Pichu Taunt

COVID And Coworkers -- A Tale Of Revenge

Screw it, I’m not waiting for the weekend. Gather around, for PeeGee has a funny story for you….

At the risk of stating the patently obvious, people at my regular job think I’m weird. I know, it sounds crazy, but I swear it’s true. Now, most just see me as an odd duck and that’s it.

However, there are a handful who see me not as someone just enjoying what he can of life, but as something being seriously wrong with him. And chief among them is this one woman. Let’s call her “Helen.” Helen likes taking cute little swipes at me when she can, for whatever she can. Am I dragging my feet? “Boy, I’ll be those boots are heavy, huh, Pete?” Wearing my Guardians Of The Galaxy shirt? “Comic books are for children. You are such a man-baby.”

Usually, I ignore her. She has a lot of pull with management. They know she’s a jerk, but she’s also good at her job, so they do what they can to placate her. Which means, if she gets upset with you, you need to apologize to her, even if you were in the right.

When lockdown started, management gave a wider berth for conflict because everyone was stressed, everyone was scared, and this couldn’t be helped. At lunch one time, there was a news report about studies that were heading towards a vaccine. I turned up the TV so I could hear.

Helen went on a rant about how this was a government plot to trick people into turning over their personal information and health records and such. It was why Trump was telling everyone The Virus was no big deal, because these rogue agencies were trying to control the populous.

I hit my limit. I told her Trump was full of shit and asked her if she had any idea what the science behind all this was.

“You read comic books. What do know about science?”

And where do you get your information from?

“From smart people!” She then pulled up an article on her phone and stuck it in my face.

An article by Alex Jones.

I grabbed the newspaper in front of me, buried myself in it, and said, “You’re too stupid to talk to.”

That got screaming at me. Management got involved. I refused to apologize. Eventually, I found out they told her I apologized and admitted I was wrong, which calmed her down and explained the smug look on her face every time I saw her. I didn’t get written up, as I hadn’t done anything they could really pin on me. But they made it clear they did not approve of my defiance.


Cut to Thursday. I got the vaccine. Everyone knew it, it was schedule in to my work day. The person who answered the phone was Helen, who promptly took a couple of swipes at me before hanging up. I did my best to calm down, and went to get the shot.

The process was quick and barely noticeable. Time to drive to work to finish the day. And on the way in, I had an idea.

An awful, AWFUL idea.

I stopped at Walgreens and grabbed myself a bag of Pop Rocks and a bottle of Sprite. I pre-opened the bag and smuggled them on my person until Helen was around. I already had the Sprite bottle out and open. I started talking with everyone about the shot. She, of course, made sure to make her opinion known. “Well, I’m not getting injected with that shit! You don’t know what it will do to you!” And started spouting all sorts of stuff.

During the break in the attention, I shoveled the Pop Rocks into my mouth. I then took a healthy drag on the Sprite.

For those that never did this as kids, let me explain how this works – Pop Rocks are basically sugar crystals with extra carbon dioxide trapped in the structures. Once liquid hits it, the sugar structures collapse and the carbon dioxide is released, creating a fizzy effect. Mixing the Pop Rocks with soda compounds the CO2 release in both elements, like a smaller scale version of the Diet Coke and Mentos thing. As kids, we would put Pop Rocks in our mouth, take a pull of soda, but not swallow. The challenge was to see how long you could hold it in your mouth before the gas release exploded from your mouth like a Kool-Aid commercial. It was fun, it was competitive, and it was a big, sticky, stinky mess. Perfect for kids. (We played this game because Chubby Bunny was for bitches.)

In the middle of Helen’s pontificating on the vaccine and people like me who were behaving like sheep, my cheeks started swelling up like Miles Davis in his prime. I made a noise. This got everyone’s attention, but especially hers. She was clearly wondering if I was just trying to act cute or if something was wrong.

At that point, I could feel the break starting. I dashed to a garbage can and spewed the whole thing right inside. And because I choose strawberry Pop Rocks, it had the most amazing color.

Helen. Fucking. LOST IT.

She started screaming about how the virus was manufactured by the Democrats and the Chinese to take down Trump. The vaccine was dangerous. The virus wasn’t dangerous. It was a media hoax. The vaccine was population control, meant to incapacitate or kill the population. And so on. And so on. And so on.

I had collapsed onto the floor. I was shaking. People might have thought I was having convulsions, but I was just trying to contain my laughter.

Helen immediately punched out for the day and went home as I “recovered.” I was asked if I wanted to go home, but I said I would be fine.

Only one other person, who knows me too well, seemed unconcerned. Once everyone else was gone, he asked, “Did you really have to do that?”

I simply said, You betcha.

Some people are impressed with their intelligence. Some are impressed with their creativity. I’m impressed with my bitchiness.

Somewhere, Holly Faraday is smiling at me….


Time For Science

I Need To Talk To My Dad Less

Mom and dad just called to ask a tech question. The conversation meandered. And as soon as my dad said, "Dr. Anthony Fauci," I rolled my eyes and tried to keep my mouth shut.

"I don't know where Fauci went to med school, but he's stupid! He was on the news, and asked if, now that the vaccine is rolling out, if we can go without masks. And he said, 'No!' What was the point of the vaccine if we still need a mask?!?"


I calmly said, Because you are still shedding virus. Even if you can't get infected, you can still be a carrier and a spreader.

My dad actually got angry with me. "You don't get any of this! You are shedding viruses ever day! You are aware you have viruses and bacteria on you, right?"

...yes....

"You're already spreading viruses! Even ones you are immunized against!"

I couldn't say anything. I just couldn't understand how he isn't understanding how science and viruses and stuff works. Does he really think that, if you are immune, you are only shedding neutralized viruses and not active ones? Are you shitting me?

My dad studied nuclear engineering. How did he lose his basic scientific knowledge?
Peter G

IP Tales — Who Owns He-Man?

The year was 1976. Ray Wagner was the CEO of Mattel toys, and made probably the biggest mistake of his life. He was asked if his company would be interested in producing a line of toys based on a movie that got greenlit as a tax dodge. He declined, and the toy rights went to competitor Kenner Toys, instead.

That movie? Star Wars. And we all know how that turned out.

Wagner spent the next several years with the market reminding him he’d blown it. As Kenner soared to new heights with action figures and play sets set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, Mattel attempted to launch several new toy lines to claw back lost marketshare. And they all bombed. Wagner needed something that would go over big.

The answer came from two people working at Mattel, Roger Sweet, a lead in the Preliminary Design Department, and Mark Taylor, a packaging designer. Taylor had done some drawings of a barbarian character in the mould of Conan that he called Torak. This got Sweet to thinking. In late 1980, Mattel had the Mattel Product Conference, where people could pitch new toy lines to Wagner. Sweet went all in — he took figures from another Mattel toy line called Big Jim and started covering them with clay and sculpting them into new characters. He had plaster casts made, and three new characters existed to show off. One was an axe-wielding barbarian, another a tank-headed soldier, and the third was a space soldier. Big manly men, although intended to be the same character. The idea was that this one character could be dropped into any environment and Big Manly Adventures could be had. The proposed line was called Lords Of Power, and the character was named He-Man.

Wagner decided the barbarian was the best character. He was worried how the Bible Belt would react to a name like Lords Of Power, and the name eventually became Masters Of The Universe. Sweet and Taylor became the touchstones of the project. Toy distributors were unsure of the concept — who is He-Man, and why would anyone care? Mattel marketing director Mark Ellis came up with an idea. Each toy would include a mini-comic laying out the lore and characters of the series. Mattel contacted DC Comics for the job, with Donald F. Glut writing the first ones. According to David Wharton’s article “15 Things You Didn’t Know About He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe,” Toys R Us wasn’t sold on this, saying “five-year-olds don’t read” (which, I have to say, is bullshit. I was reading at a fifth-grade level at that age). Ellis proposed an animated series, leading to a meeting with Lou Scheimer, the head of Filmation. And in 1982, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe was unleashed on the world, and became a pop culture phenomenon.

Now, you look at this and you think to yourself, “Wow, Mattel sure hit it out of the park! They own MOTU! They can really leverage that!”

And then, one of the guys I talk with online casually dropped a bomb on me — Universal owns the rights to MOTU, not Mattel. And Mattel loses the rights to make toys in 2023.

This blew my mind. The path of He-Man is pretty well documented, especially in Sweet’s book Mastering The Universe: He-Man And The Rise And Fall Of A Billion-Dollar Idea. Mattel has been adamant about ownership of anything MOTU related, including winning a court case against Glut back in 2011 over the mini-comics he wrote. If you search the US Patent and Trademark Office, it shows Mattel as “Owner” on the copyrights and most of the trademarks. But in 2017, a former brand manager at Mattel named Scott Neitlich flat out stated in an online forum, “And for the record, Mattel does not own MOTU. Universal does.” Among the shocked reactions was one from Emiliano Santalucia, who, based on his responses, works in Mattel’s packaging department, saying that Mattel still owned everything, citing the package indicia that says, “…owned and used under license from Mattel, Inc, (C) 2016 Mattel Inc. All Rights Reserved. Under license to Classic Media.” And yet, not only is it claimed that Universal is the actual rights holder, not only does Mattel lose what it has in 2023, but Mattel is gearing up new product lines that look like they are intended to replace MOTU.

So what the hell happened?

Neitlich has his own YouTube channel, Spector Creative. And he laid out a road map. And if any of this information is wrong, no one is saying. Especially Mattel, which has been oddly quiet about the whole thing. According to him, here’s how this played out:

Mattel was anxious to expand He-Man’s presence, giving rise to She-Ra and the MOTU movie from Cannon Films. They could do this because of Filmation’s animated series. When it comes to IP, there are different categories for what is being claimed. Because they were toys, Mattel had Physical Property IP rights. When Filmation created the series, this created a new category in the IP, Entertainment rights. Filmation didn’t get a lot of oversight from Mattel over what to do with the series, and a lot of the lore and ideas that were created were the results of Filmation’s work, not editorial edicts from Mattel. So Filmation had the Entertainment rights while Mattel still held the Physical Property rights. This also resulted in Filmation’s creation of She-Ra, Princess Of Power. So Filmation was basically treating the property as their own and doing what they thought they should do with it, basically getting themselves mixed up in the ownership of the Entertainment rights, and Mattel was happy to make toys based on it all. During this time, Mattel also granted live action movie rights to Cannon Films (I’m guessing Mattel wasn’t familiar with Cannon’s reputation. They should have talked to Marvel and the proposed Spider-Man movie Cannon was trying to make). That was the one that starred Dolph Lundgren and was directed by Gary Goddard from 1989 (with a pre-fame Courtney Cox in the cast). Fun fact — Cannon had a sequel ready, but they were in financial trouble and couldn’t afford the license fee to Mattel. They wound up reworking the movie into Cyborg with Jean Claude Van Damme and directed by Albert Pyun. Now, obviously, that license has now expired. I believe the rights to the film are held by Warner Bros. now, as they bought out Cannon when they went under. But that’s just the film itself. The live-action rights were available, and were picked up by Sony along with the rights to make a Barbie movie. As we know from the Sony e-mail hack, Sony spent a lot of money and had nothing to show for it, and Mattel eventually got those rights back. Sony did get He-Man back (last I heard, it was being written by the people who wrote Iron Man) while Barbie went elsewhere (I think Warner Bros, IIRC). And there is the Netflix series coming out.

Everybody still with me so far? That’s good!

So, that was the nice, steady, peaceful climb up the roller coaster. Now, here’s were we drop and go through twists and turns that make some people nauseous. Mattel eventually sold the Entertainment rights to Hallmark, the card company. Hallmark then sold the Entertainment rights to a company called Entertainment Rights. Entertainment Rights then sold the rights to Classic Media. According to Neitlich, at this point, Mattel was paying a royalty on each toy sold to Classic Media. He says he’s figuring the royalty is still being paid to whoever currently owns the rights. Then, Classic Media got acquired by DreamWorks, giving them the Entertainment rights to MOTU (DreamWorks made a deal with Netflix for new series, so now we know how Netflix got a She-Ra cartoon — it was part of the deal they made with DreamWorks, who held the rights to MOTU characters. It also explains the two upcoming Netflix series based on MOTU). And then DreamWorks famously went up for sale, and in the resulting bidding war (which is a story in itself), Universal Studios bought them. Which means Universal now owns MOTU.

So what about Mattel? Well, supposedly, the deal was that Mattel got Right Of First Refusal for MOTU toys. This meant that anyone who owned the property that wanted toys had to stop at Mattel first. If Mattel passed, they were free to shop around elsewhere. I would like to say that, if anyone tells you they want First Refusal, break off negotiations right away and never deal with them again. First Refusal does not guarantee it will get to the market. If they want to hold you hostage, all they have to do is say, “Yes, we want it,” but never release it. You now cannot shop whatever it is around because they already said they’d do it, even if they don’t actually do it. Unless you have clauses to have such things expire for non-use, you are putting your entire future in the hands of someone who can simply say, “Hey, I’m honoring the terms of the contract.” Walk away FAST. (I have already done this, in fact. A publisher that wanted to publish a book of mine. Things were all set and they sent me the contract. I don’t know if they just figured I’d be thrilled to be published and wouldn’t ask questions or if they just figured I wouldn’t go over the contract, but buried in there on page 37 was a First Refusal clause, which had never been mentioned at any point previously. I threw it out and cut all contact with them. I just didn’t trust that wording.)

However, the contract states that this is only until 2023. After that, ALL rights revert back to the IP holder. Which, according to Neitlich’s scenario, is Universal. There have been a lot of rumors of a partnership existing between Universal and Mattel’s chief rival, Hasbro. It is possible MOTU toys may soon be made by Hasbro before long. And won’t that make Mattel feel really sick. The only thing Universal does NOT have is the live action rights, which are currently held by Sony. Neitlich says that his information could be wrong, but he doubts it. As the theme from Monk goes, “I could be wrong now, but I don’t think so.”

One thing is for sure — if Neitlich is right, things are going to get real interesting for Mattel in 2023. And I’m very curious to see what happens next.

Putin

Trump Was Acquitted. What Now?

Trump was not convicted yesterday. His attempted coup was excused. Had he been convicted, he would not be able to run for President again in 2024. But his friends protected him, keeping him one vote away from that. One person online that I follow posted a picture of a scoreboard saying, and I quote, “Trump = 2, Libtards = 0.” And they’re already talking of Trump running again (despite him supposedly being sworn in on March 4, as QAnon continues its unholy union with the Sovereign Citizen movement). The whole point of this was to keep Trump from running again. And that just went splat.

So let’s talk turkey here.

The primary goal has been and always shall be to keep the 21st Century’s Benedict Arnold from even thinking about sullying public office again. And guess what? There’s a way. It needs a bit of work, which can be done while Biden has both chambers of Congress under his wing, but it can be done, and it has to be fast.

* rrrrriiiiiiinnnng! * Okay, class. Eyes up front. Today’s lesson — the 14th Amendment.

The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868. Passed during the Reconstruction after the Civil War, it has had probably the greatest impact on American law of any Amendment outside the Bill Of Rights. It contains the Citizenship Clause, which kneecapped the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott case, the Due Process Clause which prevents seizure without fair procedure, the Equal Protection Clause, which has formed the basis for cases such as Brown v Board Of Education in 1954, Roe v Wade in 1973, and Obergefell v Hodges in 2015, which legalized same sex marriages, and the Privileges And Immunities Clause. Most of the struggle to extend the rights of the Constitution to all American citizens instead of just the privileged few began right here, the Square One of civil reform.

So what does this have to do with Trump? Remember how this was done after a war where several states basically committed treason and sedition? Well, this addresses that. In Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, it explicitly states, and I quote, “No person shall … hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

Enforcement at the start was confusing, but how to deal with it was solidified in 1870 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act (a.k.a. the Enforcement Act, a.k.a. the First Ku Klux Klan Act, because Sections 14 and 15 were intended to keep former Confeds out of public office during the Reconstruction). Section 15 of that act makes it a misdemeanor to run for office if you are ineligible to do so under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. You get up to a year in prison for that. It also allows a federal prosecutor to force someone from office.

Boy, that sounds lovely, doesn’t it? All the current Congress has to do is declare Trump is in violation of Section 3 if he runs in 2024, and all is well, right? But there’s a problem. Section 3 has not been given much of a judicial revue, and has never made it to the Supreme Court.

There are two prominent cases involving Section 3. The first is from 1871 in United States v Powell. Amos S.C. Powell ran for public office, and was indicted under Section 3 because he held “the office of constable” for the Confederacy. The court ruled that that position “rendered those who had held it … engaged in the Rebellion,” and Powell was “ineligible to any office now, by the provisions o the 3d section of the 14th amendment.”

The second case is also the last time Section 3 was actually invoked. It was 1919. Victor Berger was a card-carrying Socialist, and he ran for the House of Representatives. He won, becoming the first Socialist elected to Congress. The House referred him to a special investigative committed, which concluded that, not only had Berger opposed US participation in WWI, but he had also been prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act. The House used this to cite Section 3 and refused to seat him.

Here’s the key part of all this — how it gets implemented is vague at best. If Trump ran in 2024 and Congress hit him with Section 3, he could bring a civil lawsuit. It would definitely get before the Supreme Court, and the results are unpredictable. So Congress needs to take time, right now, to shore up the law for modern times to prevent an enemy of the state from becoming the state again.

If they are serious about healing America, this needs to be on their radar.

Ariel Is Ready For Her Close Up

Star Wars -- Galaxy's Edge -- Advance Recon

Everything You Could Possibly Want To Know About Star Wars -- Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Disney World....

I have briefly mentioned how I'm not going to Disney this year simply because I waited too long to make a reservation.  A few weeks ago, I could have scored a room at the Art Of Animation Resort (Little Mermaid wing, of course) for between $130 and $160 a night.  It's not the greatest accomodations, especially at that price.  But for a quickie dickie weekend or something like that, it's perfectly fine, especially if you know how to score the discount rate.

And then, Disney surprised everyone by announcing an open date for Star Wars Land, a.k.a. Galaxy's Edge, in Orlando.  They did this because they were underbooked, realized why, and decided to motivate people to reserve rooms.  The net result is that, for November and December, two of the slowest periods for Disney outside the actual holidays in those months, the rooms are now $220 to $260 a night.

Star Wars Land is now open in California.  The thing to keep in mind is the two parks, California and Florida, ARE GOING TO BE IDENTICAL.  No kidding -- there is a gap in the landscape towards the front in Orlando where there is nothing behind the fence, but it is there to keep the land exactly identical to Cali.  Disney's idea was so that the parks don't compete against each other -- people can go to whichever is closest to them and get the same experience.  So what we see in Anaheim is what we will get in Orlando.

And it doesn't look like it will be worth it.

And now, a tip of the hat to Fractal_Coffee on the coder channel.  Obviously, there's a lot of Star Wars nuts there.  And he and some buddies were able to score their way in.  They split up to get the lay of the land and reconvened to assemble what we need to know.  Many Bothans died to bring us this information....

Let's deal with the first part, how exactly you get in.  Star Wars Land is not like other Disney park areas where you can just wander in and out.  It requires a separate ticket to get in.  Passes are reserved for people staying at the resorts, but there are some passes available to the general public.  But you better reserve them in advance -- my understanding is that they are used up for the next ten months at least.

So, you get your ticket and you get to the gate for Star Wars Land.  Once there, you get a colored wrist band.  The band corresponds with when you have to leave -- you only get four hours at a crack in there.  Which means if you don't use your FastPass and the Millenium Falcon ride is three hours to wait for, well, that's your lot, now piss off.  So you need to know exactly what you are doing and where you are going once you get inside.

Because God knows wandering around Disney isn't exhausting enough as it is.

Next up?  Cosplay!  Anyone who's been to Harry Potter World (which this is clearly intended to compete against) knows that Universal encourages people to cosplay there.  If anyone ever goes to Harry Potter World, you better be wearing at least a robe.  There were only a handful of people there dressed normally, and everyone looked at them like they were freaks (the irony is absolutely delicious).  So what about Star Wars Land?

Disney's rules are simple -- no one over the age of 14 is allowed to cosplay in there.  I'm guessing it's so that people don't confuse the regular attendees with the actual park employees (you know how stupid people can act, you don't want them ruining your reputation).  But the upshot is, unless you're a kid, no dressing like Rey or Luke or anything like that.  (Actually, I suspect another reason, which I will get to anon.  But for now, we're rolling with this.) . I don't know about other cosplays -- I would love to go there in my Star-Lord jacket, put on some headphones, and bop my way through the land like the opening of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy, but I'm not sure if that's okay.

One of the rides is not open right now, the Rise Of The Resistance ride.  Apparently, they are having some problems with the trackless ride and they don't want to have the same problem the Gringott's ride had when it opened at Universal.  So the only ride is Smuggler's Run, the Millenium Falcon ride.  You sit in the cockpit of the Falcon and get to shoot at other spaceships while chasing a train stealing coaxium in the scene from Solo -- A Star Wars Story.  How well you do affects what you see on the way out, as far as battle damage to the Falcon.

You can also build a droid for $100 with sensors that react to you and any First Order or Kylo Rens roaming around the park, and building your own light saber for $200.  For $7,000, you can get a full set of actually sized to you Storm Trooper armor, and for $25,000, you can get a life-size R2D2, complete with aluminum body, sensor to interact with you, remote control, and so on.  Clearly, this is not for cheapskates like me.

So, what did his little group think of Star Wars Land?

They all thought it sucked.

Keep in mind, they are Star Wars fans, not general people who love all things Disney.  But their reports indicate that Star Wars Land is very underwhelming.

Let's start with the setting itself.  It apparently feels really small and cramped in there.  Other than the Falcon and the X-wing fighter replica, there is not a lot of Star Wars in Star Wars Land.  It is a planet called Batuu, which didn't exist until the Star Tours ride (no kidding, that is the first time it is ever mentioned).  It is only referred to in a couple of Star Wars books.  In other words, this isn't Tattooine or Hoth or even Endor.  It a place that even most Star Wars fans have never heard of.

This ties in with my suspected reason about blocking certain cosplays -- the reports indicate there is a lot of emphasis on the Disney Star Wars movies and attempts to avoid the original trilogy and the prequels as much as possible.  So you don't want people dressed as Darth Vader roaming around there.  Even the Millenium Falcon is the Disney version (you can tell by the rectangular radar dish instead of the circular ones from the original trilogy and there is a Porg nest inside there somewhere, although it does seem to break down like the Disco Yeti).  No matter how much you love Star Wars, the iconic movies that formed your fanboyism are pretty much swept under the run here.

The food blows dicks.  There is a "blue milk" that is supposed to be the signature drink like butterbeer is for Harry Potter world.  It's a mixture of soy and rice milk with some coloring (although there does seem to be a difference between the blue and the green), basically a vegan smoothie.  It won't spoil in the heat, but it apparently tastes like ass.  The food is intended to look alien, so more emphasis is placed on appearance than taste.  The wrap, the basic on-the-go food, was terrible.  You don't even get a Creature Cantina to go to.  Get out of the park and go someplace with real food.

Smuggler's Run isn't a lot of fun.  It's basically a video game.  Yeah, you get to walk through the Millenium Falcon, but it's still a shooting gallery reminiscent of Stitch's Alien Adventure.  There were some graphics glitches, and some of the positions, such as the gunner and the engineer, have a very poor view of the screen and makes targeting accurately a real struggle.  Oh, and you might want to bring disinfecting wipes and wipe everything down before you start playing with it.

Some of them got light sabers.  They didn't get droids because there wasn't enough time.  Remember how I said you get four hours in the park and then you gone?  Here's how they broke down their time for the light sabers --

1) Wait to pay for your light saber (40 minutes)
2) Wait to line up (30 minutes, 1 hour 10 minutes total so far)
3) Line up to wait (35 minutes, 1 hour 45 minutes total so far)
4) Waiting pen to build saber (25 minutes, 2 hours 10 minutes so far)
5) Get inside and actually build the saber (20 minutes, 2 hours 30 minutes total)

Two and a half hours.  For a light saber that those who cosplay said you could get better quality cheaper from sabersmiths (you can also choose from EU colors from sabersmiths, Disney gives you the standard red, blue, green, and purple only).  And, of course, you can buy Jedi robes and shit at the shops.

So if you love just being immerse in the Disney environments, you'll enjoy it.  But if you are either a Star Wars fan or if you are, like me, immune to the Disney immersion spell, you are going to get bored really quick.

Meanwhile, Universal just opened Hagrid's Motorbike Ride, a roller coaster that has a ride time of over three minutes.  There's a reason that ride has a 10 hour wait time, folks.
Reflective Mermaid

The Turn Of The Screw

Let's talk for a minute about being an empath.

Everybody wants to be something they are not.  Everybody wants to be better than they are.  For regular people, however, this is born of ambition.  They want to be more of what they already are.

Empaths are different.  Because they are a minor part of the human make-up, the natural instinct of, "I'm not like the majority of people, therefore there must be something wrong with me," kicks in.  The desire to be different is not to be more of what they are, but to be something else entirely.

Part of this is because there aren't as many empaths, so they figure their psychology is based on some glitch in the system.  The other part is that empaths figure it simply must be easier to not be an empath.  For example, watching someone experiencing humiliation, like watching an episode of Jackass, can manifest in actual physical pain for an empath.  And that's just watching it -- imagine what it is like for the empath to actually be the one being humiliated, like when certain family members visit just to feed on their self-esteem (at least, I think so.  It's not like I would know anything about that).  They see how people can operate in a world where things just happen and keep moving without a hitch and wonder why they can't do that themselves.

Like I said, they view themselves as somehow flawed instead of simply what they are.

People gravitate towards empaths for the same reason -- they understand.  They get it.

Because people need help.

And empaths are helpers.  They want to people to be at peace and be happy, not to suffer.

A long time ago, I heard a person divide people into two groups -- you are either a doctor or a patient.  And empaths, by their nature, tend to be doctors.

And it gets tiring.  Especially if you are also an introvert, so social situations don't energize you but wear you down faster.

The problem with this is you don't just get genuine people who need help, who are good people who just need a hand and will treat you with respect and keep you in good memory.  You also get people who seek to exploit you.  They see in you only what they can get out of you or use you to get.  While you can defend yourself from these people, keeping them from using you and destroying your sense of self, it's still like standing in a hurricane.  When it's gone, your entire world is upended, and you're just standing there going, "...what happened?"

It's these people that usually trigger the impulse in empaths to want to stop being empaths.  The idea that, if they could just shut down the emotional part of themselves, they would be bulletproof to an uncaring world.  They don't want to be jerks.  They just want the pain to stop.

I measure people based on the movie Good Will Hunting.  Anyone that watches the movie, shrugs, and says they don't get it, I avoid like the plague.  The movie is an emotional punch to the gut, and any empath who watches it will be hit hard.  Especially the "It's not your fault" scene -- anyone who has had to cope with abuse, whether physical, mental, or emotional, will find this one of the hardest scenes in movie history to watch.  No blood.  No humiliation.  No terrors from beyond the grave.  Just staring headlong into life itself and having to realize that, as much as you believe you can fix things and make things right,  it's not your fault that other people break themselves, and sometimes there's just no stopping it from happening.

Art informs and teaches, often without us knowing it.  This is the case with Ridley Scott.  Blade Runner is a brilliant movie, a genuine cinematic classic.  But part of the genius of it is that it turns on a simple psychological truth.  Unbeknownst to the world, Scott actually showed the world how to identify people with genuine mental disorders, people that are dangerous.  Psychotic.  Evil.

It happens early in the movie during the interview with the suspected replicant.  I think I was something like ten or other when I saw it (it had come on HBO, and I wanted to see it because it was sci-fi and it starred Han Solo).  I didn't watch all the movie, I got bored with it because, well, I was a kid and I just didn't get it -- I wanted to see spaceships and lasers and robots.  I loved Battle Beyond The Stars, and I lost interest in Blade Runner pretty quick.

But I did see the interview.

And that has stayed with me my entire life.

For those that don't know, the scene in question features a guy trying to determine if the individual in front of him is a replicant simply by asking questions.  Eventually, he begins telling a story about a tortoise in the desert.  The tortoise has somehow flipped onto his back.  He describes in detail the tortoise struggling.  The pain he is feeling as he slowly bakes to death.  And at no point, does he have the viewpoint, the person he is talking to, simply flip the tortoise back over and spare his life.  He just keeps describing it until one of two things will happen -- either the individual across from him will break down emotionally in pain and empathy, or they will react with violence for being forced to experience emotions they don't want to experience.

And as we all know, the individual reacts with rage and kills the interviewer.

Yeah, it turns out, this isn't bullshit.  This is known among people dealing with Cluster B disorders as "narcissistic rage," where the only thing that matters is to stop whatever is destroying the protective shell that sheilds them from emotional harm.  A normal person will be uncomfortable during the story, and while you don't have to be an empath, it magnifies the experience exponentially.  Decades before Cluster B became a thing, Scott had shown people exactly how to tell who was one and how they behave.

I saw the movie during my formative years.  And even as I dismissed the movie afterwards for not giving any BANG-ZOOM!, that story of the tortoise always stuck with me.  It would come up through the depths of my mind every few years, and I would quickly tamp it back down because I knew how it would affect me.  I would start to tear up.  I would feel cold.  I would feel horrible.

Only to find out later while I was learning about Narcissistic Personality Disorder that my reaction was the 100% correct response.  When you start learning about narcs, you start to wonder if you may be one yourself because, let's face it, we all have days where we are assholes.  Or days where we think in the moment that we are just standing our ground and asserting ourselves but start wondering if things would have been better if we had just been more cooperative.  We start wondering if we are this monster.

And then I remember the tortoise story.  And I realize that, no, I'm no monster.  I'm completely normal.  I may have made mistakes, but I'm not the horror I imagine myself to be.  (For the record, my dad just watched the scene and moved through it, and hasn't bothered to watch Blade Runner more than once, and my mom just acted bored with the whole thing and left shortly after the scene.)

As Christian Slater said in Pump Up The Volume, "Having a screwed up reaction to a screwed up situation does NOT mean that you are screwed up."  When bad people come into your life, you go into survival mode, just trying to ride out the storm.  When they are gone, you start reflecting on everything and wondering if there was something you could have done differently.

Maybe you could have.  Maybe you couldn't.

But thinking that the answer is to change yourself is not the answer.  It's always annoyed me that my family expects me to be considerate of their thoughts and feelings -- don't make certain jokes, don't discuss certain subjects, don't talk back a certain way or about certain things because that's not nice -- but they don't have to make any concessions to me.  They were joking or they didn't mean it or I'm reading more into it than is there or I'm just looking to make trouble or whatever.  It's a one-way relationship where the house always wins.

And the biggest step to healing is when you reflect on things afterwards and instead of going, "I don't want to be me," you start going, "I don't want them to be them."

It's a very small change in mentality.

But it's bigger than the universe.

And leads to more such steps eventually.
Rarity Sewing

Clothes Make The Man

In my experience, people have fun with cosplay.

Eventually.

I personally think that the reason most people worried about trying it is because of self-consciousness.  First, there's all these professional cosplayers who look exactly like the character or have outfits that clearly cost five figures or more to make and they have coslaves to work on things for them...and the whole thing intimidates them.  And the other is simply that, let's be honest, this is kind of a goofy hobby to be into.  People generally want to be looked at with some respect and dignity, and going around looking like a comic book character is kind of counter to that.

These people, if they decide to try cosplay, will start off with something mild.  Something they can cobble together easily and either ditch f their confidence wavers or any normies that see them won't think they are cosplaying and, thus, won't make fun of them.  And I don't blame them.  No one likes being belittled and laughed at.  It's a natural human reaction.  (Please note, this is separate from cosplay that is just lazy.  We're talking someone putting effort into it but conflicting with his or her self-image, not someone who crawls through their dirty laundry and says, "Done.")  It doesn't help seeing cosplayers who are wearing inappropriate or disasterous outfits, because it triggers worries that, "Oh, God, I don't look like that, do I?"

And it's an impulse that can come back when you least expect it.  Keep in mind, my first cosplay was a Spandex Asuka Unit 02 cosplay.  Yes, I squeezed my 300 lb ass into Spandex.  Everyone comments that I looked so chill and relaxed in it, and I was.  For the most part.  But when I first put it on that day, it took a lot of focus to calm my nerves and actually step out of the changing booth.  Last year's Wizard World Chicago, I saw three people in screen-accurate Doctor Strange cosplays and bailed on wearing mine because it didn't look half as good.  I wore my Rei Unit 00 to C2E2, wearing it for the drive up to the show.  And yes, I did dash from the house to my car as fast as I could so that the neighbors wouldn't see me in it.  But it didn't take long for me to get over it.  I liked my outfit, I got to flex a little since I'd made it, and I soon got used to my look.  I don't expect to freak out -- let's face it, I will wear the outfits for a day or two after I make them to make sure they are comfy, as some pictures of me in cosplay at one of my favorite restaraunts attests.  But no matter how much confidence you have, it does wobble once in a while.

But as I said, it eventually falls away.  And you're free to just look cool and have fun.  You won't win any competitions, but you'll have a good time, you get to meet fellow heads, and the interactions are wonderful.

It just takes getting over that hump to actually do it.  It gets easier with time, but you still have to take that first plunge.

We have a new supervisor on my shift, moved over from third.  And he's a comic book nut, and thrilled to see how many comic book geeks are on his new shift.  He's having lunch at a table with a handful of them, and, as you may have guessed, they are all talking about Avengers:  Endgame, coming out in just a few days.

One of the guys has bought himself a track suit that is styled in the motif of the Quantum Realm suits we've seen in the trailers and on some of the action figures.  They all agreed the Quantum Realm suits looked really really cool.  And the supe wanted to know where my coworker got his because he wanted one himself.

The supe noticed me making my tea for my lunch and said, "I'm surprised you don't have one, Peter."

One of the other guys, one who had commissioned me to make a Roslina for his daughter (Nintendo Princesses are blessedly easy to make), said, "He's probably making one."

I smirked and said, I'm waiting to see if I actually like the movie first.

Apparently, the supe didn't know that I make cosplays.  I'm guessing they filled him in, because I'm sitting there reading and enjoying my tea, and he comes up to me.  "Do you really make cosplays?"

I took out my phone and showed him pictures of the outfits I've made for myself and for others, so he saw more than just the flight suits I make for myself.

It took him a second to speak.  "What would it take to make a Quantum Realm suit for me?"

I did a quick check out of him.  Well, you have a slim build, so you could easily rock a bodysuit.  I'd make it out of a Spandex knit to shape to your form, you don't need a flight suit to disguise your contours like I do.  I did a little checking online, and gave him a ballpark figure for payment and timeframe.  I told him, But keep in mind, I'm not doing commissions again until late June or early July, and I already have two clients slotted, so you wouldn't get it in time, for, say, Wizard World Chicago in August.

"...but, if I commissioned it, would I have it in time for, say, Christmas?"

Oh, yeah, that's more than doable.

He nodded his head, said, "Just checking," and walked away.

Just checking, my ass.  He's trying to muster the courage to pull the trigger and join the rest of us goofballs having fun.

He was unusually shy as we talked and he walked away.  So he probably isn't going to try cosplaying.

Yet.

I can already tell, he's been bitten by the bug.  And that infection is going to get into his blood and spread.....