Monday, September 10, 2012

Texts From My Father

I'm going to give you a brief introduction to my dad. My father is a person who, on the same day he gave me a copy of The True Believer and emphatically insisted I read it, happily displayed the new "Proud Tea Party Member" hat he received at the county fair.

So that pretty much covers everything you need to know for this.

I'd wanted the first time I wrote about Dad for These Gentlemen to be the story of how just this summer we went to a ball game together for the first time. It was going to be part of a larger sports-related post I've been working on for awhile, talking about making a dedicated effort to follow a team this summer, tying it back into my mentioning of the Orioles in my post about Otakon, and making a number of other observations and witticisms. Oh, it was going to be a great post. It'll still come, eventually. After yesterday afternoon happened though, it's taking a back seat.

I woke up yesterday morning to find I'd received a text message from my dad, with the following instructions. "Watch CSPAN2 1030AM this morning, discussion to follow."

My first impulse was immediately to just send back "sorry, don't have TV in the dorm," but for whatever reason, I decided to check CSPAN's website and sure enough, there's a live stream of all their programming. I looked at my schedule for the day. Reading, some volunteer work, and then maybe working on that aforementioned sports post. It was already after 10, nothing I was going to do was going to get started in the next 15 minutes. I waited until 10:30 rolled around and saw that there was some book talk going on, with an author deceptively named John Goodman touting his plan for health care reform. I watched the brief interview, sent my dad a text reading "anyone who says we should open up insurance across state lines is arguing for universal health care and doesn't realize it," and left it at that.

Then, compelled my reasons unknown to me, I kept the stream open. A reflexive groan escaped my lips as the segment ended and the next speaker came on. Dinesh D'Souza, talking about his new book, where he lays out exactly what a second term for Obama would look like. I decided to listen for awhile, but turned it off as soon as he broke out the "you didn't build that" line everybody with any kind of anti-Obama agenda has been ripping out of context for the last month or so. Man, I was glad my dad wanted me to see the book guy and not D'Souza.

So yeah, the next text I got back was "What? Did you see D'Souza?"

Just to sum up, D'Souza's latest argument is that the President has shaped his entire life and ideology through his father, whom he met once, 40 years ago. Not only that, but that his father had a friend who was an anti-colonialist (and Obama never met him at all), and so this friend influenced Barack Sr., who in turn influenced the President, and so now he's a rage-filled anti-American socialist who wants to tear down society. You know, I totally get that from his speeches, I don't see why so many other people don't hear it. The crux of D'Souza's contention comes from the fact that Obama titled the memoir he wrote about Barack Sr. Dreams From My Father. By saying "from" instead of "of," D'Souza posits, he means he's . . . you know what, it's easier at this point to just say D'Souza's entire argument is preposition-based and leave it at that.

What followed was a back-and-forth with my father I found noteworthy enough to record for posterity. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Conventional Wisdom

Several years ago, I had the chance to go spend a weekend in Toronto with a good friend of mine who was there for grad school. It just so happened that the Toronto Fan Fest was happening at the same time I would be there, and a favorite webcomic artist of ours, Ryan Sohmer of Least I Could Do, was looking for booth babes. As my friend is both a) a babe, and b) happy to let people give her things in exchange for being able to admire her, she applied for and got the job. This meant that we both got to go to the convention, and I wandered the floor taking in the sites while she hawked books while wearing a chain mail bra.

This was the first time I'd ever been to a convention for anything. Several friends of mine had sung the praises of New York Comic Con, and I'd heard of a few others happening in places I'd lived, but I never had the time or inclination to actually attend. Also, throughout much of college I was in a phase of my life where I was very concerned with my outward persona, so letting people know I read comic books? Watched anime? Had - gasp - seen all of Star Trek? These things were not topics I brought up outside of the presence of two or three friends from high school, why would I intentionally go to a convention advertising my interest in all that nerd stuff?

I'll tell you why, because that nerd stuff is awesome.

Walking through the convention in Toronto, being inundated by booth after booth from major comic book companies, indy film studios, costume makers, video game companies, artists, designers, - this place really had it all - I was struck by how many amazing things I loved they'd managed to cram into one place. Even more amazing, all those things I loved, there were people walking around in costumes dressed up like the characters from them! That's a thing you can do?! Before that point I'd always imagined "dressing up for a convention" was for people who had a Starfleet uniform in their closet.

I was wrong. I was stunned by how accurate and well done these costumes were. Everybody was there; there were Spider-Men, Batmen, Jokers, Ash's from Evil Dead, people from anime, people from movies, whole groups of people in coordinated costumes walking around. A patrol of Storm Troopers was walking the halls. Street Fighter characters would assume fighting poses for mass groups of photographers. People in steampunk outfits wandered around next to cylons. This place was like nothing I'd ever seen.

And I knew as soon as my friend and I left the floor that day; this is something I wanted to do.

At least once, sometime in my life, I wanted to get a costume, go to a major convention, and just walk around.

Unfortunately, as time went on and my Toronto experience faded, it seemed like that goal was going to be lost to me. The opportunity never really arose, and I never put much time into seriously pursuing it. I would bring up the idea from time to time, but usually the case was had neither the time or the money to put an outfit together, I didn't know whom I'd want to dress up as, there wasn't any convention conveniently nearby, or some combination of the three. Ultimately, I had pretty much forgotten the whole idea.

Until earlier this summer, when I got a phone call from my friend Matt.