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The Interview

A new-ish twist on an interview meme:
The Rules
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview Me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You update your LJ with the answers to the questions.
4. You include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
5. When others ask to be interviewed, you ask them 5 questions.

It might take me a couple of days to come up with questions, but I won't forget.

Meanwhile, I got involved by asking altivo to interview me:
1. Set the wayback machine for when you were about 11 or 12 years old. I feel confident you were a reader. What were you reading? Was there ever a book back then that made you sit and stare into the distance and really, really wish you could be in it, part of it? What was it and why?
This would be 1973-74, huh... I was reading a lot of YA science fiction; some adult SF too, stuff Mom was reading that she thought would be appropriate, although she rarely reads anything racy anyway so it wasn't much of a limit. I tended to read a lot of non-fiction too (feeding the inner geek, I suppose). I was probably still re-reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Charlotte's Web a lot then. I don't really remember any of them making me want to be part of it, though. I could get into the setting while I was reading, but usually when the book was over that was it, time for the next one.
     What did make me really, really wish I could be part of the story was movies and television shows about mountain men ("Jeremiah Johnson," "Life and Times of Grizzly Adams"). That would lead me back into books about the fur trade, mostly non-fiction (books that eventually led me into my history degree from college, partly) and spurred hours of imagination. Alas, the fur trade wasn't much of a going concern after 1840, much less 1975, so being a part of it wasn't a viable option.

2. I know you have good reasons for keeping relatively clear of the furry fandom that have little to do with your own opinions about it. But if those reasons didn't apply, what then? What exactly do you think about furries, given what you know and have seen? (Go ahead, be brutally honest, no pulled punches.)
My initial take was that furry fandom is very young age-wise, and as such are subject to the vicissitudes of youth, or as we sometimes say "drama." But I can get past that fairly easily and reach two things. One is that it's not all young people (you and animist are examples, and there are others) but it is mostly youthful, which I mean in a good way. The other is there are wrinkles to it that touch some of what has long been part of my spiritual and fantasy life. That's the allure to me. There are angles to Furry that are definitely kid-like, and angles that are entirely a modern creation (Furry porn, say), but also visible is a connection to the old traditions of humanity, the ones we were supposed to forget when we got "civilized." I could key into that pretty easily.
     I guess the one aspect of the fandom that frustrates me most is that there's so much promise that isn't fulfilled in "usual" ways. There's so much imagination and creativity, but so much is unfocused and doesn’t lead to "product" in the traditional sense. I'll admit that what I'm really saying is, I want to see more mainstream stuff or more attempts to be more mainstream. For instance, I'd love to see a furry comic that came close to what DC's Vertigo imprint does -- a furry John Constantine or Timothy Hunter, say, complete with well thought out story lines that continue for more than four pages. Or hell, even a furry Tolkien or Gaiman book. I like the pieces of art I see, but so much of it is pin-ups or otherwise one-shot pieces. I wish there was more in the way of sequential art or stories, especially from certain specific artists.
     BUT, I suspect that need for good stories is being fulfilled by individual furries on MUCKs, which I'm missing out on because I'm not there. I probably have missed out on plenty of mainstream things, like "Watership Down" and "Brother Bear" and other Disney movies (but I don't like Disney, for the reasons most people don't like Disney).
     Part of what keeps me from being more part of furry fandom is the same thing that's kept me on the fringes of SciFi/Fantasy fandom, historic reenacting, and the leather community: a fear of getting too deep into one thing to pull out and do something else, and not getting deep enough to be more than a dilettante. In other words, almost a form of ADD.

3. I like your music. You play the guitar well, in addition to writing really fine lyrics and performing them with meaning. When did you first become interested in guitar and what kind of music did you think you wanted to play?
I got a guitar at 12, but didn't start playing it until I was 14. I'm not sure I gave any clues about whether I wanted a guitar, but I was in school choruses and I was teaching myself music notation when I was 10 or so. I think I got lucky in that my parents saw that there could be an interest. They must've been unhappy when it took me two years to actually start doing anything with it, but once I started I was unstoppable. All through the 1970s I liked folk, singer/songwriter, and country music, and since that's what I had access to, it's what I learned to play along to. (If you ever wonder why my guitar playing sounds like John Denver or his onetime sideman Mike Taylor, consider this: I owned eleven John Denver albums by the time I was 18.) So by the time I developed any interest in rock at all, around junior year of high school, 1979-ish, I was already firmly rooted in folkish music. It's really all I ever wanted to play until I was well into being an adult.

4. I'm sure you have a lot of singer-songwriters that you like or admire. Please name one that you find inspirational and explain how.
Just one? ;-) You might think it would be Mr. Deutschendorf, and there's probably no one who's had a greater impact on my music so far. But these days, I'd probably say that the most inspirational songwriter to me is Richard Shindell. He's a former Catholic seminarian who left the seminary, bounced around a little, and followed a musical path through several albums. His music is very accessible yet very deep with meaning. He also tells stories of people who are far different from him and makes them believable, and he has a wit that I appreciate. I would've said Dave Carter, and he's a very close second, but Carter was touched by Coyote and could put words together in a way I just can't imagine. But I can imagine Shindell, and I'd love my writing to go in his direction a little.

5. A UFO lands in your backyard and the little green men (not bug-eyed-monsters, but yes, they are green) want you to come away with them. They are very polite about it, but insistent that you have a very large fandom in their world who are begging for you to come perform and write songs for them. They can only offer once, and if you go they will never bring you back. You will have about 30 minutes to choose what to take with you, but you will never see earth again if you accept. They promise you a longer, healthier life than if you remain on earth, and all the luxuries their obviously advanced culture can provide. If you agree to go, what will you take? If you decline, what is your reason?
Honest? (This is gonna be telling…) I'd probably decline because of fear of change. Seriously. I would tell the ambassador from the world of little green men something different, something (I hope) complimentary, but deep down I'd know that the combination of a whole new world and leaving the world I already know behind would cause me lots of "issues."

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
altivo
Aug. 9th, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC)
Really great answers and thanks for taking the time to put them together. We are certainly kindred spirits walking the same road, if not in the same moccasins. :)

Are you saying that you actually have not seen the films Watership Down and Brother Bear? If so, I strongly urge you to do so. Both are excellent. In fact, the former is in my opinion a masterpiece and it isn't Disney so that shouldn't enter into the equation. It has superb art work and did an excellent job of translating Adams' book into film. The latter is flawed, and that is Disney's fault. But the DVD includes some unfinished and expurgated material that helps fill in the essential gaps in the story, and the basic story and artwork are just lovely.

Jeremiah Johnson... oh YEAH! The story line is kinda weak for me, but oh that scenery! And Redford has always been one of my sexy faves.

Funny you should mention the fur trade and history. I started a historical novel years ago that was set in the latter days of Canada's exploration and followed a young gay man west from Toronto to the Pacific. I should dig that back out and see if it's worth finishing... the background research was fascinating.

Richard Shindell I don't know, but from what you say, I should know him. I'll have to look into that.

And I'd say no to the little green guys too, for similar if not exactly the same reasons. They'd have to offer a heck of a lot more than that, and the ability to at least communicate with the folks back home.

Actually, in my study of history and genealogy, I've often pondered the decisions made by colonists back in the 17th and 18th centuries. To leave your family and friends behind and know you would never, ever see them again. That you might not even be able to send them a letter or receive on e from them. As much as I think I am independent and all that (and my mate frequently points it out) I'm not that self-contained. I need private space and a lot of time by myself, but I need context too. And building a new social context is damned hard.

Lest you think I shirk the hard questions, feel free to hit me back with a set of your own. I will put as much thought into it as you did, I promise.
songdogmi
Aug. 9th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
I often say that I want a remote cabin deep in the woods... with a T-1 line and a good electricity supply. Reading your comments and my original, I am struck by how in one question I admit to wanting to be a fur trader, and a few hundred words later admit to being too scared of change to go off on my own.

There probably were fur trappers who thought they were only doing it for a while and then they'd go home; a few of those actually did go home. But mortality in the wilderness was pretty high, and even if there was "a" home to go to it wasn't necessarily "the" home they envisioned, what with time marching on and all. So yeah, they definitely were setting out in the rocket ship never to see Earth again, in their own way, only they couldn't see that from their vantage point where as we can now in looking back. (Then there were the ones who never intended to go back east; imagine their horror to realize the east was coming to them by the 1840s and 50s.)

I've heard that "Brother Bear" is very pretty, but the typically flawed Disney product. But the add-ins from the DVD sound very worthwhile. Hm, and I think my mom has it too.... (She doesn't mind most Disney, but she drew the line at "Pocahontas." One can only stand so much. ;-) I didn't realize that "Watership Down" was a movie too; I was thinking of the book. See how much I know?

Oh rest assured, I'll come up with some questions for you bwa-hahahahahaha.....
altivo
Aug. 9th, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC)
I didn't mind Pocahontas too much (though the sequel was definitely trash.) We even went to see it at a special premier showing, a matinee performance full of kids who never shut up to watch it. That was at the Chicago Theater, and we mainly went because we knew that the Wurlitzer would be played before the show, which it was. One of only two theatre organs that remain in their original sites in Chicago, and the one that was Jesse Crawford's "home" instrument, voiced and reset to his demanding specifications. It was worth it, though I actually enjoyed the film better when I saw it a year later on video.
songdogmi
Aug. 16th, 2005 05:10 am (UTC)
Questions... we got questions
1. What's one thing you miss most from your days in metro Detroit?

2. You don't strike me as someone who plays the lottery, but... suppose someone gave you a ticket (and then disappeared so you couldn't give it back to him), and later you found out you won. Not a million or two, that would be easy; you won $200 or $300 million dollars. What would you do with the money?

3. What piece of music do you play for escape or meditation? (If you have such a thing.)

4. How different are your Furry personae from yourself?

5. You might've mentioned this somewhere already, but I don't remember: Do you play any musical instruments, and, if so, which ones?
altivo
Aug. 16th, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Questions... we got questions
Whew, that was fun. I was afraid you'd make me jump through ethical and political hoops. Music is much easier to talk about.

Answers are here.
altivo
Aug. 10th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
OK, I forgot to tell you that I wanted to respond to the furry question in greater detail than I could muster at work with distractions. So here it is.

Furry fandom is not as young as it may seem, because there's an iceberg effect. Those who are older and more developmentally stable are generally less visible. For instance, when I went to Midwest FurFest last fall, if you had judged the fandom by the crowds hanging around in the hallways and the artists' room you'd have thought it was very young (and sometimes quite immature too.) But when you started attending the workshops and panels or looking at who was onstage for the puppet shows or suchlike, there were lots of elders. You probably know about greymuzzle which has a large membership even though it isn't very vocal. The folks who sit on boards and committees, give panels and workshops, and so forth sure aren't all 19 year olds or even 29 year olds.

Overall, the mean or modal age is probably pretty young, yes. And that's why a lot of the art, music, and writing that is produced is ephemeral. But there's a solid framework under it. And now that the fandom is visible and becoming structured and organized, I expect developments similar to what happened in Science Fiction fandom in the 60s and 70s: awards for novels, short stories, art works, musical works, and even stage productions. Competitions. Furries already have the costume thing highly developed, prizes for the best fur suits and the best characterization in a fur suit are bound to come.

The mucks are a mixed bag, of course. A lot of it is just chat room. But you are correct in your conjecture that there is some detailed and elaborate plot and character development going there, with the scenery and props to match. And it isn't all just netsex, either, no matter what some may try to claim. I don't go in for much of that and I have been deeply (and I mean DEEPly) involved in some plot actions, to the point of losing sleep over them. You ought to visit for a bit some time just to get the flavor of it.

There is textual fiction being written, and not all of it is just porn. That's a bit harder to search out, but much is published on the web if you start hunting for it.

Art work I know you've seen. Sustained comics? We have some really good ones, most are web-based because the print market is limited. Some do appear anthologized in print later from small presses like Plan Nine and Sofawolf. Examples? I'm extremely fond of these:

Faux Pas
Unicornography
Suburban Jungle
Carpe Diem
West Corner of the Park

There are plenty more, and one leads to another if you start following them.

Oh yeah, music. We have that too, and some is really good. Allow me to recommend Chama C. Fox as a starting point that I think you can easily get a handle on.

As for furry touching something deeper, primal animism or totemic symbolism, well, sure. I agree entirely, and I think animist would back me there without question. Some look upon the therianthropes and otherkin as a fringe element but I think they are a natural constituency and, frankly, I feel a kinship there.

C'mon in, the water's fine. And we don't bite unless you ask nicely.


altivo
Aug. 10th, 2005 04:57 pm (UTC)
Heh, after my intention to write the furry essay in an undistracted environment, I was just about done with it when a dry thunderstorm rolled in here and the lights went out. Fortunately we have UPS on all computer equipment in the house after many such occurrences, so I had 60 seconds to make sure that my longish comment was correctly saved. It worked, but I didn't get to recommend specific Chama selections for you. Look for "The Wolf in You," "Being Furry," and "Wolves." There's lots more, check it out if you have time, but those three are good singer-songwriter stuff and explicitly about furriness. ;)
mysannthropy
Aug. 10th, 2005 02:04 am (UTC)
okay...
interview me
georgelicious
Aug. 11th, 2005 03:16 am (UTC)
Great questions and great answers!

Interview Me!!!
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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