January 2006

So, Blizzard have issued a warning (one of the official retributions in their system of punishments) to the leader of a guild who posted that her guild was GLBT-friendly. As in, she was not going to tolerate homophobic speech in her guild, or discrimination against members of the queer community. She was establishing it as a refuge from all the “OMFG U R SO GAY” talk that pops up anywhere thirteen-year-olds and the Internet intersect.

So why did Blizzard issue the warning? Because, they say, advertising that their guild is GLBT-friendly might make them targets of hate speech, and hate speech violates the terms of use, so therefore they can’t advertise that they’re gay-friendly. Yes, they actually said that openly not violating the policy might make people violate the policy, so they can’t openly not violate the policy.

Now, it’s important to dial back some of the rumors floating around on this: namely, Blizzard did not shut down their guild, or ban their players. Blizzard has allowed them to advertise the guild as GLBT-friendly on their realms’ forum, and in other discussion boards, just not on the General channel, in-game. Frankly, I can’t see this as a huge infringement of free speech. The guild isn’t banned from advertising, period, and they aren’t banned from existing, and if Blizzard would remove all the noise from the General channels, then, hey, hurrah! (On the other hand, the channel is called “General” for a reason, and if they’re going to let in every other spammy and language-mangling guild advert, well…) Still, I think it’s kind of dumb. In Newsweekly has covered it from the beginning; Terra Nova has discussion of it as well. Worldofwar.net has the whole chain of emails between the guild leader and Blizzard’s Customer Service for public perusal. At Terra Nova, I posted the following in the comments thread and I am cannibalizing my own comment there to be my post here:

I do not think Blizzard is evil or homophobic. I want to state at the outset that I don’t think there’s some super-evil conspiracy of breeders out to shut down teh gayz0rz. So, there you go.

Now, that said…

They’ve backed themselves into a bit of a logical lambada, haven’t they? “We won’t allow you to explicitly not break the user agreement because doing so might invite others to break the user agreement” makes about as much sense as someone coming around and telling me I cannot put a No Trespassing sign up on the edge of my property because identifying that invisible line is just inviting would-be trespassers to do their thing in my yard.

Yes, I know, they have very good reasons and they just want to keep the General channel free of non-game chat and keep all the drama of real-life out of the context of the game, yes, yes, yes. I would dearly love to see them tell that to the kid who was running around Stormwind announcing “WTF IS CHICAGO DOING IN PLAYOFS OMFG” on the General channel, over and over. And while they’re down there, the other one’s got bells on; I do hope they give it a tug just for laughs. Do they all have the General channel turned off? Because let me tell you, that thing might as well be labeled OOC like back when I played on a roleplaying MUX.

I am in a gay-friendly guild. How do I know? Because it’s me (and I’m gay), five of my RL friends who live in my town, two RL acquaintances and two people we’ve gotten to know in-game. (Yes, our guild is that small.) Of those RL friends, I’ve slept with one of them, so I’m pretty sure we’re gay-friendly. I talk about my boyfriend, and on our guild listserv my name is right there being determinedly male, so I am more than pretty sure we’re gay-friendly. It isn’t in our guild description anywhere (do we have a guild description anywhere? we don’t exactly recruit) but that’s because it doesn’t need to be. We all know each other and we formed a guild because we wanted to play with people we could stand. Two of us used to be in a different guild. I was, in fact, one of the founding members of that guild. I bailed out shortly after two college students who are friends RL joined and proceeded to spend all their time calling each other variants of “fag” on the Guild channel and, in so doing, producing endless mirth in our Guild Leader. When I pointedly slapped someone down for calling someone else “so gay,” yeah, it got a laugh and a day’s worth of abstention from doing so, and then it fired right back up. I don’t think they were actively homophobic, either, I think they just don’t think about it. It bothered me enough to move on to smaller but infinitely friendlier pastures.

And yet, I am forced to remember the night I was running around Strangle Thorn Vale on National Coming Out Day. Someone posted a mock guild advertisement on the General channel. I don’t remember it exactly, but a close paraphrasing is: “Holy Defenders is recruiting Christian players of characters of all classes, levels and races. NO HOMOS!!” What was the immediate response? A dozen people exploded, basically; the General channel was for five minutes the bleeding edge of the battle for queer equality. Every single response in-channel was someone telling the advertiser exactly what to do with their “no homos” guild; suffice to say, a precise description might get this comment removed. The poster of the advertisement very quickly apologized and explained that they were trying to make a joke about all the homophobia people hear in chat and that it was National Coming Out Day and, please, could people in Booty Bay stop trying to duel them? That was a moment that surprised the heck out of me. I didn’t even have time to compose something in the form of a response. As I said to my boyfriend later: “The twelve-year-olds of the world all of a sudden had my back. When did I fall asleep, that I woke up and it was the 21st Century all of a sudden?”

What’s my point? My point is that there are plenty of homophobes, yes, and Blizzard probably is saving themselves a huge headache here because there are a bunch of nitwits who would jump all over a guild given the chance. But I also think that they are denying everyone a genuine learning opportunity – denying it to their players and themselves. Has Ms. Andrews reported a higher incidence of in-game harassment? Were her guildies worried that they were going to be harassed by other players? From what she said in her emails to them, her guildies were afraid of Blizzard, not the foul-mouthed, age-defying children on their realm. I think if Blizzard had responded by saying that they were sorry for the misunderstanding and that they would remove the warning and that they hoped Ms. Andrews would reconsider her advertisement’s specificity (perhaps replacing it with an admonishment that hate speech in general is not tolerated, a perfectly respectable PoV because I, too, would like to see all the haters encouraged to shut their pie-holes, not just the homophobes) – or, better yet, if Blizzard had simply round-filed the complaint in the first place and simply never commented – they would have been surprised at the response. In-game, players police the players far more often than any GM. Ignore lists are there for a reason. The profanity filter is there for a reason. I think the wisest thing possible would have been for Blizzard to do nothing and see what happened. I think they would have been surprised. I think maybe nothing much at all would have happened.

Of course, it’s their game, that’s true; and, in all honesty, I’m still playing it and still sending them my gay $14.99/month for the privilege. But they’re being awfully disingenuous if they want to claim that the game is there purely as escape and not to deal with real-world issues. If they want to pretend no one learns about real life from their game, then maybe they haven’t visited their own Auction Houses. Maybe they simply removed inter-faction communication by accident rather than as a way of mimicking the real-world tools of propaganda and demonization employed in times of war. Maybe they stuck in all those quests and storylines about love and loss and passion and hatred and revenge and redemption to give me something to do, just to kill time, and not to draw on the dramatic power of universal themes and common experience in the real world. To claim that they’re just over there, busily filling in gaps in the 4th wall, whistling while they brick over pesky sexuality and hatred derived from such and the casual abuse that comes from simple thoughtlessness, but to let in so much else because, you know, what a pain it would be to really enforce their policies – well, it doesn’t make me think very highly of them, and it really makes me question how highly they think of me; not in terms of my sexuality, mind you, but in terms of how dumb they must think me to be.

Man alive! What a bout!

Tonight the Carolina Rollergirls played the Minnesota Rollergirls in Carolina’s second inter-league bout. In November, Carolina travelled to Minneapolis for their very first inter-league; this time, the Minnesota girls came down here for a taste of Southern hospitality. What’d they get instead? Beat, that’s what.

The thing is, the November bout saw Carolina take a loss. That was a downer, but the players I talked to said it was a real eye-opener and extremely… well, educational. See, the Carolina games between the local teams (the Debutante Brawlers and the Trauma Queens) are always about skill and finesse and athleticism. Sure, they’re rough – the Rollergirls are no wilting flowers, afraid to mix it up – but they’re athletes, not thugs.

I think it’s important that I state, clearly and unequivocally, that they are not afraid to get rough. I say this because I know some of them and they could totally kick my ass and I’d like for that not to happen. Perhaps that, in itself, is ample demonstration that they are no wimps.

Minnesota? They’re rough. It might be amusing to sit back and think of Carolina as a bunch of Southern belles with brass knuckles but Minnesota really takes the cake. No complicated metaphors for them, no sir. They fight. They throw their opponents around just for fun. I mean that quite literally. They get in there and try to draw some serious blood.

I have to say, they lived up to that reputation tonight. They were some tough customers. They’d check a Carolina Rollergirl the second the whistle blew to start a jam, just because. But even though Carolina got called on most of the fouls – I have never seen a jam where literally half of a team was in the penalty box, much less multiple times in the same game – and even though they had to contend with Midwesterners trying to beat the ever-living shit out of them, Carolina finessed and fought and powered their way to a ten-point victory over the course of 40 very intense minutes. An added bonus is that they held the lead for the vast majority of that time.

I have never screamed so much or so loud at a Carolina Rollergirls bout. I stripped my throat and left most of my voice at the rink. The place was packed, sold out long in advance of the bout, and the crowd went crazy for most of the time.

That’s actually, I think, my favorite thing about this bout: that we were all cheering for the same team. The Rollergirls I know personally are Debutante Brawlers. I never get a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens. Tonight, though, I got a chance to cheer for the Trauma Queens who are just damned good and, unhappily for those of us pulling for the Debs, wearing black and blue rather than pink and white. Watching Violet Femme lap the Minnesota jammer and tear through the pack at supersonic speed, racking up 13 points (more? I don’t remember) in one jam? That was hella fun. It was awfully nice to get to cheer at the end of that.

I have a lot of friends who are really into sports. Me, not so much. I used to watch football, in the ’80s, but eventually I just fell out of love with it (and fell out of love with watching the Browns blow the AFC championship year after year). Eventually I wondered why I cared so much when there was something better on another channel. Eventually, it was that simple for me: it was just TV, just something as remote and impersonal as an episode of The Rockford Files. This is different, though. Nobody’s on the track because of their million-dollar contract. Nobody’s there to score an endorsement. I’ve said this before, I know, but it’s an accessible sport in a way enjoyed by no other sport I can think of. When the Rollergirls are on the track there are people three feet away – no, really* – who are screaming their lungs out for them. It’s raw and emotional and real in a way that watching the Super Bowl just isn’t. If you at all like sports, you should be going to Rollergirls games. That’s the bottom line.

* Three feet is the minimum distance required between the front row of floor seating and the outside boundary of the track. If you sit there – and I always try to do so – they give you a special warning that you could get hit. A lot of people get hit. It rules.

So, sticking to my vacation mission statement announced last week, I have been sitting on my ass. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

The Garden:
It is late-mid-January, and I have flowers starting to come up. Some of them have already started to bloom. Welcome to the apocalypse.

Hercules Unchained is a terrible movie (with Steve Reeves in the title role), but the MST3K of it is awesome. A touch slow to start, but by the end it was pretty hysterical. Interestingly, Hercules and the Moon Men is pretty much exactly the reverse of that: really well done at the beginning, which had me screaming with laughter, but just dull by the end. It’s a much worse movie, minus the MST3K treatment, and the MST3King of it is pretty lackluster as well.

The House:
My new cordless hand-vacuum is awesome.

Handheld wi-fi signal finders are way more fun than they should be.

The Interwebs:
To answer a few questions people apparently came here hoping to resolve:
–Yes, if the onions have sprouted green bits, you should throw them away.
–No, we have no videos of dogs, er, you know.
–No, I will not tell you how to “borrow” your neighbor’s wireless signal. If you can’t figure that one out for yourself, you’ve got no business even goddamn trying. I mean, Jesus H.
American Astronaut is a totally awesome movie and rather than run around looking for a torrent for it you should just fucking buy it. For fuck’s sake, they give you a CD with it and it only costs $20 in the first fucking place. Don’t sit there and ever claim you support independent artists if you download American Astronaut from BitTorrent and don’t pay for it.
–I’m sorry Vampire: the Masquerade: Redemption is crashing on you, but I didn’t have that problem when I played it. I suggest powering back the graphics settings and seeing how that treats you. If it works, crank them back up incrementally. I didn’t have crashing issues, but I did have hella framerate issues. I found by dialing back the graphics just slightly I was able to get much better performance out of the game.
–No, for the last time, I do not sell camo pants.

Tomorrow, I start a week of vacation.

My favorite vacations (except for the lake) are always the ones where I don’t go anywhere.

I plan to celebrate tonight by playing some serious World of Warcraft. Tomorrow, I go get a haircut. The rest of the week?

Watching my ass get bigger while I sit on it.

Aw yeah.

If you’re following Whitten’s adventures at Pigs Are Good People, I’ve put up another update.

apostropher beat me to the well-wishes, but I’d planned to post today about it anyway. To all my sibren far and wide, happy St. Anthony Day. From the Wikipedia entry on Anthony Abbot:

Anthony wished to become a martyr and went to Alexandria. He visited those who were imprisoned for the sake of Christ and comforted them. When the Governor saw that he was confessing his Christianity publicly, not caring what might happen to him, he ordered him not to show up in the city. However, the Saint did not heed his threats. He faced him and argued with him in order that he might arouse his anger so that he might be tortured and martyred, but it did not happen.

Troublemakers? Us? Never

So, I’m contemplating taking some tatting lessons from a friend of The Boyf’s. Tatting is a very old-school hand-made art form, and one at which my maternal grandmother excelled. Through my aunt learned to knit and crochet, and my mother learned to sew, no one in my family has ever expressed an interest in tatting since my grandmother. When my grandmother died, I decided that it was of interest to me, but I never did anything to pursue it.

Then, in November, I ran into The Mad Tatter – that friend of The Boyf’s. Turns out she gives personalized lessons.

So, who knows… I may be about to join the ranks of my many, many, many, many crafty friends. Or, I may be about to learn I suck at tatting. But hey, at least I’ll have tried, right?

So it’s 4:26pm, and I don’t have much to do at the moment. I don’t have it in me to be creative, despite desperately needing to write an update for PAGP – I’m two sessions behind. My excuse is that I need (again) to have Pants Wilder tell me a particularly cryptic thing we were told two sessions ago so that I can record it accurately. The truth, however, is that at the moment it just seems like a lot of effort to produce something original when I can, instead, merely consume the work of others.

So here I am.

I’ve already read apostropher and The Poor Man and checked fafblog and run through the Technology section of MSNBC.com and I even slipped and let myself read 8-Bit Theatre hours before my normal late-evening comics whirlwind I use to round out the day. My days are usually quite busy – slap full of things to do, frankly, and I am A-OK with that – and so I generally try to squeeze all my browsing and whatnots into one highly amusing twenty minutes or so at the end of the shift.

But, not today.

And what do I realize? That I need more to read. Not poliblogs, because my belly aches with hate as it is and I just don’t need something new to worry about. I want fluff. I want comics. I want another Fark – not as a replacement, just more of it. I want my DS, which is out in the car awaiting my dinner break.

So what should I be reading? Comics and amusing blogs of a non-political nature that you read are most welcome. Comments will be turned on for this post as they usually are – on the last one, I just didn’t want to put people in the position of feeling like they were expected to say anything, or anything like that, so I turned off comments for that one post. I was (am?) feeling emotionally fragile enough as it was; weird-ass latent guilt over foisting my mourning onto others via the interwebs didn’t need to get added into the mix.

At any rate, recommend something to me. Something hilarious! I like hilarity.

Or, talk about Battlestar Galactica. Gods, yes, talk about BSG. I’m already in two online conversations about it and they are not enough.

Today my entire body is sore. I woke up feeling like my spine had fused into one long rod jammed under my skin. I have spent the last three days with my whole body as tense as a clenched fist. I’ve taken some Advil, I’ve stood under a blazing hot shower on the massage setting, and I’ve laid on the couch.

Bruce was diagnosed with metastisized lymphoma on Thursday; there were tumors in each kidney, his intestines and several lymph nodes. With chemo, they said, he would live a couple of months but it was impossible to cure and he would be in tremendous pain. Without treatment, he had at most a few days.

The veterinarian came out to the house on Friday evening and, in the back yard he loved so much, helped him not have to suffer like that.

I have cried until my skull ached. I have cried until I could no longer speak. I completely lost my shit when the doctor got here Friday, and then I cried so hard and so long that I haven’t had to cry since.

Friday night some friends came over. They distracted us. They made us laugh. They asked how the day had gone. We spent the day laying in the living room floor letting Bruce climb around on us, lounge against us, purr to his heart’s content.

There are people and animals for whom I would have given anything to have one more day. With Bruce, I got to have one more day. It made a big difference.

And today, I hurt like there is no tomorrow. I hurt like I hurt after my worst car accident – every muscle stiff, every joint popping anytime I move. I have curled up in front of DragonQuest VIII and played it and played it and played it. I am probably 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through what’s theoretically a 60-hour game. I’ve been playing it for less than 2 days.

The thing that sort of shocks me, and sort of doesn’t, is how like losing a human this has been, only scaled down. I have thought I saw him out the corner of my eye. I have thought I heard him. I have wondered whether this is all some big mistake and they’re going to bring him back and everything will be OK. I have done laundry and noticed that the irises are already putting up green sprouts along the back of the flower bed where he liked to play. I have suffered tremendous emotional upheaval and I have started to realize that life goes on whether I like it or not. With people, this is a process that takes weeks (for me, anyway). With Bruce, it’s taken days. I’m not over it, but I can sense myself starting to process it and that, itself, is a comfort.

So anyway, that’s the deal. I’m going to leave his gallery up for now, though I’m thinking of closing it and keeping it private. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

In the meantime, raise a glass or a mug or a smoke if you’ve got one in memory of Bruce Banner, aka Bruce, aka Brucy-Bruce, aka PurrMonster, aka PurrMachine, aka Buddy, aka Kid, aka The Hulk. I miss him terribly, but as Bascha said to me on the phone Thursday night, this is the price we pay for so much love from something so small.

I wouldn’t trade a day of having him in my life, not even to avoid feeling like this.

I saw this via a lengthy succession of links: knit graffiti. Katastrophes? Bascha? Kath? I’m lookin’ at y’all:

One night she went out with another Montrose mom and stitched a pink-and-purple cozy onto a boutique’s door handle. It was an act of artistic defiance, a soft, warm tag in a part of town dominated by aerosol arrogance. Other swaths began appearing on street signs, car antennae and park benches, and word soon got around there was a new crew of taggers in town.

Their noms d’artiste are AKrylik and PolyCotN, but you can call them Knitta.

Later in the article:

“It’s considerate to the victim,” says Poly, rifling through a bag of yarn. “If they don’t like it, they can just unbutton it.”

“It’s not vandalism,” adds AKrylik, fiddling with her baby blanket. “I almost wish there was a little more permanency to it, that it was a little harder to remove.”

On the coffee table is a morass of stockinette coasters and cozies. Each item has a paper tag attached to it, a calling card of sorts, with the message “knitta, please!” or “whaddup knitta?”

This is too brilliant. Too brilliant.

I (finally) put up my pictures from the 2nd GARMONBOZIA show (UPDATE: it helps when I put the link in, huh?) I’ve been to (but by no means only the 2nd show they’ve done!), taken November 17, 2005, at Reservoir in Carrboro, NC.

I only got a few pictures because the crowd was in the way a lot and, mainly, because I was having way too much fun just watching the show. But there you go!

Here’s a little sample: