DashCon: The Social Media Convention That Didn’t Social Media

Oh, the internet. It’s just so…internet.

Case in point: I never would have known there was such a thing as DashCon happening near my old hometown (a convention, in their own words, “For Tumblr Users, By Tumblr Users. We are not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by Tumblr,”) had it not started showing up all over my social media this Sunday.

Showing up, that is, because people on said social media thought it was a total disaster. Which it was, at least in terms of social media presence.

The details are exhaustive. You don’t care about the details, unless you’re already invested in this fiasco somehow. If you want to know the details, get on Twitter or Tumblr and follow the #DashCon hashtags, or read one of the many bullet-pointed lists of utter fuck-ups provided by other blogs. It is entertaining reading, in a grim and schadenfreudey kind of way.

All you need to know for the purposes of this discussion is that the hashtag is out there, and that it is full of jokes about what a disaster the convention was and how this sad little ballpit was not an acceptable substitute for the acts the organizers promised and then failed to deliver:

dashcon-ballpit

I’m sure there will be lots of back and forth on nichy little sub-blogs that no one reads (like this one!) in the coming days about who scammed who. Front and center of the whole blow-up, the convention apparently begged its own attendees — the ones who’d already paid the $65 admission price — to crowd-fund $17,000 in one night to pay the hotel where the convention was being hosted:

dashcon-17000-dollars

(That’s screenshotted from one of the convention admin’s tumblr pages, mind you, since the official convention tumblr scrubbed it. But you can see the source there in the screenshot if you’re a stickler for accuracy and all that.)

And currently, Lord only knows where that money went or if it was even required in the first place because (and this brings us to the main thrust of our article, here) the staff of this convention — this Tumblr-celebrating, social media fandom convention — has no social media presence.

I’m not even kidding. People started getting weird vibes and posting using the #DashCon hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, and of course Tumblr on Friday, July 11. It’s now Sunday, and there are no relevant updates from the official convention staff on any of those. Not only is there no official statement, there have not even been short, small updates acknowledging that there is some sort of problem.

The last post on Facebook is from July 8:

dashcon-facebook

Twitter contains nothing but scheduling notices and general well-wishes for convention panels:

dashcon-twitter-feed

And the Tumblr feed (remembering, of course, that this is a convention about all things Tumblr) hasn’t posted anything but cheery updates about panelists and the game room, most recently this one:

dashcon-tumblr

The convention website is similarly blank, and for that matter doesn’t even have a space where a statement might go, although if I were making suggestions I’d throw “right on the goddamn front page with a huge headline in bold text are you even kidding me?” out there as a possibility.

dashcon-homepage

I don’t know how this happened. I mean, I’m willing to forgive a lot of administrative screw-ups, but to screw up and then not communicate via social media, as negative feedback spirals out of control on social media, at a convention that is all about social media?

It left the field wide open for mockery, parody, and fake staff accounts that actually updated, all of which have helped spread the bad press even further.

So my sympathies to the con staff and all, but: why? Why was no one riding Twitter? Why were there no statements on the Facebook page or the official convention website? Why, for the love of god, weren’t you using Tumblr, at a convention all about fucking Tumblr, to respond to questions and concerns?

For actual con-goers there was an explanation panel this morning (in which they begged critics to stop using the #DashCon hashtag), but apart from some wobbly video taken by an unaffiliated attendee in the audience there’s no official record of the convention’s position out there for the rest of the internet that is so avidly watching.

A good, sword-falling statement was called for at least 24 hours ago, and as of Sunday still no sign.

You would think that for $17,000 in crowd-funding they could have paid someone to sit in a room with a laptop and keep an eye on the social media feeds, and maybe get out in front of this crap. Yeah, it’s not the most fun job in the world, but pay someone to do it — or don’t hold conventions based on a mutual use of the social media that you’re not fucking using.

Lesson for all of us here: if you’re seeing your own name, or your organization’s name, in a Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook/whatever hashtag more than once or twice in a given day, pay someone to get a reply to that shit on your official account ASAP. You cannot afford to DashCon.

For-Sale Northern EXXXposure Is Everything I Miss About the Northwoods

How often in your life do you get the opportunity to buy a strip club and a fifteen-foot fiberglass badger all in the same go?

Well, you’ve got a chance right now, according to Craigslist, where the Northern EXXXposure Gentleman’s Club is listed for only $275,000. And as someone who used to drive by this place (hem, hem) on my way to work at summer camp, let me just say how happy I am that, for their promotional photo, they went with an exterior shot of the building’s random fiberglass sculptures:

northern-exxxposure-strip-club-badger

Yes, that’s a giant badger looming over a strip club. And a giant squirrel on a giant log in the parking lot. He’s about to dive into the hole, hur hur hur, get it? Or maybe he’s just got wood, whatever, who knows; strip club humor is not picky about these things.

The point is, for your $275,000 you not only get a “recently remodeled in & out” (hur hur hur!) strip club with “employees & good client base” already lined up, you also get…giant plastic mammals. (As opposed to giant plastic mammaries, which you can find inside.)

But wait, as they say in the biz, there’s more! It requires a little reading between the lines, but not that much, because this is the Northwoods and come on: the Craigslist ad also mentions “anything else one could possibly need (including friendly neighbors :) )” — smiley face included.

Which seems a little random and over the top until you take a look at the closest neighbors on Google Maps:

northern-exxxposure-birnamwood-new-life-massage

Ohhhhh. That kind of anything else one could need friendly neighbor, colon-close-parentheses. Say no more.

All in scenic Birnamwood, WI. That’s it, baby…come to Dunsinane! Come right now!

Anyone wanna Kickstart this beaut? I could finally fulfill my lifelong dream of owning a sleazy strip joint called Petey Mort’s. (Get it? Get it?)

My Closely-Held Corporate Religious Beliefs

gavel-and-rosaryFor the record, and should this ever need clarification in the future: Geoffrey Cubbage is a closely-held business legal entity (sole proprietorship), with a Constitutional right to religious expression that cannot be restricted by law, save where the state has a compelling interest and no less-restrictive means of achieving that interest exists.

Taxes, of course, have been firmly established as a “compelling interest,” so the owners of Geoffrey Cubbage will go on reluctantly funding wars, corporate welfare, and other things I find immoral. However, there are a number of other laws that, if enforced, would seem to clearly infringe on my business’s exercise of secular humanism, including but in no way limited to the following examples:

  • 1. Disorderly Conduct of Any Kind. As this is the only life I have, celebrating it in my limited time on Earth is a deeply important religious sacrament for me. The Constitution does not protect your right to sleep peacefully through the night, but it does protect my religious observances, even at 3 AM under your bedroom window. Sorry about that. (This is also crucial to my business practice, as my advertising strategy has for years been based around being an unserious, drunken buffoon, and my clients trust me to uphold those values in my daily life. See the entire rest of this blog for evidence.)
  • 2. Sexual Restrictions of Any Kind. As someone with a deeply-held lack of belief in any fictional deity telling me that my bits are naughty, legislation based on that non-factual and highly offensive belief is a clear imposition on my religious freedom. Therefore, I trust my business will never be required to in any way censor its publications, public activities, or graphic media, including but not limited to hot shirtless guy pics, smutty stories, or just bangin’ a ladyfriend out in public one day because fuck it, it’s a nice day, and wherever I happen to be is my place of business. (Also bizzzzz-nass.) It should go without saying that I expect boy-whorin’ when times get tough to be similarly protected.
  • 3. Punching Supreme Court Justices Right Up In Their Stupid Faces. This is currently a high sacrament of my faith. And don’t think hiding behind that 100-foot buffer zone will save your wrinkled old asses — I know my rights.

Mercury in Retrograde

mercury-retrograde-inverted-symbolA good catchphrase is soothing when life goes to shit.

Now that I look back at it, that might actually be the most succinct summary of organized religion since “opiate of the masses.” Write that one down. But anyway: life, shit; catchphrase.

So you’ll be happy to know (if your life is going to shit) that Mercury is retrograde right now, which is one of those few astrological concepts that people who don’t give a shit about astrology (see also: me) recognize. You can even recognize it visually if you look up and happen to see the planet Mercury “moving” the wrong direction (it’s not actually; we’re just moving a lot faster relative to its current position, so it’s going backwards the same way that a slow-moving truck is going backwards when you pass it on the highway, which is to say not at all unless you’re on a steep uphill and its transmission just threw out).

Supposedly this is a time when, to put it simply, shit doesn’t work. This has something to do with Mercury being the messenger planet: communications get tangled when the messenger is out of whack, and since basically everything today depends on communications (e-mail, cell phones, the internet, etc.) that means everything stops working.

I’ll buy it. I’m not sure all of this week’s pet disasters (cat barf on the bed while I was in it, cat pee in the suitcase; hedgehog pooping blood in her bath) quite fit under the “Mercury in retrograde” header, but the incredible shitshow of basically every landlord who showed me an apartment this week could definitely count as a communications breakdown.

Maybe it’s for the best; the astrologers say you’re not supposed to be signing contracts (re: leases) during retrograde Mercury anyway.

But regardless, it’s been a real comfort to be able to roll my eyes and say “Mercury in retrograde” every time something new goes to hell, and that pretty much tells you right there why some people go crazy over this astrology crap. Cheaper than therapy, right?

(Well, okay, depending on your astrologer. Some people make bank on this shit. For the rest of us, there’s Googling “Mercury in retrograde” and calling it a day.)

RNC Wants to Turn Voters Off Of Hillary…And There’s No Turn-Off Like a Used Fursuit

So that was a thing that happened over the weekend:

rnc-squirrel-hilary-clinton

The Republican National Committee — which, let’s be clear, is the party’s official leadership organization, not an unaffiliated group of fringe supporters — broke out an orange squirrel fursuit to demonstrate against Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

(There is no Hillary Clinton presidential campaign yet, of course, but there’s no such thing as six foot tall orange squirrels, either, and you don’t see that stopping the RNC.)

There is no Clinton-squirrel connection that we know of, other than the “nuts” joke, which seems more like a Bill Clinton joke from the Monica era because balls, he liked putting his dick in stuff, hur hur hur etc.

But hey! The goal is to make voters feel uncomfortable about a Hillary presidency, and nothing makes people feel uncomfortable like a fursuit on a hot, sunny day.

Oh, wait. Make that a used fursuit on a hot, sunny day. Apparently that thing’s been gathering sweat at the RNC headquarters since appearing in anti-ACORN spots in 2008. (Remember ACORN? The squirrel connection slowly becomes clearer.)

Its whereabouts between 2008 and 2014 are unknown, but I think we can all guess.

Did you guess “wrapped around Reince Priebus’s flop-sweating body in a back alley behind FurCon?” Of course you did.

And now you feel disgusted, which is just what the RNC wanted! Maybe they’re smarter than the giant orange fursuit campaign strategy makes them look.

Then again, that wouldn’t be hard.

The YA Readers Doth Protest Too Much

slate-ya-articleLet me start with a bit of irony for you all: almost every time an article about reading and literature goes viral on the internet, the lede references a book that’s been recently made into a movie.

Roll that one around in your heads for a minute before we dive into Slate’s recent critique of YA literature and the adults who read it, and the furor it sparked.

We can make a compelling case for America’s staggering illiteracy without ever touching on the nebulous concept of “young adult,” is all I’m sayin’ here. But touch on it Slate did, and was there ever a backlash! If you want to read essays vehemently defending not only the right of adults to read whatever they want (which no one ever disputed) but also the inherent nobility of adults who read YA literature, help yourself: JezebelThe Atlantic, Bustle; pick your poison.

This strikes me as overreaction.

The arguments boil down into one of two camps:

1. Reading is fun, and people should read whatever they think is fun to read.

2. YA books can be challenging, significant works of literature.

If you believe #1, you’re done here. Given the premise that reading is fundamentally a leisure activity, and that the pleasure it brings is the best measure of a book’s value, then of course YA literature is just as valuable as anything else, so long as the reader enjoys it. Slate‘s concerns about the superficiality of the themes and attitudes in YA books don’t matter, because you’re not reading to think about themes. You’re reading to have fun.

The problem is with #2. Once you feel the need to defend YA literature as not just entertainment but as a tool for intellectual challenge, you’re inherently accepting the premise that literature derives value from more than just the entertainment it provides. And that’s a test most YA books — and most books in general, for that matter — fail.

The vast majority of YA books are crap for making you think about the world in deep or significant ways. They just are.

Sure, there are exceptions. But we’re talking about books for teens, here. If serious emotional or intellectual complexity makes it in there, it’s because an editor wasn’t paying attention, not because that’s what publishers think teens want.

That one really moving YA book by an up-and-coming author that made you think in ways you never thought before (and that you’re going to mention in the comments) isn’t what pieces like Slate‘s are talking about, and you know it. They’re talking about the hundreds of other books on the YA shelf that are treacly, simplistic crap, and you can’t pretend those books aren’t there, in vast quantities.

It's not a f*ing cause.

It’s not a cause, and you don’t need a button.

Now, if we’re being fair, we shouldn’t give adult fiction a pass here, either. There’s no real superiority of a Tom Clancy thriller to Twilight in terms of emotional complexity or intellectual challenge, beyond requiring a little more familiarity with the structures of adult life. And mindless entertainment makes up the bulk of adult book sales, too.

The difference is mostly that publishers can and do publish challenging fiction for adults, while they actively shy away from doing so under the YA label. So if you’re one of the few people who really is looking for something intellectually stimulating in your reading, you’re much more likely to have success outside the YA shelves.

And if you’re not looking for intellectual stimulation, why do you care if someone else thinks your summer reading isn’t intellectual enough? That’s not what you’re reading for! Their arguments do not apply to you! Go about your life in peace!

Life’s too short to worry that someone else thinks you’re not getting enough out of your reading. But if you’re worried that you might not be getting enough out of your reading…then yeah, it’s time to move beyond the YA shelves, and don’t shoot the messengers for saying it.

Gun Crimes Have One Common Factor, and It’s In the Name

Here are some things that other developed nations have:

    • people with untreated mental illnesses
    • social stigmas against seeking help for depression, alienation, etc.
    • violent video games
    • violent movies
    • public spaces where people, by law, may not carry guns

Here are some things that no other developed nations have:

    • virtually unrestricted access to all kinds of firearms
    • our insanely high rates of gun killings (by an order of magnitude or two)

It’s not actually that complex.

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