Movie review: The Great Wall

We didn’t plan to see The Great Wall. We actually intended to see Get Out, but owing to an unfortunate accident with a parallax time distortion unit and a group of Brazilian terrorists, we ended up in the theater a week early. The only movie that had not yet started playing was The Great Wall, starring a bunch of CG space aliens, Willem Dafoe as John Hurt doing an impression of Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon as Matt Damon, and Tian Jing as an archer-specialized player character from Skyrim.


Seriously, tell me this isn’t glass armor from Skyrim.

So, with some trepidation, we ventured into the theater, expectations and parallax time distortion unit appropriately recalibrated.

The movie goes something like this:

MATT DAMON: The Chinese have the secret of black powder. We do not. Let us venture to China and steal black powder from the Chinese.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Wait, what? If they have black powder and we don’t, doesn’t that mean they have better weapons than we do, thus making stealing from their military kind of a bad idea?
MATT DAMON: That’s why we brought expendable extras with us. Plus, I have a magnet.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Why do you have a magnet?
MATT DAMON: Because unlike you, I read the script.
EXPENDABLE EXTRAS: Hang on, back up a second. What was that part about expendable–

CG SPACE ALIENS come out of NOWHERE and kill the EXPENDABLE EXTRAS.

MATT DAMON: Matt Damon!

MATT DAMON and MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK kill a CG SPACE ALIEN and chop off its ARM

MATT DAMON: Let’s take that arm with us.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Wait, what? Why?
MATT DAMON: Because it’s a CG space alien’s arm, of course!


Arr! Spoilers be down below!

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Hey Matt Damon, we’re being chased by mounted nomadic warriors! We should run away!

They RUN AWAY and discover a GIANT WALL with a whole bunch of ANGRY CHINESE ARCHERS atop it

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: I think we should surrender.
MATT DAMON: I have a better idea. We should surrender.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Ah. this is going to be one of those movies, isn’t it?
MATT DAMON: Yes. Yes, it is.

They are taken before the HIGH COMMANDER and INTERROGATED. WILLEM DAFOE quietly LURKS in the BACKGROUND.

MATT DAMON: Look! We have a space alien arm!
HIGH COMMANDER: Your space alien arm impresses us, Matt Damon. I will put you in a prison cell.
RANDOM SOLDIER DUDE: I can’t find the key to the cell.
HIGH COMMANDER’S UNDERLING: Put the prisoners on top of the wall instead, because that totally makes sense.

SPACE ALIENS attack the WALL. ARCHERS FROM SKYRIM jump off the WALL on BUNGEE CORDS to SHOOT and STAB the SPACE ALIENS because that makes TOTAL SENSE and it is TOTALLY how you defend a WALL from attackers who have NO PROJECTILE WEAPONS. WILLEM DAFOE quietly MUNCHES SCENERY in the BACKGROUND.

MATT DAMON: Space aliens are attacking the wall! Matt Damon’s sidekick, grab a red cloak and go all bullfighter on them while I shoot them with trick shots using my bow!
LEGOLAS: Eh, I’ve seen better.
ALIEN QUEEN: Oh shit, there are white people up on top of the wall! Retreat! Retreat!

They have a VICTORY CELEBRATION. The CHINESE MILITARY taunts MATT DAMON for his BOW.

MATT DAMON: Watch as I do some complicated trick shots with my bow.

MATT DAMON does some COMPLICATED TRICK SHOTS with his BOW and manages not to PUT HIS EYE OUT or ANYTHING.

HIGH COMMANDER: Your complicated trick shot with a bow impresses us, Matt Damon.
LEGOLAS: Eh, I’ve seen better.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Matt Damon, you should put on a bungee cord and jump off the wall.
MATT DAMON: Why?
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: To show that you trust us.
MATT DAMON: Well, first of all, I don’t trust you. Second of all, this is the most inane strategy I’ve ever heard of for defending a fortification.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: What’s wrong with it?
MATT DAMON:
MATT DAMON: So you have a wall…
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Right.
MATT DAMON: And you have blades on the wall and trebuchet and archers and all kinds of stuff.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Uh-huh.
MATT DAMON: So you just stand up on the wall and shoot the space aliens. And drop things on them. Like rocks. Or hell, I don’t know, like bombs, since you have explosives and stuff.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: But they climb the wall!
MATT DAMON: So build an overhang at the top! With doors in the floor that you can shoot and drop bombs through and stuff!
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM:
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Nope, not getting it.
MATT DAMON: You guys suck at walls. The whole point of a fortification is to deny your opponents access to a piece of land without needing to engage them in hand to hand combat. When you really think about it…

The dialog WEDGES

PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: This dialog sucks. I’m outta here.
WILLEM DAFOE: You came here to steal black powder?
MATT DAMON: Yes, we did.
WILLEM DAFOE: I, too, came here to steal black powder. I have devised a cunning plan. I have hidden supplies and weapons all along the road and I have made preparations to steal the black powder from the armory. When the space aliens attack, we can be on our way.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: If you’ve done all this preparation, why didn’t you steal the black powder and run away like, ten years ago?
WILLEM DAFOE: Because I’ve been waiting for Matt Damon.
MATT DAMON: Ah, right, of course.

HIGH COMMANDER: You have a magnet. That is how you killed the space alien at the beginning of this movie.
MATT DAMON: How do you know?
HIGH COMMANDER: The legends speak of a time when the Emperor was cruel and wicked, so the space aliens came to punish him. Now, every sixty years, the space aliens come out of hiding in the mountains and roam the earth for food.
MATT DAMON: Wait, what? A large number of organized, highly aggressive, large predators only come out once every sixty years? How does that ecosystem make any sense at all?
HIGH COMMANDER: It worked for Pitch Black, didn’t it?
VIN DIESEL: Hey, leave me out of this. My movie rocked.

A SPACE ALIEN starts rampaging on the WALL in the middle of the NIGHT

HIGH COMMANDER: Quickly! We must kill the space alien!

A SECOND SPACE ALIEN comes up BEHIND THEM and ATTACKS

HIGH COMMANDER: Clever girl.

The HIGH COMMANDER DIES

PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Now I am in charge!
MATT DAMON: Great. We should capture a space alien.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Did you not just hear me? I said I am in charge!
MATT DAMON: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Okay, so what we’ll do is we’ll make some alien tranquilizer–
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: I am in charge. Also, how on earth would we know anything about alien physiology or biochemistry? What makes you think a tranquilizer–
MATT DAMON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then we’ll put the alien tranquilizer on harpoons, see. And we stab the harpoons into the aliens and use the magnet to keep them from fighting back! And then we put them in a cage!
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: We have never before thought of using harpoons, capturing aliens, or using magnets. Fortunately, we happen to have a whole bunch of harpoons and alien tranquilizer just lying around, even though this idea is completely new to us and we’ve never even considered it before. And look, there’s an alien-sized cage just lying here! Also, even though we learned that magnets incapacitate aliens hundreds of years ago, we have never considered using magnets in any of our fortifications or defenses because of reasons. It’s a good thing you came by to save us, Matt Damon! Also, I’m being so sincere right now. No, really, I am. Sarcasm is not known to my people.

A FOG rolls in. The aliens ATTACK. MATT DAMON jumps off the WALL on a BUNGEE CORD to fight tranquilized aliens HAND TO HAND instead of just waiting for the TRANQUILIZER to work

MATT DAMON: I have captured a space alien!

The PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM opens a DOOR in the bottom of the WALL and they come out and get the CAPTURED SPACE ALIEN

MATT DAMON: Wait, what? You have a door at the bottom of the wall? Then how come I jumped off the top of the wall on a bungee cord like a dumbass?
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: You didn’t ask. I do not think you came here to save us. I think you came hear to steal our black powder.
MATT DAMON:
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: I can’t tell who’s worse, us or the space aliens. At least you don’t see them screwing each other for a percentage of the profit.
RIPLEY: That’s my line.
BURKE: Go for the black powder! Do it! Do it!

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: The next time the aliens come, you and I and Willem Dafoe should steal the black powder and run away.
MATT DAMON: That’s a terrible idea.
BURKE: No, that’s an awesome idea!
MATT DAMON: I am the hero of this movie. Stealing and running away isn’t very heroic.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: You’re a loser snowflake cuck.

The SOLDIERS find a TUNNEL that has been dug through the WALL

PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: The space aliens have dug a tunnel through the wall! Now they will destroy the world, just like the creatures in Pitch Black, which was a much better movie!
MATT DAMON: You guys really don’t understand static defenses, do you?

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: Willem Dafoe and I have blown the door off the armory and stolen the black powder. Come with us!
MATT DAMON: No.
WILLEM DAFOE: Wait, what? Why?
MATT DAMON: Because unlike you, I have read the script.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: You’re a loser snowflake cuck. I am going to write SUCH an angry tweet about you.

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK knocks out MATT DAMON and writes SUCH AN ANGRY TWEET. WILLEM DAFOE and MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK ride off with the BLACK POWDER

PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Matt Damon, your friends have stolen the black powder and run away.I will put you in a cell, since we have finally found the key. Also, we will now get onto hot air balloons which have failed all of our tests and fly to the capital, where we have shipped the captured space alien in a cage. Let us be off.

They get into HOT AIR BALLOONS that have FAILED ALL THE TESTS. The NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS all PLUMMET TO THEIR HORRIBLE DEATHS. The BALLOONS bearing MAJOR CHARACTERS all WORK JUST FINE.

WILLEM DAFOE: Go walk up that hill and see where we are. I promise not to steal your horse and all your supplies and ride off into the desert, leaving you stranded.
MATT DMON’S SIDEKICK: Okay.

WILLEM DAFOE steals the HORSE and ALL THE SUPPLIES and rides off into the DESERT, leaving MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK STRANDED

MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: You promised!
WILLEM DAFOE: Ha! I had my fingers crossed!

WILLEM DAFOE is captured by RAIDERS and tied up next to the BONFIRE. The RAIDERS start PLAYING with the BLACK POWDER next to the BONFIRE

WILLEM DAFOE: Oh sh–

WILLEM DAFOE, the RAIDERS, and EVERYONE WITHIN A MILE are blown SKY-HIGH by the BLACK POWDER

MATT DAMON: I will get on a balloon and ride it to the capital city and kill the queen space alien.
CHINESE NERD: Aren’t you afraid the balloon will blow up and send you plummeting to your gruesome death?
MATT DAMON: I am not a non-player character.
CHINESE NERD: I’m riding with you.

They FLY to the CAPITAL CITY. The SPACE ALIENS are RAMPAGING

CHINESE NERD: We can cover the captured space alien with bombs and let it go! When it goes to the queen it will blow her up!
MATT DAMON: See, that’s what I’m talking about. This is why nerds rule the world.

They cover the CAPTURED SPACE ALIEN with BOMBS and let it GO. It heads straight to the QUEEN

CHINESE NERD: Okay, now shoot it with a flaming arrow to set off the bombs!
MATT DAMON:
MATT DAMON: What the…
MATT DAMON: Are you fucking serious?
MATT DAMON: You couldn’t have put a timer on them?
CHINESE NERD: Do what where?
MATT DAMON: A timer! Like a slow-burning charge…
CHINESE NERD:
MATT DAMON: …a glass envelope with a starter charge in it that ignites when the queen bites down, a chemical delay fuse…
CHINESE NERD:
MATT DAMON: Anything? Anything?
CHINESE NERD: Nope, not getting it.

MATT DAMON SIGHS

MATT DAMON: Okay, I will go up this tower and make a daring trick arrow shot that will save the world.

MATT DAMON makes a DARING TRICK ARROW SHOT that MISSES. The world is not SAVED

LEGOLAS: Loser!
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Okay, I will go up this tower and make a daring trick arrow shot that will save the world.

The PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM makes a DARING TRICK ARROW SHOT that BLOWS UP THE QUEEN. The world is SAVED

LEGOLAS: Eh, I’ve seen better.
PLAYER CHARACTER FROM SKYRIM: Matt Damon, we have captured your sidekick wandering alone in the desert without a horse or supplies. You can take him with you or you can take black powder with you. Your choice.
MATT DAMON: I choose Matt Damon’s Sidekick.
MATT DAMON’S SIDEKICK: It’s like I don’t even know you any more!
PADME: That’s my line! It’s pretty awful, though. You can have it if you want.

PADME dies of CONSUMPTION
The movie ENDS

The revolution is Nigh…Impossible

As part of the ongoing development of the bionic cock project I’m working on, I’m in the process of teaching myself 3D modeling and 3D printing. We’re using 3D printing to make positives for molding silicone prototypes.

3D printing is amazing. It offers incredible potential for people everywhere to be able to make whatever they want on demand, as long as “people everywhere” means “people with access to computers and the Internet and 3D printers and spools of plastic, and the cognitive ability to be able to design things and operate the equipment.” So not really people everywhere, but no matter, right?

3D printing is also incredibly stupid. The state of the art is so appalling. The software is deplorable–a throwback to the bad old days of obtuse design usable only by the select few.

The first time I tried to make a print, I was horrified by what passes for design in the world of 3D printing. It’s a case study in why Linux has never made significant inroads into the desktop, despite being free. Open source software is still software made by developers for developers, with no thought (or sometimes, with active contempt) for users who either don’t want to or don’t have the time to learn every small detail of the way their systems work.

By way of comparison, if color inkjet software worked the way 3D printer software works, every time you hit the Print command on your computer, you’d be confronted by something like this (click to embiggen):

A twisty maze of confusing ad indecipherable options poorly laid out

This…is why we can’t have nice things. The open source community isn’t democratic; it’s elitist.

Movie Review: Live and Let Spectre Die Hard with a Vengeance

The life of a sociopathic British secret agent isn’t what it used to be. Time was when you could expect that evil supervillains bent on making doomsday weapons from their space lab in space could be counted on to invite you in for dinner, explain the entirety of their sinister plan to you, and then concoct some ridiculously over-the-top way to kill you while they conveniently absented themselves from the room to deal with pressing matters elsewhere.

Alas, times change, and even the most dense of today’s modern supervillain has become wise to the various flaws in this otherwise cunning course of action. Previous James Bonds have had the luxury of knowing that the supervillains they faced, while no doubt quite super and unparalleled in their villainy, were perhaps a few bricks short of a deck in the “dealing with British secret agents” department.

And so a new James Bond was needed. A tougher James Bond. A more resourceful James Bond. A James Bond with a steely gaze.

And that James Bond is back for another romp through the gardens of man’s inhumanity to man in the delightful little movie Spectre, featuring car chases, explosions, sinister villains, fluffy Persian cats, acting, plot, and dialogue.

The movie goes something like this:

RANDOM HOT WOMAN: Oh, James, ravish me! Ravish me now!
DANIEL CRAIG: Hm.

DANIEL CRAIG takes off his SKELETAL COSTUME and goes out the WINDOW onto the ROOF OF THE BUILDING in pursuit of a MAN IN A DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME that is NOT THE SAME as DANIEL CRAIG’S SKELETAL COSTUME

MAN IN THE DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME: Let us blow up the stadium and then go see the Pale King, because we are villains in a James Bond movie and so we can not assume that our co-conspirators know what we’re conspiring about and we need lots of exposition to establish that we’re the bad guys.
RANDOM BODYGUARD: There is a man listening to us from the top of the roof outside our window. I think he may be James Bond.
MAN IN THE DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME: Well, shoot at him, then! Isn’t that what I pay you for?

A bunch of people shoot at DANIEL CRAIG

DANIEL CRAIG: Hm.

DANIEL CRAIG shoots the BOMB they wanted to use to BLOW UP THE STADIUM. The entire building CRACKS and then FALLS OVER onto DANIEL CRAIG, who fixes the crumbling building with a STEELY GAZE

DANIEL CRAIG: Hm.

DANIEL CRAIG slides through the CRUMBLING WRECKAGE and lands on a CHAIR, then pursues the MAN IN A DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME through the streets of MEXICO CITY

MAN IN THE DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME: James Bond is chasing me! Meet me in the square!

A HELICOPTER lands in the SQUARE and picks up the MAN IN THE DIFFERENT SKELETAL COSTUME. DANIEL CRAIG fixes the HELICOPTER with a STEELY GAZE and then HOPS ABOARD. They have a WILD FIGHT. The helicopter goes UPSIDE DOWN

DANIEL CRAIG: Hm.

DANIEL CRAIG steals a RING, throws everyone else OUT of the HELICOPTER to their GRUESOME DEATHS, and then FLIES AWAY into the SUNSET

The rest is down here! Beware, here be spoilers.

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.

Movie Review: Inside Out

I will admit to some small measure of skepticism when I first learned of Inside Out, the new animated movie from Pixar. The premise of the movie is we all have emotions living inside us, you see, that look kind of like us except Fear (which resembles a purple Al Pacino, only skinnier), and Anger, which I don’t know what the hell it looks like, but it’s red.

But it’s Pixar, and Pixar is usually a pretty safe bet. They gave us Up, Toy Story, The Shining, Finding Nemo, and Brave, so I figured I’d give the movie a shot.


Al Pacino in Pixar’s hit movie The Shining

The movie begins with the birth of the main character Ripley Riley, who is dragged non-consensually into the world nine months after the end of last year’s surprise Pixar hit, Carnal Encounters of the Barest Kind. Upon the abrupt cessation of her non-existence, Ripley Riley begins to feel her first emotions, hilariously voiced by Al Pacino, gruff Al Pacino, Sigourney Weaver, unhappy Sigourney Weaver, and smug Sigourney Weaver.

Ripley Riley grows up in an idyllic Minnesota town, where she faces the normal challenges any young woman encounters on the path to maturity: she learns to play hockey, builds relationships with her parents and friends, goes to school, and drives a loader (in one particularly poignant scene, she gets a Class Two rating after her flight license is revoked).

The rest of the movie goes something like this:

Avast, ye landlubbers, there be spoilers below!

“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. 27: “Polyamory is wrong!”

If you’ve been part of any poly community online for more than…oh, about 400 milliseconds or so, you’ve unquestionably seen someone post the “polyamory is wrong” T-shirt. You know the one I mean:

Get it? You’re supposed to think at first that it’s saying polyamory is morally wrong, but really it’s just saying it’s wrong to mix Latin and Greek roots! Get it?

Except that…err, it’s totally okay to mix Latin and Greek roots. We do it all the time. In fact, even purely Latin words might have mixed roots, because the Romans had their grubby paws all over the place, and mixed words from different languages with gleeful abandon. Latin itself is about as pure as a Baptist in a tavern, and as it says in Job 14:4, “Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!”

But I’m not one to stand in the way of a good linguistic joke, so I most humbly propose the following additions to the canon:


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#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

Sharks and Loathing in Las Vegas

I am a man who wears bunny ears.

As I write this, Eve and I are on the last leg of our book tour–six events over the next four days and we are finally done. Part of the tour took us through Las Vegas. And Vegas…Vegas is not what I expected.

Close your eyes. Imagine Las Vegas, that epicenter of sin and decadence in the desert. What do you picture? Giant neons. Slot machines. Organized crime. Women in huge feather headdresses. Not, you might think, the sort of place where a man in bunny ears would exactly stand out…

…and you’d be wrong.

Vegas is, it seems, not prepared for a man in bunny ears, oh no. The hostility with which the Las Vegas culture1 responds to the sudden appearance of a man in bunny ears in its collective midst is remarkable.

But let me backtrack for a moment.

As Eve and I have traveled the country talking about polyamory and ethics and such, we’ve brought a stuffed shark with us. The shark, who joined our team2 in Atlanta, has made appearances all over North America, solely for the purpose of being exploited.

It started as a lark, you see. There is a friend of Eve’s, and this friend is a marine biologist who studies sharks. He also writes angry blog entries in response to phony stories on the Discovery Channel, stories with lurid titles about how mermaids might be real (spoiler: they aren’t) and speculating whether Megalodon, the enormous prehistoric dinosaur-shark, might still be alive (hint: it isn’t).

There are trolls on the Internet, and some of these trolls want to believe in mermaids and Megalodon. So they follow Eve’s friend about online, posting pictures of him and diatribes about him with the Twitter hashtag “#nerdsexploitingsharks”.

Which is, thought we, absolutely begging for hijacking.

So, half an hour before I was scheduled to do a lecture in Atlanta, I darted out in frantic search of a stuffed shark to exploit. I found one at the Atlanta Aquarium, and it’s been accompanying us ever since, being photographed in exploitative situations and posted to social media under #nerdsexploitingsharks.

So. Back to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas doesn’t like a man in bunny ears. Las Vegas especially doesn’t like a man in bunny ears carrying a stuffed shark.

Now, there are many ways to carry a stuffed shark. If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas wearing bunny ears and carrying a stuffed shark, you might try one or more of these carry techniques. I present this information in the name of Science!3


The Security Blanket

An attitude that says “Yes, I have a stuffed shark, and what of it? I need my shark if I am to face a cold, cruel world.” Advantages: Few people will approach a person who uses a shark as a security blanket. Disadvantages: Few people will approach a person who uses a shark as a security blanket.


The ‘Shark? What shark?’

Who, me? I’m not carrying a stuffed shark! Oh, this? How did this get there? Advantages: From the front, you simply look like a man in bunny ears, not a man in bunny ears with a stuffed shark. Disadvantages: Las Vegas loves guns. The sight of a man in bunny ears with his hands out of sight might upset some folks with delicate sensibilities, and some of those folks with delicate sensibilities might be armed.


The Casual Carry

This technique challenges the observer: “Yeah, I’m carrying a stuffed shark, and how do you like THEM apples?” Advantages: People might assume you’re a famous performer, or, failing that, an eccentric Mob hitman with a pistol inside the shark like that one scene in Hudson Hawk, only with a shark instead of a teddy bear. Disadvantages: People might assume you’re barking mad.


The en garde!

Yeah, I have bunny ears. And a shark. Which might or might not contain a concealed pistol. Don’t fuck with me. Advantages: People give you a wide berth on the sidewalk. Disadvantages: You might get shot.


The Binky

Similar to the Security Blanket, but less neurotic, the Binky tells the world that, yes, the world is cold and cruel, and yes, your shark helps you navigate the rivers of cruelty all around you, but you don’t really need the shark. You just like the shark, okay? Advantages: More relaxed and casual than the Security Blanket; this attitude tells the world you really can stand on your own two feet. You know, if you want to. Disadvantages: Small children point at you.


The Bromance

“I love you, man!” This attitude tells the world you and your shark have a special friendship…but, like, totally in a heterosexual way. Advantages: It’s totally, like, a heterosexual thing. Not, like, that other thing. Disadvantages: You may be mistaken for a dudebro. Who wears bunny ears. And carries a stuffed shark.


The Two-Handed Casual

“I’m just carrying a stuffed shark from one place to another place. Nothing to see here. Move along.” Advantages: Very workmanlike. People won’t get the impression that you’re, y’know, attached to the shark or anything. Disadvantages: It’s still pretty weird to see a guy in bunny ears carrying a stuffed shark, no matter how workmanlike he may be. Plus you don’t have a hand free to drink alcohol, play slots, and convince yourself that this thing you’re having is fun.


The Secure in my Masculinity

This pose shows the world that you’re absolutely certain of your manhood and you’re not too threatened to express your true feelings, even if you happen to be in the middle of one of the world’s largest casinos. Advantages: People will stay far, far away from you. Disadvantages: Unless they’re security.


1 Insofar as Las Vegas can be said to have a “culture.” My observations of Las Vegas culture suggests it is made up primarily of people who have no idea how to have fun desperately trying to have fun and convincing themselves the thing they are having is, indeed, fun. And alcohol.

2 Was purchased and exploited.

3 I am frequently asked “are you a scientist?” I usually say “no.” I think I am probably going to have to start saying “yes,” so when people ask “what kind of scientist? Chemist? Biologist?” I can say “Mad.”