Bizarre email o’ the day

The email below appeared without explanation in my inbox today, and ranks in the top 10 most bizarre emails I’ve received. I have no idea what to make of this.

Delivery-date: Wed, 07 Sep 2016 18:58:56 -0500
Message-ID: <2B2E98CBC0142E5D8184CD794D1C0DE0@ibcmobile.com>
From: “SAVE US” <sales@ibcmobile.com>
To: <franklin@franklinveaux.com> (and 5 other email addresses redacted)

Subject: They kill with wars, alcohol and abortions. Save us!!!

They kill with wars, alcohol and abortions. Save us!!!

That’s it. No link, no attachment, nothing. Just…that.

Sisters of Cathy

Cathy is a long-running comic strip that premiered in 1972 and has graced the pages of American newspapers for the last four decades. In all that time, the entirety of the strip has revolved around five jokes: Cathy is insecure about her weight, Cathy is insecure in her job, Cathy is insecure in her relationship, OMG gender roles, and Cathy likes to shop.

But what if…

What if the insipid innocence of the strip hides a dark secret? What if the world of Cathy is a more dangerous and dramatic place than it seems? What if Cathy lives a secret life of sinister plots and awesome goth music? What if…Cathy is really the heroine of every Sisters of Mercy song?

It turns out it works rather well.

I blame Eve for all of this. We were talking about Sisters of Mercy, my favorite band from back in my goth days, and whether Cathy was still a thing, and…

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present: Sisters of Cathy.

My two favorite strips are posted for my backers over on my Patreon blog.

“Most likely a sociopath”

As many folks who read me probably know by now (and goodness, I’m doing my job wrong if you don’t!), I’m polyamorous. I’ve been polyamorous my entire life, I’ve been writing a Web site about polyamory since the 1990s, and I recently co-wrote a book on the subject.

A lot of folks ask me if I get negative responses from being so open about poly. And the answer is, no, I usually don’t. In fact, it’s extremely rare that I hear anything negative about polyamory, all things considered. I generally encourage folks who are poly (or in other non-traditional relationships) to be as open as they feel safe in being, both because stigma is reduced when many people are open about non-traditional relationships and because, almost always, the pushback is nowhere near as great as people are likely to think it will be.

But that’s not to say I never hear anything negative. Like this, for example, left as an anonymous comment to a post I made about dating and relationships on a social media site recently:

“This is what a woman had to say about you “Let me put this franklin, frank is a user/manipulator. I am sure he tells the women he is with that by being in a relationship with him and 4 other women that he is “empowering” them. You have to realize that there is a new “modern” type of feminism, these women misconstrue the term femism. The original feminist wanted to feel equal to men, they wanted more opportunities that we (women) are now given due to thier efforts. Nowadays women are empowered in a completely different way, women are mislead (in my opinion by manipulative men such as franklin) to believe that being overtly sexual is empowering, so that is why you see these women bending over backwards for men. I dont know exactly who is misleading women of our generation to believe polyamory is empowering or being overly sexual is but its someone, perhaps the feminists in the media but the question who is behind the media in the first place? I just feel bad for young feminists because they have no true understanding of what it means to be empowered and they are very confused. Franklin is smart and manipulating each girlfriend he has and he most likely a sociopath.””

Formatting, quote marks, and spelling as in the original.

So now you know, the media feminists are pushing women into the arms of sociopaths like me. Curses, my secret is out.

#WLAMF no. 28: The Erotic Heritage Museum

Should you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, I suggest… Well, to be honest, I suggest you don’t find yourself in Las Vegas. It’s a sad, desperate place, filled with people trying much too hard to convince themselves that this thing they’re having is indeed fun, and not some other thing, like not-fun (which, I must say, is more often the case). And they don’t much cotton to guys wearing bunny ears there.

But if you do find yourself in Las Vegas, one of the places on the very shortlist of places I suggest you check out is Harry Mahoney’s Erotic Heritage Museum. It’s quite a bizarre place, part museum, part Vegas festival, part…well, I don’t really know what.

It’s not terribly impressive from the outside, to be sure. It’s in an obscure corner of an industrial park, and from the outside, it looks like this:

We went there, Eve and I, not quite sure what to expect. We certainly didn’t expect the Erotic Heritage Museum wedding chapel, the first thing a visitor encounters when walking through the door. It’s billed as the only wedding chapel in Vegas where you can have your ceremony and also consummate the union, and given how uptight Las Vegas is with its Puritan morality, I believe it. It’s a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, though to be fair the movie Caligula was also a bit Caligula meets Penthouse Letters, so I imagine that makes it about two-thirds Caligula and one-third Penthouse Letters.

I want to do…things in this place. With, and to, lots of people.

Also on the main floor is this…err, sculpture. Artwork. Thing. It’s carved from a solid block of limestone, and weighs something like two thousand pounds and change. It too makes me want to do…things.

Moving downstairs, one finds a large museum space filled with everything from antique vibrators (natch) to a collection, billed as the world’s largest such collection, of antique, ancient, and prehistoric dildos.

Including this rather fetching fellow, a proto-Hello Kitty design in carved stone.

There are a lot of carved stone dildos on display. Stone has, apparently, been a rather popular medium for sex toys for quite a long time.

Eve and I have discussed, for reals, teaming with a museum like this one and creating a line of high-quality replicas of various ancient stone dildos, each of which would come with a little insert that described the particular example of the art, along with historical information, information about where it came from, and so on. What do you think? Do you think there’d be a market for this sort of thing?

The exhibits also include props from the Star Wars porn parody (because of course there was a Star Wars porn parody) and, more inexplicably, this sculpture of a cock and balls, made of $4,000 worth of pennies.

If you find yourself in Vegas for whatever reason, and you’re unwilling to gnaw your own arm off to escape (possibly because you are the Kwisatz Haderach), definitely check it out. It’s a fascinating place.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015.

#WLAMF no. 6: Stonepeckers

During our travels around the country talking to folks about polyamory, Eve and I passed through Colorado. We spent a night at Colorado National Monument, sleeping in the back of the van at a weird angle that made us keep rolling into each other.

Colorado National Monument is awesome in the “nature is grand on a scale beyond mere human endeavor” sense, rather than a “this architecture is grand because it’s designed to manipulate you” sense. It’s filled with towers of stone that look like something right out of an old Roadrunner cartoon, separated from each other by deep canyons that could comfortably swallow a blue whale and a dozen tour buses and you’d never even notice.

Some of those towers of stone are pockmarked with great holes that resemble nothing so much as the holes made in telephone poles by optimistic woodpeckers.

I asked a park ranger1 about the holes. That’s when I first learned of the great stonepeckers.

The similarity to woodpecker holes is no coincidence, for they’re formed by similar processes. During the dry season, giant stonepeckers, with huge talons and beaks like carved diamond, land on the buttes and chip away at the stone, seeking the rock burrowers that live within. They look a bit like woodpeckers, but on a far grander scale. Their iron-feathered wings can stretch more than thirty feet, and when they peck at the cliff face, the sound travels for miles.

They’re not related to woodpeckers at all, I learned. Their similarities are purely a matter of convergent dimorphism; form follows function. The stonepeckers are actually not birds at all; they’re related to wyverns, dragons, and thunder lizards. You can tell not only by their size, but by the morphology of their talons and their skeletal structure, particularly around the hip.

The sky was once full of them, tens of thousands of years ago. We see evidence in the fossil record–not only of stonepecker bones but of their great nests of pine trees, lined with flint. Drying climate reduced their numbers; today, only a handful of stonepeckers remains. They are carefully managed by the Parks and Recreation Service, that uses specially modified Apache attack helicopters to keep them from straying too close to people.

1 By which I mean I thought about asking a park ranger, then decided to run with my own story instead because it was probably more interesting.


I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/thorntree-press-three-new-polyamory-books-in-2015/x/1603977

Visiting Chrome

“What do you want to do tonight?” I asked Eve.

“Dunno. What do you want to do?”

“I’m up for anything,” I said, in a rare moment of underestimating the true meaning of ‘anything.’

“Well,” she said, pointing to her laptop screen, “this looks interesting.”

And so it was we left this plane of reality and stepped into William Gibson’s version of 2014, as seen from the mid-1980s.

It wasn’t actually our intention to travel to a dystopian alternate reality, you understand. We were looking for an evening’s casual entertainment, and didn’t feel like watching Guardians of the Galaxy. So she did a Google search, and found a thing called Richmond Night Market.

If Canada had truth-in-advertising laws, the name “Richmond Night Market” might raise eyebrows at whatever regulatory bodies (tribal meetings of Kurgan warriors? Men in polar bear skins pounding on each other with long decorative spears?) may exist in the bitter frozen wastelands of the North.

“Richmond Night Market.” It’s what you might call a flea market with unorthodox hours, or perhaps a weekly gathering of fishmongers selling wares straight off the boat to the finest sushi restaurants in downtown Vancouver. “Richmond Night Market.” The name conjures wholesome images of open-air commerce, the sort of place where one might go to buy a new china bowl for serving fruit punch in.

One would not expect, from the name, a gigantic rubber duck. Nor a dystopian world of stimrunners and outlawed bioactives, shivs and black docs.

We got there after sunset. The line already wrapped around the fenced perimeter, snaking beneath massive concrete pilings supporting the whining elevated trains. Loudspeakers encouraged us to buy books of passes, which would get us in at a discounted rate. Eve climbed a bit of broken concrete and leaned over the perimeter fence for a picture.

We eventually made our way in, via a quick bit of social engineering to persuade the people in line around us to pool our resources for a passbook (“skip the line!” the cute Asian woman hawking them said. “Save fifty cents!”). Passbook in hand, our ratag group went to the special entrance, and stepped through the perimeter into…into…

If Ridley Scott decided to do an adaptation of Neuromancer, this is where you’d go to find a Netrunner. If Neal Stephenson were to reimagine Snow Crash as a Canadian made-for-TV series, you might find Raven here, scowling and skulking among the stalls. If I ever run a postcyberpunk RPG, this place will be there, somewhere, a glittering Easter egg of neon and LEDs waiting for the players to find.

On the surface, the Richmond Night Market is an open-air collection of vendors selling wares. But such a simple explanation fails to do justice to it, in the way that describing the Great Pyramid of Cheops as a “big pile of rocks” or the combined works of William Shakespeare as “a bunch of words about people being awful to each other” fails to convey the pure Platonic essence of these things.

Richmond Night Market is an open-air collection of vendors selling wares. But such a place it is, and such wares.

Upon entering the Richmond Night Market through the special, skip-the-line-with-your-magic-passbook gate, one is confronted with a riot of bright lights and busy signs, most in Chinese and English, some in Chinese only. Crowds of people flow like oil through the interstitial spaces between the stalls, while vendors work busily to separate them from their money.

We passed hastily-erected tents offering e-cigarettes (“Vape! Vape! Better than smoking!”), small radio-controlled drones with cameras on them, and long black swords (“buy one, get one free!”). Next to the stall selling smartphone accessories was another selling DNA typing (“put your name on the registry! Find an organ donor!”). A dazzling display of laser lights led to a bored-looking woman with a collection of drop knives and canisters of pepper spray. Across from her, another booth offered stem cell tissue typing (“must be between 18 and 35,” the stern-looking woman said). Around the corner, we found small paper buckets of battered squid tentacles, deep-fried Mars bars, and computer services (“Unlock your phone! Run any software! Any software you like!”) Eve accepted a sample of exotic tea in a tiny paper cup that leaked. “They don’t seem terribly interested in selling tea,” I said. “Probably contraband biologicals in the back.”

At one booth, a dour-looking man about the size of Philadelphia stood with his arms folded. A small sign was propped against the table, showing two exuberantly muscled men standing back to back, one holding a sword. “What do–?” I started to ask. He growled. “I’ll just keep moving, then,” I said.

Signs tied to an enormous rubber ducky with bits of nylon rope promised a Magical Candyland. We wandered around, blinking, until we found it: a low concrete wall with flaking paint, behind which a couple of elderly women sold lollipops from a yellowing plastic bin. I didn’t ask what the magic was; I’m still not entirely sure I want to know.

A momentary turbulence in the flow of people disgorged a friend of Eve’s. “I found pens!” she said, before the crowd swallowed her again. “Hello Kitty!” Behind her, a man dressed as a panda sold airline tickets to mainland China. “Samsung TV!” said a guy to my right. “True 4K! Only $3,000!”

“Who the hell,” I asked Eve, “comes here and drops three thousand bucks on an impulse buy?”

We wandered through the noise and mayhem, feeling a bit like the main character of Zero Theorem at the party. Everyone around us seemed to move with purpose, crowds of people here each with an agenda, and almost none of those agendas involving Hello Kitty pens. Eddies swirled in the crowd, looking random–one in front of the DNA testing tent, another at the place selling drones. “Vape! Vape! Run any software! Tissue typing!” A crowd gathered in front of the booth advertising “The secret knowledge of the Bible, what Jesus REALLY said!” and disappeared just as quickly.

Eventually, the flow of the crowd deposited us near where we’d come in. “So, um,” she said, “are you ready to leave? Because this place–”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I am.”

We headed out empty-handed. I was too old for tissue typing, didn’t have a spare three thousand dollars for a new TV, and wasn’t sure I wanted to start trafficking in restricted biochemical agents just that evening.

Still, I will admit to some nostalgia for the days when we thought dystopia would mean netrunners and celebrities with Zeiss Ikon eyes, rather than the dreary same-old same-old of run-of-the-mill corporate malfeasance and Middle Eastern war we ended up with. We had, for a brief, shining moment, a taste of the more interesting ways society might have run off the rails, and that world seemed so much more fascinating than the dystopia we settled for.

The Birth of a Meme, or, Why I love the Internet

As the American electorate went through the motions of choosing a candidate of someone else’s choosing this week, the Internetverse was alive with political commentary, flames, racial epithets, and all the other things that normally accompany an American campaign season.

At the height of the election, Twitter was receiving 15,107 tweets per second…an eyewatering amount of data to handle, especially if you’re a company with little viable revenue stream other than “get venture capital, spend it, get more venture capital.”

Some of those tweets were tagged with the #romneydeathrally hashtag, and for a few days, how the Internet did shine.

If you do a search on Twitter for #romneydeathrally, you’ll find some of the finest group fiction ever written. The Tweets tell a strange, disjointed account of a political rally straight out of Lovecraft, with bizarre rites taking place on stage and eldritch horrors being summoned to feed on the crowd.

The hash tag went on for days, the Internet hive-mind creating an elaborate communal vision of a dark supernatural rally filled with horrors.

I even got in on the action myself:

Eventually, it caught the attention of the media. The Australian Hearld Sun ran an article about the hash tag that painted an interesting narrative of the meme:

In further evidence that Democrats are winning the social media war, hundreds of people have taken to Twitter to “report” on a fictional event where Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has called upon satanic powers in a last ditch effort to swing the election in his favour.

DigitalSpy has their own take on the meme, also saying Twitter users are talking about Mitt Romney calling upon Satanic powers.

When H. P. Lovecraft references get labeled as “Satanic powers,” I weep for the lost literacy of a generation…but I digress.

By far the most bizarre response to the meme was posted by Twitter user @nessdoctor over on Hashtags.org with the title “Twitter Users Threaten Mitt #RomneyDeathRally”. According to Ms. Doctor,

The hasthag #RomneyDeathRally trended after tweets spread placing Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) of the Republican party under the light of resorting dark satanic techniques to win the upcoming US national elections on November 6, 2012.

This is, of course, a nasty hashtag and while its purveyors insist it’s for humor (and sometimes it is), it is done in bad taste. […]

There were also posts that threatened to kill Romney, with some even threatening to join domestic terrorism and attack the White House and the people in it if Romney sits as president.

The article has been rewritten a number of times; at first, it stated that the hashtag was all about threats to kill Romney and his family, then it made the strange claim that the hash tag came about after rumors had spread that the Romney campaign was trying to use Satanism to win the election. For a while, the article had screen captures of threats against Romney with a caption claiming the threats were part of the #romneydeathrally hash tag; that claim has since been dropped. I have no idea what the article will say if you, Gentle Readers, should visit it.

But where did it come from? (I’ll give you a hint: it didn’t start because of rumors of Satanism.)

Like most Internet memes, the #romneydeathrally hashtag craze started small. On November 4, Mitt Romney held a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. For whatever reason, the rally was late getting started, it was cold, and some people who were there complained on Twitter that Romney campaign staffers were refusing to permit them to leave the rally, citing unspecified “security” concerns.

Some of these tweets were picked up by reporters covering the event.

It didn’t take long to turn into a public relations disaster. Some folks started talking about the “death rally” that you could never leave on Twitter, and the #romneydeathrally hashtag was born.

Naturally, the Internet being what it is, it really didn’t take long for some folks to decide they’d ride that train to the last station:

And, inevitably, Lovecraft got involved. Because if there’s one thing you can count on about the Internet, it’s por–okay, if there are two things you can count on about the Internet, one of them is that the Internet will always insert references to Lovecraft and Cthulhu wherever it possibly can.

And thus the meme was born.

It had nothing to do with threats on Romney, nor with rumors that the Romney campaign was dabbling in Satanism. Instead, it was the Internet doing what the Internet does: seizing on something that happened and taking it to an absurd conclusion.

The Romney Death Rally was a PR own-goal for the Romney campaign, sparked by staffers doing something really stupid at a rally.

There are two lessons here. The first is that if you’re a prominent politician and you’re hosting a rally, it’s probably a bad idea to refuse to allow people to leave. People have cell phones, and Twitter, and some of them will complain, and their complaints might be heard.

The second, though, is less about politics than it is about news reporting. For the love of God, if you have a journalism degree, you should be able to recognize a reference to the Cthulhu mythology when you see it.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Tentacles!

For the past several years, zaiah has wanted to make a Christmas tree with a “tentacle rape demons and the schoolgirls they love” theme.

This year, we finally made it happen.

We managed to obtain (please don’t ask me how) quite a large pile of Barbie dolls. In November, we hosted an 11/11/11 party which featured, among other things1, a lot of folks eating Jell-O shots and putting the Barbies into shibari rope harnesses. The Barbies serve as the innocent victims, which as we all know every tentacle monster needs plenty of in order to grow up big and strong.

Click here for more pictures…