I have a theory I’ve been kinda wrestling with for a while regarding
what makes things famous or popular or what have you… as
clearly as I can state it-
For every fad, for for every famous thing or thing to do, there is some underground, not-so-popular thing to do that spawned it.
Occasionally this thing is particular to a country or region of the
world but this does not have to be the case, especially in the age of
the internet… The theory is that some dork invented something
you like some ten or twenty years ago, and will keep on doing this
thing and liking it his way, underground, secretly, long after the fad
The fad will never be as good as the original to the people that
created it, possibly the result of a water-down effect that is caused
by making the fad accessible to popular culture.
Electronic music, in this case, music generated by instruments that do
not have physically vibrating parts (and even that’s a bad
description…) started with experiments with radio antennae in the
20’s and progressed to become the synthesizer, a gargantuan
incomprehensible beast of the 60’s that most people from that day only
know for the retired Disneyland Electric Parade.
From these experiments came instruments that were a bit more pallatable
to listen to purely for pleasure, but I think most who hear old
Kraftwerk albums today still think of them as more experiment than
pleasurable listening (though I am not one of them.)
Kraftwerk were not the first people to make synthesizers sound pleasing
or expressive, but they definitely were the first to give them a
serious pulse, a rhythm… and if you follow them closely by timeline,
the experiments become fewer and fewer, and you’re left with two guys
in a private studio having fun.
Some kids in suburban Detroit copied the accomplishment in their own
town, throwing progressively bigger parties until they were invited to
distant countries to throw them there. As folks in Europe grabbed
ahold of this vibe and started working on their own parties, they tried
to make music that attracted as many people in as possible, making
music that is gradually less difficult, and in time, these parties
became packed… and somebody started calling them raves.
Then raving came right back to the United States, which in a certain
sense, is where it came from in the first place… or not…
Zombie Nation doesn’t sound anything like No UFO’s (Model 500 [Juan
Atkins]), Trans Europe Express (Kraftwerk) or Switched On Bach (Wendy
[Walter] Carlos). In the process of exploding across the globe,
something was lost. The ‘bad image’ of drug abuse, the 8,000
tracks that copy the same sound and style, and the loss of confidence
from record labels since these copycat tracks won’t sell, means that
electronic music has gone right back to obscurity, but there are plenty
of netlabels and underground radio stations where new and old music can
be heard, and of course, people will still keep throwing parties.
I get the impression that certain people think of Japanese animation as
a cash cow that will never disappear, a way to bring in money with very
This isn’t true, of course, but I’m sure those of you that know what I’m talking about have seen the results of this.
My mother told me I liked Speed Racer when I was tiny, even though I
don’t remember a damned thing about it… I’m part of the
generation that saw Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, Transformers,
and Robotech, and all of the above have little examples of things they
had to change to make it ‘work’ in the USA.
People ‘in the know’ that liked that sort of thing would go to their
local ‘Little Tokyo’ or sometimes ‘Chinatown’ to buy this stuff up, and
in time, people were translating tapes on their own and subtitling to
resell them. When I was a teenager, there were legit companies
making subtitled tapes available legally.
Somewhere between that and the year 1993, somebody allowed Sailor Moon
and Dragon Ball to be imported onto Canadian and USA television, and a
wall in Suncoast Video hasn’t been the same since.
Animation is an expensive hobby that I don’t keep up with.
Frankly, most of what I know about it I still pick up through my
brother even though he’s some 700 miles away.
The convention subtitler dreamed of the day when all these animations
could make it at least onto cable/satellite television in North
America, and that dream came true, but at the same time…
there’s always people fussing about edits and how bad the dubs are;
that, and the complaints of the kids graduating from Dragon Ball Z to
Dragon Pink to tentacled pornography, but at least the animation is
still available for the people that want it.
This brings us to the real point, the loophole in the theory, the great conundrum…
ANTHROPOMORPHIC COMIC BOOKS
Once upon a boring afternoon in the Fall of 1993, I walked into
‘Newbury Comics’ (in Boston, this was my first semester in school)
because despite its name, the store carries and sells more records than
comics, but because of the namesake, the comics are in pretty good
sight when you walk in.
I saw a comic book that depicted… a cartoonish cat…
that was a girl, in military fatigues… brandishing an automatic
assault rifle. More interesting still, it looks like the cover
originated as an acrylic canvas painting, though I could be wrong…
I picked it up and thumbed it. This was a space-opera
science-fiction story with tons of political overtones, about these
space-critters (they all looked like more ‘thoughtfully proportioned
variations on the old Warner Brothers’ look of Porky Pig and Bugs
Bunny, but… refreshingly alien to me) that lived in a
harmonious, communistic culture, but were threatened by a chain of
outer rim planets run by fascist rabbit-things.
The title was Albedo Anthropomorphics, color reissue #1.
I sought out other comic stores and bought as many back issues of this
thing as I could, and it turned into my thing to do when I’m sick of my
core classwork and otherwise just didn’t want to be doing music that
What I didn’t know at the time, is that this wasn’t a single isolated comic, this was a genre…
I also didn’t know that it would be gone by the time I finished college.
I don’t know how related all these events were… but from what I
can learn from others, and read up on, most of these books date back to
the early to mid 80’s and ranged in quality and subject from hard
science fiction, like the aforementioned, certain variations on
fantasy, sometimes they were just trying to be funny, and some had
adult (read, sexual) themes.
Some time in the late 80’s the science fiction convention goers that
were into this sort of thing started calling themselves Furries (not
I don’t know if this was always there, if this was isolated, or if this
was calculated… but somehow or another a bunch of people that
liked hanging out, watching old Disney movies that happen to star
critters (like Bambi and Dumbo and the oft cited Robin Hood) and one of
them started throwing parties that increased in size, where amatuer
pictures were drawn and shared, and had the same variation of subject.
Some time in the 90’s, somebody made up an internet game where the
entire range of these sorts of critters could be roleplayed as typed
text. The above-mentioned party decided to try being a real
science-fiction convention variant, and the person in charge of it
endorsed the game, encouraging people to wear their gaming psuedonyms
on the badges.
Here’s where the story starts getting awkward, because the stories I’ve read and been told don’t gel.
This is also about the time I started collecting my books in Boston, completely oblivious to what was going on elsewhere.
Somehow, somewhere, over the next three to five years, and certainly no
longer in a vacuum, some people started entering the realms of ‘taking
things a little too seriously’ to the point where you wonder what
percieved reality is for these folks, as I’ve griped about in the
past. These people played characters that were inspired by
‘adult’ works, and spent their entire time in the internet game having
entire ranges of cybersex, and then, once at the convention, would try
to have the same sort of sex in real life. Some of these folks
are smart enough to not dare do anything with a complete stranger, and
some are not.
Why didn’t bizarre unwanted pregnancies ensue? Because Furries were and are predominantly male.
I’m told that many of those Disney watchers were gay, and this may or
may not be true, but my observation shows that most of these folks are
_not_ gay, they just have sex with other men because their role-played
characters would, because their perception of the imaginary and the
real have hopelessly blurred.
This led to people wishing they could be more like their characters, creating clones of mascot costumes for decadent purposes.
What I’ve skipped in exposition is that sometime between 1993 and 1995,
a comic book executive visited the convention and saw something that
prompted him to cancel all anthropomorphic titles as soon as contracts
would allow. The shell that remains is a counter-culture with no
purpose but the decadence or whatever tingly happy feelings you might
get from looking at a drawn animal critter, usually drawn by some
amatuer that put it in an archive on the internet.
It’s hard for me to write this, and believe me, I’m having second
thoughts about pushing ‘Submit’ right now. I have friends still
into this stuff, and while they don’t do anything I think of as wierd
while I’m watching,… well, I try not to think about it.
And I know for fact they have friends that have frankly gone clean over the edge of sane. I’ve seen them at their parties.
The problem I’m seeing here, though, is that while it’s easy to see
this pattern of erosion as an art becomes popular, how exactly does one
prevent it? You can’t really.
Anime people can’t go to the H tentacle rape porn people and say,
‘You’re giving us a bad name. You’re not one of us, get
out.’ What they’re watching is a part of Japanese animation, and
while you may not like them as people, you have to live in the same
earth with them, so what can you do? No laws are broken, no one
is hurt, and you have the stuff you like, right?
Ravers don’t complain about drugs bringing their image down. It
doesn’t help, but frankly, they’re not going to deny strange substances
at their parties. Embracing strange substances to them is like
embracing the strange music, and besides, there’s still plenty of
strange music to go around. You don’t need any strange substances
to enjoy it.
I would be just as wrong to try and go back in time and be in a
different place in 1994 to tell off people for bringing their imaginary
characters to convention. I have no sympathy for people who get
venereal diseases from messing around indescrimanately and I have no
problems with the things concenting adults do behind shut doors.
The hitch here is, my comics are gone. There’s nothing anyone can do about it, and it’s nobody’s fault. Or is it?
Thank you all for your comments over the past week.
Londo: Yes, the last entry sucked. It was unfair for me to
write a post that really only had two people in mind. I hope this
one’s a better read.
Cleosama: Hopefully I’ll get it to a more ‘finished’ point so
that I’ll feel comfortable changing the liscense to allow remixes and
edits, then you can use the pieces if you want to provided your work
doesn’t make any money. If that’s appetizing, nag me to work on
Griff_the_Bear: In reality, these people are kinda harmless, I
was really just trying to test you for an expected response, which you
did not provide. (A good thing.)
lazarusrat, compassion, boo_2, anyone else that asked and was confused:
Sound is created by a vibration. In electronics, this is
generatied by a voltage in a coil next to the cone on your speaker.
A signal that makes a positive voltage mixed with a signal that makes
an equal negative voltage will turn into a signal with no voltage,
which means the speaker won’t move, and you won’t hear a sound.
Phase cancellation in mixed audio means that signals just don’t mix the
right way, so that the condition where positive and negative cancel
each other out, happens. You percieve this as a sound getting
mysteriously drowned out or worse, disappearing completely, and there
are an assortment of techniques for avoiding this problem.
There are also techniques for creating it deliberately. A ‘phase’
effect is when you have part of the frequencies in a sound disappear
but the others remain, so you hear this hollowed out kind of swirling
sound… It can be created by taking two identical copies of a
sound and playing them at very slightly different speeds. (In the
60’s and 70’s, they called it ‘flanging’ because they created the
effect by playing two identical tapes but rubbing the flange of one of
the open-reel tapes with a fingertip to slow it.)
Ick. Even that looks a bit too technical. Ask more questions and hopefully I’ll get it watered down a little better.
Thanks again for comments and continued readership.
See you next time.