Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Sound and the Furry: Robert Lyle talks furry conventions, erotica, and stigma

Back in December, a video of Mika Brzezinski losing her shit went viral. In case you don't remember what happened, the anchor of MSNBC's Morning Joe was presenting news about a gas attack at a furry convention, and when one of her cohosts informed her that a furry was a person who dresses up as an animal and role plays, she giggled hysterically before running off the stage. Many of the aforementioned furries were hospitalized, and although I could see how one would be initially shocked at learning of something so unique, it struck me as rude in the context and unprofessional given she is a journalist.

I tweeted about the story after the video of Mika had gone viral, and through Twitter, I was able to connect with Robert Lyle, the 25-year-old author of the interspecies romance series, Feathers with Benefits. "I can't really blame them for not knowing what furries are," Robert said. "It's largely an internet subculture even with MFF (Midwest Fur Fest) seeing close to 4600 attendees; but laughing hysterically while reporting an attack that sent 19 people to the hospital and caused the early morning evacuation of an entire hotel? Classy."

Robert's life as a furry began approximately eight years ago. He was searching for art online when he found a now defunct gallery of dragons and mythological creatures. He liked what he saw so he registered for the site's forum. "From there, I made friends, found other places to hang out, and the rest is history," Robert said. To connect with other furries, Robert mostly connects online through Skype or forums, but in 2014, he did MFF to connect with his furry friends from the Netherlands and Texas. At Midwest Fur fest, Robert described the activities as being very similar to that of other conventions. "I looked around the artists' tables and spent a little too much money there, watched the fursuit parade, and saw some of the other events happening. I missed the panels on writing due to a long registration line, but there's always next time," he said.

Two furries from 2014's Midwest Fur Fest, courtesy of AoLun08
All of Robert's friends are aware and okay with his lifestyle or are members themselves; but Robert has shielded details of the fandom from his family. "My parents know I went down to MFF to meet friends, and I told them it was like a comic convention. They think it's weird, but didn't ask more. I haven't told them I'm a furry, and I certainly haven't told them I write erotica—inter-species erotica, at that—nor do I ever intend to unless it's unavoidable. They're fairly open-minded, but still pretty conservative and tend to judge things on a moralistic world-view. I honestly don't know how they'd deal with it, nor am I keen to find out. I can't let worrying stop me from the writing, though," Robert said. 

Robert started writing his furry series, Feathers With Benefits, a year ago. It is about a human named Torio who gets paired up professionally with a gryphon named Riane as part of an initiative to forge new interspecies alliances. The story can be found on the furry website, So Furry, and Robert said that he's happy with the reception his work has received.

"I've found a following in the furry community," Robert said. "Most human and gryphon stories are 'beauty and beast' pairs with a woman and male gryphon, and I wanted to balance that out. So far I've had thousands of views on the chapters, hundreds of favorites and votes, and several dozen comments, all nothing short of glowing in praise for the characters, relationship, world, and the writing in general. The community sees this kind of interspecies relationship as something to be celebrated. And when I've pushed beyond those boundaries, cautiously linking my story at the end of writing chats on Twitter, I've had non-furry (as far as I can tell) writers voice interest in the pairing. It blows me away every time someone tells me they loved my story."

However, even though Robert has found his place in the furry community, he still has to use the pen name Robert Lyle to shield himself from the mainstream. "Until recently I wouldn't even admit I was a furry, in part because of widespread stereotyping, harassment, and even hatred of the fandom, both online and off," Robert said. "I used to have a dragon avatar for some gaming accounts, and occasionally someone would send me a message asking me if I was "one of those furries" or just calling me a "fucking furfag." I've seen friends harassed for their art, or for the company they keep. I know of people who've had to shut down their accounts and go dark from the cyberbullying. Some people are just misinformed or ignorant of what furry means, and the sheer diversity of interests doesn't help. Others are just following the bandwagon of trolls who banded together years and years ago to target the fandom, and its status as the "internet punching bag" is only just starting to turn around. It doesn't help that early mainstream attention tried to explain furries and fursuiting as 'well, these are young people, therefore it's all about deviant sex.' I've never seen the episode, but apparently CSI had an infamously terrible portrayal of a furry convention."
Still from CSI's Fur and Loathing, courtesy of Huffington Post
That episode, Fur and Loathing, was broadcast in 2003. In the episode, people dressed in fursuits attended  a convention to have fetish sex, a depiction that seems very different from Robert's experience at MFF.

In the end, despite the judgment or amused giggles the community has received from outsiders, Robert is hopeful that people will eventually become more accepting. "The fandom's reputation is normalizing, and mainstream reporting keeps churning out "they're actually normal, albeit nerdy" articles, which is awesome," Robert said. "The hate still exists, and I doubt that's going away anytime soon. After all, we just can't have people who are different than us, no, not one bit."

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Anti-Vax Parents Smell Their Own Kale Farts, Don't Care About Public Health" is available now

Anti-Vax Parents Smell Their Own Kale Farts,
Don't Care About Public Health
In 2015, the United States faced a preventable measles crisis, and scientific experts pointed to unvaccinated children as the cause. Anti-Vax Parents Smell Their Own Kale Farts, Don't Care About Public Health (T.Lo's Coloring Books for Adults) (Volume 1) examines through a series of satirical drawings the mindset of an anti-vaccination parent and her decision to forsake history and science to listen to the advice of Jenny McCarthy. “Anti-Vax Parents Smell Their Own Kale Farts, Hate Public Health” is the first book in the collection of T.Lo's Coloring Books for Adults, a series designed to entertain adults while also shedding light on hot button issues of today. 

The book is available on for $19.99.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

31 things to do before turning 31, also known as the beginning of my year of #YOLO

Can I make every day of my life feel like this moment?
I turned dirty thirty in December, and over a year leading up to the big event, I had a mini-life crisis. I worried that I wasn't really pursuing my dream of being the biggest writer in the world (what a vague, unrealistic goal, I know), and I also worried that I was becoming old, frumpy and boring (there's a whole lot more to this that I'll discuss in the future or that you can gleam from my past posts).

When my birthday hit, I started to think about the improvements I wanted to make about myself, and for the most part, those improvements stemmed from a feeling of dissatisfaction that stemmed from my own thoughts and behaviors: I wanted to write more. I wanted to look sexier. I wanted a nice boyfriend that talked to me everyday and bought me flowers. I wanted to have things to do on the weekend that didn't involve me sitting on the couch with my cat.

So after assessing my wants, I realized I needed to be more specific, so I did what I always do. I made a list. So here goes, my list of 31 things to do before I turn 31:
  1.  Get my blog in better shape by writing something on it every day
  2. Write a screenplay/book/play and actually like it
  3. Learn to cook a dish from my parents
  4. Try Crossfit
  5. Try Pole Dancing
  6. Try Burlesque Dancing
  7. Try Aerial Dancing
  8. Train my waist like Kim Kardashian
  9. Party like Rihanna with her diamonds in the sky
  10. Steam my va-jay-jay like Gwyneth Paltrow or at least something Goop-ish
  11. Audition for The Amazing Race and/or Survivor
  12. Send a thoughtful letter to people who have positively impacted me
  13. Reconnect with old friends
  14. Meet a sexpert 
  15. Travel somewhere new in the United States
  16. Travel somewhere new internationally
  17. Stop analyzing people and just ask them what they want
  18. Enter a competition that is not writing-related
  19. Go to Coachella or Burning Man or some other event that requires me to travel
  20. Try eye gazing
  21. Go to a MeetUp group
  22. Develop a distinct personal style
  23. Try a real life Maze
  24. Go to Comic-Con or a similar convention
  25. Get invited to an underground party/event and have a crazy adventure
  26. Go to something masquerade themed
  27.  Study to be a yoga instructor
  28.  See a Lakers or Clippers game live
  29.  Say "yes" more (unless something is harmful, of course)
  30.  Mentor a young writer
  31. Fall in love

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nancy O'Dell tells Taylor Swift she's probably going home with "lots of men"

"I just wanted to show the legs, because as I was telling you ahead of time, I think you're going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men," Entertainment Tonight's Nancy O'Dell said to Taylor Swift at the 2015 Grammy's. Taylor shut her down with grace, but still... what the fuck kind of question is that? First Nancy makes creepy comments about Taylor's body, then she implies that Taylor is promiscuous? Taylor has never made comments that implies she is into casual sex, so whatever people's thoughts on her love life are speculative and therefore rude to bring up during an interview like this one.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"My dad's story": Dream for My Child | MetLife

This MetLife commercial from Hong Kong shows the sacrifices and "lies" parents make to help out their children. This is a real tear jerker!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What free speech actually means

I found this comic online, but I don't know who made it. If you know who the source is, please let me know. It's great.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Solution to January's Hat Riddle

The answer: Cassie is wearing a white hat. 

Alex did not know what color of hat he was wearing. This rules out the option of seeing two black hats because then he would know his hat was white. This means that he either saw two white hats or a black and white hat combination.

Even with Alex's information and seeing Cassie's hat, Bobby did not what color of hat he was wearing. Using all of these clues, Cassie knows that if Bobby saw a black hat, he must have known his hat was white. Since he did not know the color of his hat, that means he saw a white hat.