on Thursday), we didn't have to stand in line at all this year.

Notably, they moved registration downstairs to the first floor this year, where nothing of any substance had previously been located. This actually makes a lot of sense, because (provided you're not coming in the hotel way, which we ended up doing Saturday and Sunday), it's the first thing you pass when you come in the door, and it makes it much easier for the staff to check badges before people get into the action proper (one short escalator ride up one floor).

So that's a pro. Here's a con: no booklets. We still get printed schedules, which is good, because I can't stand using the "guidebook app" to plan my day - I need the organization of the spreadsheet format. But if you want to read descriptions of all those panels, you'll need to pull out your mobile phone. I call this a con, but it has its advantages (one less thing to awkwardly carry around all day), and it's a logical adjustment, because it reduces printing costs, as well as waste (even I don't keep my con booklets indefinitely - and I'm a hoarder). So I think it's something we're all just going to have to get used to.

On the subject of changes, the badges are also bigger this year. I don't know if this is a pro or a con; it didn't really affect me much either way. Another change was the movement of bag check from beside the Exhibition Hall (downstairs on one end of the convention center), up to where all the panels and video rooms and main events are (upstairs at the other end of the convention center). I heard some grumbling from my group on this point - it's a further walk to put stuff you just bought at the Exhibition Hall into your bag check until you go home. But, honestly, I think it's more convenient this way, since it's closer to just about everything else you do at the con besides browse the Exhibition Hall. (Although that does constitute a significant portion of the con experience).

To be continued...

25 March, 2018

Traffic Jam

When all sex work is criminalized, there is no distinction made between conscious agents who choose what society arbitrarily deems an "immoral" trade, and those who are legitimate victims of human rights violations. Moral pundits take advantage of the latter to drum up support for broad restrictions that conveniently also penalize competent adults engaging in consensual activities with fair compensation. This is not a bug, this is a feature. It's bible-thumping zealots rooting out what they perceive to be the filth of society. Yet the most insidious part is that, rather than being recognized for the extremists they are, they are supported by normal folk who have been influenced by a discourse that paints the problem in alarmist terms, bolstered by movies about women and children taken by criminal syndicates to be groomed as unwilling sex slaves. And most of the population is too fucking stupid to see that they're being hoodwinked. You're all fucking idiots. You're sheep being led to the slaughter. Horses galloping into the glue factory. You're slaves and you deserve your fate. Your only sin in the eyes of the one true God is taking decent people like me down with you. I know we may appear lazy and detached in the eyes of the masses, but it really is fucking exhausting keeping up with all the shit you damn dirty apes keep slinging around. And fuck if there's anything we can do to keep the cages clean. The only way to maintain a modicum of sanity is to develop a sense of humor. But even that's hard sometimes.

19 February, 2018

A Night at the Ballet

I've been thinking a lot lately about time and change as it pertains to one's identity. Is the version of me that exists today more or less authentic than the version of me that existed, say, twenty years ago? I'd like to believe that as every day passes, I am becoming more and more authentic to the core of my being and personality, but that's probably just a relativistic fallacy - of course the me that exists now is the best possible me! Which will also be true in a year from now when that's the present me and this me has become the past. Unless I'm in a particularly dark place, of course, and not feeling particularly self-confident. But, even by this reasoning, the me that I was twenty years ago couldn't be any less me than the me I am now.

I think about this because I can see ways that I've changed. Not that I'm a different person, at my core, but in some ways, I'm a very different kind of person. I remember watching an episode of a TV show once when I was younger, about whether or not people can truly change. I think it was actually Dawson's Creek, but I'm not sure. There was a character - an absentee father, maybe? - who had disappeared, and then returned. And he had had a past that involved drug addiction. And the question was, is he really better now, or was Gus right when he said in Breaking Bad, "once an addict, always an addict?"

I don't want to believe that, because I've heard stories of people who've gone through AA and gotten better - although you could argue that they're still alcoholics, they've just learned how to avoid the substance they can't control their usage of. In any case, it turned out that the character in the episode was indeed still an addict, cementing in my growing adolescent brain the alleged fact that people don't ever really change. Yet, my personal experience supports the alternative view - that people can change, at least in some ways. Which is to say, some things change, and others don't.

The things that trouble me somewhat are things that maybe used to bother me, or that I might have disparaged, that today I fight to defend. For example, I am a nudist, yet I remember chastising people when I was younger for showing too much skin in front of others. If anything though, this is firsthand evidence of the possibility that people (perhaps even the people I'm railing against for their lack of tolerance) can indeed, perhaps, change for the better (all the more reason we should be more forgiving, even of things we don't currently understand). I wish I could go back in time and live through my childhood again, and realize what a privilege it was to occasionally be mistaken for a girl, and to have a second chance at preventing the disintegration of a good friendship with someone who turned out to be gay. Not that I realized that until years later, or that it necessarily would have affected the outcome, were it dependent on feelings I just didn't have, but I feel like, as a friend, I let this person down (especially considering who I've become today).

I don't really have serious regrets - I'm mature enough to understand that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time, and we're always working at a disadvantage because nobody can ever know everything, especially that which we inevitably learn in hindsight. I don't take the me of the past to task for these things (most of all because I know it wouldn't change anything, except perhaps to erode my own sense of self-esteem), but it's impossible not to wonder about - as Roger Waters and my brother would put it - my possible pasts. Some things, though, make me wonder about just how much I've changed.

When I was little, my mother (an occasional dance instructor) put me in a gymnastics class. It meant little to nothing to me at the time, and didn't last. But between that and little league (which I also had - and still have - zero interest in), I don't know what I wouldn't give now to have the experience of growing up as a kid surrounded by gymnastics, hanging out and making friends with very flexible girls. But I couldn't have known then what it would mean to me now (never mind the fact that I didn't have the courage to overcome the fear that has always kept me from realizing my greatest potential - even now). To think, could I have been a dancer instead of a scientist? Is that even possible? Would I have really wanted to? Could you even have described that as "me"? But I want to be a part of that world now, such that I sometimes daydream about having a daughter interested in the sport, just so I could be on the periphery as a "dance parent". I know this is an unrealistic fantasy - it's not healthy to "live through" your kids - but in this day and age, merely having an interest in an activity, no matter how strong, doesn't earn you the privilege of a backstage pass. (Mark my words, soon they'll be demanding birth certificates of your offspring just to attend shows as an audience member - never mind the fact that, as far as people go, a child's greatest danger, statistically, is her peers, and her own parents).

Over six years ago, I wrote a post on this very blog on a related subject - titled I Wanna Be Where The Girls Are (a riff on a Runaways song hinting at Joan Jett's non-gender-conforming interests). Although, as a married person now (against all odds) - adding more evidence of the way people can change as they grow and experience new things - I have learned something profound since writing that post. Namely, how little importance and significance that "fluttering heart" feeling has to do with genuine companionship and devotion. Not that the former doesn't continue to move the heavens for me (nearly daily - and it takes a mature person to avoid jealousy and understand how little this constitutes a threat in somebody you can trust, thereby contributing to your partner's happiness rather than driving a possessive wedge between the two of you), but they simply occupy two different categories of phenomena (however mixed up society and/or biology has gotten them). And though less spectacular, perhaps (in the traditional sense of the word), the latter is a much deeper sensation, and no less valuable (by far) to one who desires a fulfilled life.

The point of this rather lengthy preamble (the kind I know how to write best), is that at one point in my life I might very well have scoffed at the ballet as something I wouldn't dream of having any interest in. (Case in point, there was a time when I wouldn't have been caught dead at a Rocky Horror Midnight Showing, yet now it's one of my most exciting memories; to say nothing of my initial scorn at the very concept of Dance Dance Revolution, which was subsequently the centerpiece of some of my most enjoyable nights in college). Yet, it was I who suggested to my partner that we go see Swan Lake (a show I've been itching to catch ever since we started going to the ballet a couple years ago, inspired by Natalie Portman's role in the film Black Swan). What's more, my favorite part of the night might not have even been the show itself (although it was exciting to see - especially the Black Swan's insane spinning routine - forget staying in formation, how does she not get sick and throw up all over the stage?!), but the opportunity to get dressed up (like a girl, mind you) and feel glamorous. This is not a me I would recognize if I bumped into myself at, say, 14 years of age (that is, twenty years ago). But today, I love it! It feels more authentically me (or at least the me I am now) than the XL concert tees and baggy jeans I used to hide in. And it's just fun!

There is, however, a part of me that hasn't changed one bit (to the likely chagrin of any part of society that suspects it) - and that is my childlike wonder and admiration of girls of that same age, who look especially delightful dressed up for the ballet, and whom I have been admiring (silently, from a distance) without interruption since I myself was that age. They are delightful, and it fills my heart with joy even just to lay eyes upon them, and I am not going to apologize to anyone for that. Nor would I change it for the world.

Ah, what a strange, fabulous creature I am. Why'd it take so long for me to discover that?

"When you live your life in fear
hiding who you really are,
you become a stranger to yourself."

- Sailor Earth, TokyoPop forums (circa the '90s)