Guns and The X-Men: A Rebuttal

Guns and The X-Men: A Rebuttal

Pop Culture Uncovered

An article recently compared the concepts and issues underlying the X-Men to the gun debate. The argument was that how the public reacts to gun control (and gun owners) is similar to how the fictional Marvel world responds to mutants with dangerous powers.

I thought the point about how we dismiss or attack others because of the actions of a few evil people was important. Unfortunately, that point was lost when a comparison between gun owners and the marginalized was made.

Thus, I’d like to discuss how gun owners and the gun debate are actually nothing like the problems and message in X-Men comics.

MessageofXmen1) The Message of the X-Men

The X-Men comics are not about misjudging a group or people because a few of them are evil. Instead, the core message is that you shouldn’t judge groups or people because they are different.

The fact that some mutants…

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Theaters Won’t Listen – Deaf Community and Movie Accessibility

Theaters Won’t Listen – Deaf Community and Movie Accessibility

Pop Culture Uncovered

Black Panther is shattering records and has become one of the most talked about movies in cinema history. From its box office receipts to its role in representation and breaking stereotypes, the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has audiences and critics cheering.

Sadly, that’s not true for everyone, as some people have had poor experiences in their attempts to see the movie. No, I’m not talking about racists and white supremacists, but those barred from enjoying this film: the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.

Recently, Deaf celebrity and activist, Nyle DiMarco, posted a tweet about a poor experience he had when he tried to see Black Panther.

Understandably, Mr. DiMarco was upset that he was forced to use a device that blocks the screen and doesn’t even provide accurate or consistent captioning…

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Religion in Television – From Love to Hate

Religion in Television – From Love to Hate

Pop Culture Uncovered

With the end of another great season of Preacher and the protest of said series by fundamentalist Christian organizations, we’re left to ponder the way television has treated religion. As society has changed, so has its reflection in pop culture, and there seems to be a trend.

Although modern audiences seem to be secular or anti-religion in their harsh critique (and mockery) of modern faiths, this wasn’t always the norm. In the past, some shows were quite supportive of particular spiritual ideals and ideologies.

As we await the next in AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis’ masterpiece series, let’s remind us how TV (and ourselves) have treated various dogma and mythos.

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In the 1980’s, most shows kept things low-key – if the supernatural was shown, it was often positive. Highway to Heaven is the most well-known series, about an angel sent to Earth and required to help people.

Then again, this…

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Exposure and Geekdom – Fighting Bigotry through Tabletop Games

Exposure and Geekdom – Fighting Bigotry through Tabletop Games

Pop Culture Uncovered

Most of us have heard the concept that “exposure reduces bigotry”; by learning about or interacting with other races, cultures, religions, etc. we can reduce our implicit bias. In fact, studies show that people become less racist simply by living in diverse areas.

This idea is why accurate representation in media is important. Negative stereotypes create rifts while positive presentations can reduce the divide.

While everyone is focused on the effects of movies and television, there are more “geeky” areas of pop culture. Indeed, comic books and video games are both in the spotlight regarding representation, but what about other hobbies?

ComicDiversity There’s more to diversity in geekdom than this… although, this is pretty cool!

For one, tabletop roleplaying games have begun to tackle the issue of accurate representation and exposure.

Dungeon & Dragon’s 5th edition was lauded for its inclusion of PoC and women in its…

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Star Wars Fans – Romanticizing the Original Trilogy

Star Wars Fans – Romanticizing the Original Trilogy

Pop Culture Uncovered

Star Wars, the ultimate fandom. Sure, the Trekkies and Whovians have been around longer, and the Potterheads have risen in the ranks.

Lucas’ (now Disney’s) monster, however, is probably quoted by your average person more than any of those. Star Wars has become an intricate part of everyday society, to the point it’s a badge of uniqueness if you haven’t seen any of the movies.

Now that the 8th chapter of the epic (and the 9th film overall) has been released, we’re seeing how the rabid Star Wars geeks are reacting. As expected, despite positive reviews overall, there’s a vocal minority waving their plastic lightsabers like British Parliament “harrumphing” away.

Some are complaining the film has strayed too far from the classic formula. Others state the opposite that it’s too much of a callback to the originals. People debate whether there were too many plots, whether…

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Gatekeepers – You’re not “Moderates”, You’re Ignorant Bigots

Gatekeeping has been a significant topic in pop culture as the nerd world (and the larger society it reflects) grows more diverse. There’s been a backlash against women, PoC, LGBT+, etc. individuals and their inclusion in a traditionally cis-het, white, male geek world.

Even as these populations grow (or reveal themselves, as many have existed since geekdom began), you’ll find endless anecdotes on how they’ve been treated. FLGS employees talking down to women customers, racial and homophobic comments in multiplayer games, and even in-game rape at tabletop RPGs.

We often focus on the flagrant gatekeepers, the people who are unabashedly racist, misogynistic, or homophobic. As expected, even the most ignorant geek has no problem disavowing Neo-Nazis, sex offenders, and the like.

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Nobody wants to game with this guy

The threat isn’t from these blatant bigots, but instead from geeks who claim, “I’m not like that,” while simultaneously saying or doing things that reinforce the gatekeeping. These self-proclaimed “moderates,” “centrists”, “true liberals,” etc. talk about how they’re the reasonable ones, but then turn around and label people “SJWs” and “snowflakes” while spouting the same rhetoric and myths the alt-right uses.

You’ll find these people everywhere, from convention halls to gaming tournaments, and into fandoms beyond. Often, they’re single, straight white men, probably sporting fedoras (and neckbeards) while feigning some fake academic demeanor (and “chivalry” to any females” they meet).

There’s always some excuse about how they’re not bigoted, but you are; almost always, these excuses are steeped in fallacy, delusion, and social awkwardness. They poison team chats and gaming tables with insensitive jokes or sexist behavior and then claim to be the victim when called on it.

Well, guess what: to all the fedora-tipping, “m’lady” types, you’re not a “true” liberal. You’re not a centrist. You’re not a moderate. You’re not logical or reasonable or a paragon of critical thought.

You’re an ignorant bigot, just as guilty of gatekeeping as the flagrant ones (if not more so), whether you realize it or not.

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“I’m not a bigot because…”

Let’s stop this right there, because if you must explain how you’re not racist? You’re probably racist.

Having PoC or gay friends doesn’t mean anything; it just means they tolerate you as I tolerate my bible-thumping, sexist father. Of course, that’s if they even know the real you and the things you think or say.

Have you even spouted your theories or ideology to them in-person? Or do you save that for the safety from behind a keyboard and a screen name? I’m betting none of you have had the audacity to use the N-word in real life like you do online, or make a joke about transgender people in front of your LGBT+ friends.

If you have to hide your true behavior or mentality from your gaming buddies because “they wouldn’t understand,” then your ideology isn’t an inclusive one, and it certainly isn’t a “moderate” one. “Moderates” avoid extremism, they don’t hide it until they’re on the Internet or with like-minded people.

If you weren’t a bigot, you’d recognize the importance of civility and respect for fellow gamers… whether in-person or behind their back.

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He said WHAT?!

“You’re the one causing the divide…”

This, “I don’t see color/gender/sexual orientation,” “you’re the one bringing it up” victim-blaming BS is not a “liberal” ideology or reasonable argument. X-blindness is bigotry because your fellow gamers are different and it affects their lives.

That is why inclusion and representation in gaming keep being brought up!

When specific demographics see just as many people like them among game designers, at conventions, or on the screen? Maybe then we can all “not see X” and get along because the divide will be gone.

Until that point? The logical thing to do is to recognize our differences, listen to the groups affected, and try to fix the disparity. A “moderate” wouldn’t deny and dismiss the experiences of the disenfranchised, and claim they’re the ones causing the problem.

Also, stop practicing mental gymnastics to defend your behavior, claiming “double-standards” when called out by, well… everybody. Whining because you don’t get to use the N-word, have to stop using “gay” as a slur, or because rape isn’t funny, isn’t a “centrist” ideology – it’s a self-centered, ignorant mindset.

You’re like a pre-schooler being told to stop using potty language, share with your sister, and play nicely, throwing a temper tantrum.

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If you can use racial slurs, so can I! You’re all just trying to censor me!

“I respect women/African-Americans/LGBT…”

No, you don’t.

You put on the airs of the educated, progressive individual, accepting of everyone. You probably even display some fake Arthurian or Shakespearean Renaissance festival flourish, to show how unique and chivalrous you are.

Then you turn around and quote Milo Yiannopoulos or Jordan Peterson. You spout MRA “Red Pill” garbage about how feminism is destroying masculinity; you can’t even look (i.e. leer) at a woman without being called a creep. “Why would she dress like that if she didn’t want the attention anyway?”

You support hate speech and anti-gay business in the name of the First Amendment. Instead of defending the victims, you champion their oppressors under claims of a “war” on white heritage, Christians, and conservative values. “Just take a moment to talk with that person calling for you to be lynched and burned in Hell – otherwise you’re closed-minded.”

You believe the same myth about how medieval Europe had no PoC, so there’s no reason they should be in a fantasy game based on it. You even present the same fallacious “make your own game” argument, rather than support representation in current ones. “If you want to see black characters, go watch a show set in ancient Africa!”

If you genuinely respected other types of people, you wouldn’t defend hate groups, repeat bigoted nonsense, or try to espouse fake history to protect your precious fantasy worlds. Respect isn’t just putting on airs, it’s believing in the worth of your fellow geeks, including their representation, inclusion, and consideration.

But you’re about as much about “respect” as you are “ethics in journalism.”

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Keep telling yourself that…

“You’re the hypocrite by being intolerant!”

I don’t know how many times we have to explain Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance, but here we go again. For a society to be truly inclusive, you cannot tolerate the intolerant, and that goes double for gaming and geekdom.

  • We do NOT have to tolerate your inappropriate remarks or offensive humor.
  • We do NOT have to listen to your slurs or rape jokes.
  • We do NOT have to accept “both sides” in an argument, when one of them is spouting ignorant, bigoted nonsense that excludes people based on their race, gender, etc.

If you don’t have a valid point, based on education, reason, and empathy? If all you have is alt-right, prejudiced rhetoric? Then you don’t belong here; there’s no room at the table, the raid team, or the con booth.

It’s not hypocrisy or a double-standard – we’re not “discriminating” against you because you have a “different opinion.” We deny you because your opinion is ignorant bullshit and has no place in a civil society (including the geek one).

And no amount of all the fallacious claims above, the “I’m not racist,” “I respect women,” “You’re the one causing the problem,” faux-centrist, anti-SJW, outrage will hide who you truly are.

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Both suck, by the way…

I keep saying “you,” but this rant actually isn’t meant for you; there’s no way to reason with fedora-tipping, basement-dwelling, neckbeards, and you’ll just brush this off as another example of “the intolerant left” attacking them. You’ll make claims about my identity, political ideology, etc., without knowing a thing about me, or probably just dismiss this article as, “they can’t possibly be talking about me.”

This article is here to unify gamers and geeks and let them know, these fake moderates and wannabe-academicians are not conveyors of “truth” or “critical thought”. They’re just another deluded example of gatekeeping in gaming, geekdom, and society, and we see them for who they really are.

This editorial is a warning shot that we don’t have to accept or tolerate them. Our numbers are larger and growing; our beliefs stronger and more supported in reason, empathy, and civility.

Gaming and geekdom are ours and if you can’t accept concepts like diversity, social justice, and controlling your mouth?

How about you go “make your own” games or “find your own” groups.

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When Conventions Choose Business Over Ethics

When Conventions Choose Business Over Ethics

Pop Culture Uncovered

By now, most people are aware of the backlash in Hollywood over decades of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. Social media is littered with #MeToo, bringing new awareness to a campaign started a decade prior by Tarana Burke for women of color.

As we’ve made clear before, you cannot separate geekdom from the real world, so it shouldn’t be shocking that similar allegations exist in our world of fantasy and escape. From RPG designers and CEOs to comic editors and writers, there are geek “celebrities” now facing repercussions for their behavior.

Unlike Hollywood, however, fandom itself doesn’t seem to be getting the hint about what’s happening. While the industries are divorcing themselves from the individuals, conventions have been wary to cut off guests that might bring them business.

When North Texas RPG Con was repeatedly e-mailed about their choice to host Frank Mentzer and Bill Webb, despite…

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Politics and Geekdom – Fantasy is NOT an “Oasis” from Reality

Politics and Geekdom – Fantasy is NOT an “Oasis” from Reality

Pop Culture Uncovered

We see this situation all too often: Someone brings up something social or political in a geek forum, only to have someone criticize them. “This is a place to escape the real world,” they say, “and you’re ruining it by bringing that stuff up.”

Apparently, geekdom is supposed to be a sanctuary from politics, world events, and social issues. Some people believe that to bring up any of those topics is to ruin the utopia they’re hiding in.

Guess what? Those people are wrong.

Politics and social issues have always been a part of science-fiction and fantasy.

  • In 1818, a mad scientist encountered themes of social justice and the cruelty of modern society.
  • In 1870, the captain of a submarine sailed through topics like libertarianism and the militarization of the world.
  • In 1949, a dystopian future presented themes of authoritarian regimes and historical revisionism that echo today.
  • In 1966,

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Ellicott City and Flooding

Ellicott City and Flooding

I’m sick of having to post the same responses to people, so I’m going to compile a little FAQ. This blog will hopefully answer many questions, misconceptions, and straight up errors regarding Ellicott City and it’s two “Millenia Floods” within two years.

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Ellicott City has Always Flooded – They Should Just Stop Building There

It’s true that Ellicott City, like many places along rivers, has always suffered from floods. With the Patapsco River at the base, and the Tiber River running through town (and under buildings), the city has experienced before.

Among the significant floods, there were three in the 19th century, ten in the 20th century, and now three in the past seven years. No less than seven floods since 1923 have risen 8-feet above street level, destroying structures.

The difference is the source: historically, Ellicott City flooded along the Patapsco River, not the Tiber.

Most of these are “overbank” flooding, meaning they rise from the lowest point of the ground, leaving the higher buildings and streets untouched. Even when there were strong winds from Hurricanes or Tropical Storms, the damage from water was usually reserved to basements or bottom locations; once it receded, rebuilding was more straightforward.

The 2016 and 2018 floods were flash floods pouring down the Tiber from above the town. Vast amounts of water flowed down through the entire city, tearing up buildings and infrastructure and sending heavy debris floating (and flying).

Think of the difference between your basement overflowing and flooding, with the water rising… versus a wave crashing into your houses front doors and windows, bearing cars and streetlights with it.

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There Was No Way to Prevent This Flood – It’s a Natural Part of the Area

As pointed out, these recent floods aren’t like the many that happened throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Those were caused by a granite valley where two rivers (and tributaries) all converge.

The last two floods were not merely because of geology, hydrology, etc.; instead, there’s a human-made explanation.

Howard County, like most of the DC-Baltimore corridor, has been rife with overdevelopment. However, the past couple of decades have seen numerous points uphill from Main Street filled with buildings, possibly more than usual.

Developers have pushed houses, townhomes, apartments, etc. into the higher ground along the Tiber, between Ellicott Mills Road and Route 40. All this pavement and deforestation removes vital permeable ground for water run-off.

So, when a significant storm dumps a half-foot or more of rain within hours (or minutes), where does it run? It can’t flow into the soil, granite, foliage, etc. of the natural landscape, but instead pours down into the Tiber… a Tiber already filling with natural run-off.

This situation creates a compounding flow of water that builds and builds, as gravity takes it downward. Thus, you end up with a different sort of flood, a rampaging torrent through the whole town instead of a simple overflow along the banks.

All because previous county leadership (stretching back years or decades) prized developer money over ecological consequences.

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They Promised to Fix this in 2016 – Their Work Didn’t Do Anything!

It’s true, County leadership promised that Ellicott City would rebuild, and they’d do everything in their power to prevent his from happening again. Committees were created, hearings were held, plans presented, and some construction occurred or was in the works.

The problem is that most of the critical fixes, that changed how the town was (rather than just shore up the same old structure)? The funds had only arrived earlier this year, and the plans were still in process.

In other words, the County was doing something, but they took too long. And the people of Main Street paid the price for their delays.

So, it’s difficult to say whether the changes would have worked. Maybe they would have, perhaps they wouldn’t.

But the bureaucracy took way too long even to implement anything.

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<<INSERT HATE POLITICIAN HERE>> is Responsible – Vote Against Them!

As usual, we always like to blame whoever we’re already biased against.

If you’re a Democrat, you blame the Republican. If you’re a Republican, you blame the Democrat. If you’re neither, you blame both.

The truth is, they’re all likely to be at fault… and also equally as likely to have been able to do nothing.

You could blame Allan Kittleman, given this happened under his watch. He’s only been in office for four years, however, and the overdevelopment has been going on longer than that.

He can’t just go back and fix the damage that’s been done, nor can he cancel development that has already been approved by the County.

You could blame the County Council Members, many of them have been in charge for over a decade. Yet, they’re not the only ones involved in the process, and the people keep re-electing them.

To be honest, I’m not sure which politicians to blame. Until someone shows the flow of money from the developers into their coffers, they’re all likely to blame… and so are we.

Do your research, see who’s the most in the pocket of corporations or approved the most development, and vote accordingly.

But don’t assume “THOSE people” are at fault, because you might want to check your own side’s files.

Either way, educate yourself before you decide to spout off on something above. Learn about the history, geography, geology, hydrology, politics, etc. of Ellicott City.

You do no one any good shouting out the same misinformed nonsense and personal bias every time a disaster like this happens.

Firearms 103 – Guns are Tools for Killing

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with the terminology and why people choose to own guns, let’s talk about all the bad arguments out there.

People on both sides of the debate throw a lot of claims, and often they’re bullshit. False equivalences, causal fallacies, false dichotomies, etc. are just a few of the fallacies you’ll encounter (or maybe even use). These weak arguments do no one any good. They make your point look invalid or unsound, and they make the other side more sure they are correct (even when they’re not).

The first of these is around the concepts that “guns are tools” and “guns don’t kill, people do.”

Guns are tools, yes. A tool has a purpose, though, and for firearms that purpose is to kill.
These are weapons, in a long progression of technology intended to harm others.

Whether that harm is justified or not, or what living creature it’s directed against, is irrelevant. The purpose of a firearm is to kill animals (including people) from a range outside of hand-to-hand combat.

Sports shooters and trick shooters may have found unique ways to use these tools, but that doesn’t dismiss the original design and intent of the items. Not to mention, the “sport” of these non-lethal demonstrations is still centered on becoming a better shot… i.e., better at killing.

This is why it’s fallacious to say “guns are just a tool” – most other tools weren’t designed to kill.

I say “most” because I know someone is going to bring up knives, axes, and similar items inevitably. Yes, those originally were created as both weapons and tools, but they’ve had centuries to evolve. Not to mention, you’ll find many regulations on carrying these items and what types you can have on your person.

Cars, hand tools, power tools, cooking items, etc. are different from firearms (or swords, grenades, etc.). Those other items may be dangerous, but their primary design and purpose is not to kill.

Reasonable firearm owners understand this, and that’s why we have gun safety classes. The four primary rules are centered around the responsibility of having a tool whose design is to kill:

• Treat every firearm as if it’s loaded.
• Never point the firearm at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
• Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on your target.
• Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.

These are not the rules of safety for a screwdriver, blender, bicycle, etc. Yes, each of those has their own standards, but they are not as ingrained in every single class and discussion as the rules above. Gun owners know what the purpose of their firearm is, and therefore treat the tool with the respect and safety required.

As for the “guns don’t kill people” argument, we’ve already noted that guns are indeed tools, inanimate objects that people use. The difference is, this tool is designed for the purpose of allowing people to kill easily. A person can undoubtedly harm others with a screwdriver or knife, but those tools are not necessarily intended for that (in the case of the screwdriver) or to do so as efficiently (in the case of the knife).

So, the next time you feel like saying a “gun is a tool” and “guns don’t kill people,” do us a favor and don’t. That doesn’t help your argument and just makes anything you say look moronic.

Guns are tools. They’re tools designed to kill. They give people the opportunity to kill efficiently and quickly.

Accept it.