Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Man Code

Being a man is not as complex as many make it out to be.While there are some subtleties we are, as a rule, pretty simple. We generally like certain things (boobs, fast things, explosions) and dislike others (ballet, cleaning gutters).

We also have certain responsibilities. One of those is cutting up wood. If there is a dead or fallen tree nearby, it is our duty to cut it up. It is, dare I say, a biological imperative. This is spelled out in The Great Book, also know as the Man Book or Man Code.

So when a tree blew over a few weeks back, I knew what I had to do. Cut that fucker up. For when you cut up a tree, you get firewood. Firewood is for fires, another thing men are compelled to make (Under Man Rule #5). I went out to the barn and took out my beat up Homelite 240 chainsaw and with a few pulls, it fired right up. I hacked up the tree into several large pieces before I got tired, or distracted or something. I left the job about half done (Man Rule #18).

Today I went out intent to finish the job. So of course the chain saw would not start. I pulled till I was blue in the face. Then I twiddled with the few knobs I could (Man Rule #25) Nothing. A reasonable person might be expected to try to find out why it wouldn't start. I am a (semi) reasonable person. A quick google offered no real help. CHAINSAW NO GO could have any cause. There are hundreds of possibilities. I looked at 2 (Guy Rule # 35) and walked away.

 Once again, a reasonable person might consider taking it to a repair guy. But Guy Rule #13 states that you better break out the tools first. Even if you have no fracking clue what you are doing you are obliged to use at least 4 tools (#37). It doesn't really matter what you do with them, only that you used them in the shop.  I downloaded the owners manual off the web. Cleaned the air filter. Checked the fuel filter. Adjusted Hi and Lo screws. Fresh fuel. Cleaned spark plug.

  Now I smell like gas and oil. It is a good smell. A manly smell.

 With everything adjusted and topped off I yank the pull cord. She fires up like a kitten. And by fires up I mean it somehow managed to NOT work even MORE, which makes no sense unless you are a guy holding a lump of metal with a string on it that yesterday was  a chainsaw.

  AT this point I have to give up. It isn't broken. I know this. But it doesn't matter. It's off to the shop. Do you know what they will do there? "Clean and adjust". Oh and charge me $60. Do you know what they will actually do to it? Tap it with a fucking magic wand is what. A magic wand that costs $60. I suspect there aren't actually any tools in the back room of my local repair shop. Only an array of wands.  They have wands that range from $40 to $120.  I'm sure my auto mechanic also has a magic wand but he only has the one that costs me $300 every time he waves it.

It doesn't matter. I have fulfilled my obligations to the Code. Now if you will excuse me I must try to get the smell of gas and oil off me as I'm getting dizzy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Between a rock and an icky place.

It's possible that I may be vending at Dragon Con this year. The key work is possible. Dragon Con is a big con, with a lot of competition for dealer space. This year they have moved to a new space, which gave me a chance to get in.  I'm excited at the chance and happily submitted my application. An event the size of Dragon Con can generate sales equal to the entire season of a small Ren Fair.

 So I was surprised to hear about a boycott that has been proposed by author Nancy Collins. She is upset that DragonCon is still associated with is co-creator Ed Kramer. Ed, it turns out has been arrested several times for possible child molestation. The first instance was in 2000 and most recently last week. Here is a long article, but it gives out a lot of information about the cases. Reading it is like watching a train wreck  You want to look away, but you're pulled back in. You wonder how this thing has gone on for so long. But its no mystery. Powerful and expensive lawyers were involved, health issues, lots of money, endless legal challenges and even claims of antisemitism.

Conventions were a source of great joy for me growing up. And in my adulthood they are partly how I make my living. But I still enjoy them. Except now I question how much. This is beyond the petty bickering and politics involved in the running of a con, this has gone waaay into a dark dark place.

Flashback time: It's 2000 and a group of friends and I go to Dragon Con for the first time. It's huge. We have a blast. There are all kinds of great tales told about that trip that have amused friends for years. In the course of the con, I actually meet Ed Kramer. It was in the semi-exclusive "Concierge Suite". He was a large man with an wild, unkempt beard stuffing his face with shrimp. I will be honest and say that he did not give off a particularly creepy vibe. Or at least, no more creepy than many of the people one meets at cons. Somehow Ed had heard of our performing group "The Magnificent Sloan Gypsies".  We chatted briefly and he discussed the possibility of bringing us to the Con to perform. A paying gig! Hallelujah!

 Not long after returning from the con word came through the grapevine about Kramer's arrest. Awesome. That year another convention director had contacted us, only to die rather suddenly before any kind of contract had been signed. Two well connected people had said we were great and wanted to hire us only for one of them to die and the other to be arrested as a child molester.

  That year Rossana and I started working Renaissance Festivals in earnest and it became almost impossible to attend Dragon Con. Other than being told how awesome a show it was by fellow dealers, I knew nothing of the con, or the fact that Ed Kramer was still part owner of the show.

  And so we come to today. A link leads me off to an article calling for the very people who are a big draw for the con to boycott the show.  Artists, writers, media guests. That link led to the much longer article detailing what had been happening over the past 13 years since last I saw Ed Kramer.  And that led to a strange conflict within me. I don't like child molesters or indeed people who do awful things to other people. I certainly don't want to help support one in any way.

  I like to bombastically declare that I am a Godless Capitalist. But the truth is that I have tried to never let my love of money overcome my personal beliefs in right and wrong. Ed Kramer is all kinds of wrong. So it would seem a pretty clear choice to pull out of this show and throw whatever weight I can into this boycott, right? But it is not that simple. Maybe for some it is. But as I pass 45 years on this Earth I have come to accept that some things aren't cut and dry.

  It is evident that Dragon Con and its owners are not willingly supporting Kramer. They have twice tried to buy him out and eventually stopped paying him (until Kramer sued). They are not secretly hoping he gets away with these crimes. I see no claims that anyone else involved with the Con helped him commit these crimes. For the past 13 years he has been personae non grata. Is it possible some of my dealer fee MAY eventually go to pay for Kramers layers. I suspect it is. But my money, indeed everybody's money goes to people and organizations that use money in ways we likely disapprove of.  When I paid my taxes under Bush some of my money went to pay for Black sites used to torture people. My money has gone to Blackwater, to corrupt cops and politicians. It  now pays for drones and bombs and bullets that have kill innocent people. This is an very unpleasant fact. But I'm not going to stop paying my taxes, even though a small amount of it funds things that are just wrong. I will not condemn my entire country for the actions of some of its citizens. The same applies to Dragon Con. You would be hard pressed to find ANY institution, club or organization that doesn't have some fucked up people belonging to it (or even co-founding it).

 So I'm going to work the show (if I get selected). Others will chose not to attend and I respect the hell out of their decision. But here is how it could play out.  If enough people bring pressure to bear the co-owners will again try to buy out Kramer. Kramer will demand a huge amount, Dragon Con will offer much less. The process will drag on, piling up massive legal expenses. Those expenses, in combination with falling attendance from a boycott and bad press could very well kill the show. Congratulation, you will have gotten your wish. Kramer will no longer get any money. Neither will anyone else.  While the Con itself doesn't have a large staff I guesstimate that between 200-300 people (dealers mostly) will loose a huge chunk of their livelihood.

Mission Accomplished.

  I don't have to do this show, but I still want to. I had to turn it over in my mind a while. I don't like to think of myself as a bad person or someone who actively support bad people. But from where I stand DragonCon  is in an unenviable position not of their making. If information comes out showing they somehow actively facilitated Kramer's crimes (other than paying him, which they were legally obliged to do) I may change my mind.

 Now I'm going to look at some pictures of goddamn bunnies. I have spent too much time analysing my own morals today.