Are you going to Folsom Street Fair?
[censored], [censored], [censored] and [censored]
So I went down to San Francisco for the Folsom Street Fair yesterday. For those of you not in the know, FSF is the third largest event in California, behind (so to speak) the Rose Parade and the SF Pride parade. Four hundred thousand or more people descend--or, this being San Francisco, come out (so to speak) of the woodwork--to demonstrate their shared affinity for various bondage, sadomasochism, and leather-related activities.

It is an opportunity to see things you would likely not see elsewhere, at least not on a normal day. A fellow with a Batman mask, and only a Batman mask. Many people on leashes. Many others just kind of hanging out (so to sp--ah, hell with it). It's an interesting scene, to be sure--I'd ask "where else in San Francisco would you find a Charity Spanking Booth" but the proper question is probably more "where else would it be so public?"--but that is not really the point of today's update.

Yes, Folsom Street Fair was interesting. Yes, the costumes were absolutely amazing--many of them were store-bought, but some of the handmade ones were just astonishing. Yes, the body art was phenomenal--I was floored repeatedly by the quality. And yes, it was a lot of fun--"A++++++ WILL ATTEND AGAIN".

But so?

Is this surprising? Are we in the 21st century really still surprised that gatherings of people with common interests who are getting together to have fun without being destructive are actually fun and interesting and not just freak shows? Really? At this stage in our cultural development is the phenomenon of the anime convention really still so puzzling?

I am becoming increasingly irritated at this style of journalism. You know the type. The opening paragraph is written as though a brain-damaged Hunter S Thompson was at the keyboard and the closing paragraph is basically "huh. We thought that the only people interested in [activity] would be pathological cases, dancing around in suits made of human skin while hissing 'would you fuck me? I'd fuck me'. But it turns out it's not like this at all!". You'll see it go something like this:

A man with a bow and arrow stands guard at the door. Just inside, a leather-armoured swordsman, his sword hand holding a beer, chats with a green monster about where the next lecture is being held. Have I stepped into a parallel dimension? No, I'm just attending Metropolis's Tolkienfest, the largest gathering of fans of JRR Tolkien, the British author of The Hobbet and Lords of the Ring.

Following New Zealand director Peter Jackson's movies, which won a record-tying 11 Academy Awards, interest in Tolkien's work has skyrocketed like magic sorcerer Gandolf--a character from the movies, played by Ian McKellan--cast a spell on it. A rich fantasy world full of elves, troll monsters, gallant knights and dwarf-like people called "Hobbets", Tolkien's "Middle Earth" has captivated the minds of many. They come to Metropolis to hang out, pretend to fight with swords, argue over the strengths and weaknesses of the Jackson trilogy--which has spawned an upcoming sequel, also called The Hobbet--and purchase lovingly-crafted paintings depicting the events of the book.

[several to a dozen paragraphs about the author wandering about being completely stupefied at the concept of a 'wizard'. At least one of these will contain a statement about the attendee's "mundane" lives, like we need reassurance that they are gainfully employed and not escaped mental patients: "Asking me to call him Altecor, son of Lansingor, the soldier--by day, a computer programmer in San Jose--told me that Tolkien's writing had completely changed his life"]

I came to Tolkienfest 2010 expecting to be disappeared by a magic ring or eaten by a dragon. Instead, I found that Tolkien fans are just ordinary, everyday people with a strong passion for their hobby. Or, as Gandolf might say, [some relevant quote from the movies somehow].

This is supposed to demonstrate enlightenment on the part of the author, because after all they are engaging in Serious Journalism instead of the alternative, which is nominally I guess just a PALATR ("'What does that mean?' I ask? "Klisoura"--a research analyst from California in everyday life--explains that the term means "point and laugh at the retard") hack job.

It comes off, however, as being intensely patronising. "Like you and me, they sleep for six to eight hours a day. Most of them must consume nutrients to survive, many by putting food into their mouths and swallowing it. And new research suggests that Star Trek fans--'trekkies', as they call themselves--may even be capable of love". No fucking shit? I half-wonder whether the journalists assigned to this--admittedly, YaoiCon is probably not a particularly plum job--just have a macro they throw the relevant words into to get the same story over and over again.

Very few journalists assigned to cover these events ever get their facts straight--at Folsom Street, I imagine they are more or less forced to by sheer weight of numbers to not be completely outrageous--so they mostly just babble about the sheer incomprehensibility of somebody wearing a Klingon forehead prosthetic (as opposed to, say, painting their face at a football game...) like nuns who have stumbled onto an orgy composed of fifty percent donkey.

I tried to explain how condescending the general tone was to a writer once, but they ignored me in their final draft. Like I said, I guess it's supposed to display open-mindedness and tolerance? I'm not clear. The ABC affiliate here wrote about "social gatherings of people who like to dress up like animals and call themselves 'furries'" once. I wrote them and asked if they would cover the next Pop Warner game by opening with a description of "social gatherings of people who like to dress up like baseball players and call themselves 'little leaguers'".

I never heard back, hélas.

I dunno. I guess they mean well?

As I finish writing this, I'm struck by a sense of surprise. I had thought that 'bloggers' would be clinically insane or possibly all Belgians, Instead, it turns out that they encompass nearly every walk of life and hobby. A 'blogger' could be your friend, your neighbour--even a family member. With 'blogging' software like Word Press becoming increasingly available, though, it's no surprise that even normal people occasionally want to hit that button that says 'publish'.

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