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Fred Patten's CaliFur IX con report

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Califur IX intro screenSorry, but my CaliFur report this year is even skimpier than last year’s. That’s just the way it is.

Like every year since CaliFur V, CaliFur IX took place at the Irvine Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, on May 31–June 2, 2013. This year’s theme was “FURtual Reality”. There were two guests-of-honor: Maxwell Alexander Drake, the Author GoH, author of the Moonbeam Young Adult Fantasy Award-winning novels in 2009 and 2011 (the first two novels in his Genesis of Oblivion Saga), and their publisher, Imagined Interprises, Inc. in Las Vegas; and NecroDrone, the Artist GoH, “BDSM Illustrator and Dominatrix extradiordinaire!” Official attendance was 1,178; an increase of over two hundred. Due to my continuing poor health, I was in a wheelchair, with my sister Sherrill pushing me. We could only attend for Saturday the 2nd.

First look: Furry play 'Fursona Non Grata' is the real deal

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

It's hard enough getting to know your fiancée's family at the best of times, let alone when they're a bunch of animals. Such is the premise of Fursona Non Grata, a two-act play read at Califur IX.

A woman raised by furries, brings her fiance home for Thanksgiving to meet the family for the first time. Fur-larity ensures.

The play was first read in June 2012, and was presented as a radio play at Wild Nights in April. In contrast to Furry Tales – which held a reading at Anthrocon 2007, and left furs amused, but with reservations about the show's groundingFursona Non Grata has actual research behind it.

Playwright Jeff Goode created Disney's American Dragon: Jake Long and wrote The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. While demurring to identify as a furry himself, he attended Califur I, and was guest of honor at Rocket City FurMeet 2007 and Oklacon 2008; from this, he's put together a story which is, if fanciful, at least more of an exaggeration of reality than an apologetic for CSI's fursuit fetishists.

Review: 'La chat du rabbin' ['The Rabbi's Cat']

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The Rabbi's Cat posterHad enough of French animated films yet? Don't worry, I'll run out of them soon! This week's review is Le chat du rabbin (The Rabbi's Cat), which came out in France in 2011 and only just recently got a North American DVD release. (Trailer). It's based on a comic book series by Joann Sfar.

The film starts in Algiers (North Africa) in the 1930s, with a rabbi, his daughter, and her pet cat. After the cat eats a parrot, he gains the ability to talk, and immediately gets in trouble with the rabbi because the cat's first action (of course) is to deny everything.

As the rabbi tries to keep the cat away from his daughter, the cat tries to get on the rabbi's good side by offering to convert to Judaism - although what he really wants is a bar mitzvah. Still, being a cat, he's an independent thinker and isn't shy about challenging the rabbi's religious teachings.

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #11 ('Guardians of the Galaxy,' 'MLP:FiM' and 'TMNT')

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Guardians of the Galaxy #1 Young VariantFor this edition of Pull List, we’ve got a brand new Marvel series featuring the spacefaring adventures of a raccoon and his friend the tree (they have other friends, but they aren’t important), the beginning of a new arc with a new creative team for IDW’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and the final issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret History of the Foot Clan.

An interview with the casting V.P. for MTV's 'True Life'

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There's been much discussion and speculation about a casting call for Furries to appear on MTV's reality show, True Life. Erika Dobrin, casting VP at the show's producer Asylum Entertainment, was nice enough to give me 30 minutes to answer questions about it.

The phone app I used didn't record (I blame an app update), so this is paraphrased from notes and approved by Erika. I would say that the answers were very, very on-message. I did ask personal stuff to make it relatable - perhaps some responses would boil down to "just doing a job", or it might have caused shyness about getting personal. (Understandable, considering that the casting call has gotten hate mail.)

I aimed to ask tough questions, balancing sympathy towards the challenge of putting out professional media with being a Furry fan who's shamelessly obsessed with fursuiting.

Review: 'Epic' is about as inspired as its title

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

EpicThis should come as no surprise, but Roger Ebert was a personal hero of mine. The man lost his voice years ago, but he was still able to speak clearly as ever in his writing, especially the movie reviews that were his main job. He died earlier this year.

I was reminded of a line he occasionally used during Blue Sky StudiosEpic during a scene where the villain has captured the comedy relief sidekicks and is telling them stories of his son. One of them exclaims, “Your stories are boring and torturous!” As Ebert would point out (as he did for Jason X), the movie just reviewed itself. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Epic features some really wonderful animation, great special effects and what I’m sure would have been remarkable use of 3D technology if I’d bothered to watch the movie that way, but none of it really matters, because the story is, well, boring and torturous.

Review: 'Ernest et Célestine' ['Ernest & Celestine']

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French DVD cover of 'Ernest & Celestine'Ernest et Célestine (Ernest & Celestine) is a 2012 children's animated film from Europe about a friendship between a mouse and a bear. It hasn't had a widespread English-language release in North America yet, but when it does, I recommend it. It's charming! (Trailer, with English subtitles.)

The two main characters exist in different worlds, and are both victims of circumstance. Ernest, the bear, is a musician who lives alone in a cabin in the forest outside a large town, an outsider. If not for the cabin, he'd be homeless; he runs out of food during the winter and must resort to busking and begging, and eventually theft, because busking is forbidden and his musical instruments are taken away.

The weird crossover of furries and industrial music: Part 2

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There's a new blog about music by furries, that follows an ongoing podcast: Fuzzy Notes, run by Potoroo. This article led to an invite to contribute, so expect more there soon. (Can anyone suggest fun puns that cross furry animals and music? - like "fuzzbox".)

Part 1 talks about crossover between an odd pair. To continue, here's some chatting with Furry industrial music DJ's: 5arah and Quell Ironheart.

Review: 'Unico', by Osamu Tezuka

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Unico (paperback)Unico, the talking baby unicorn, was the last major character created by Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). He was inspired to design an adorably cute character by Sanrio Ltd, the merchandiser of girl’s products, in 1976. Sanrio had just created “Hello Kitty” in 1974 as an idol to sell handbags, earrings, etc. to young girls. Unico was to be a companion to appear in serialized adventures in Lyrica, Sanrio’s monthly girl’s manga magazine, as well as a series of animated theatrical features that Sanrio was planning at the time. Even minor Tezuka is worth reading, and Unico is full of the magic and color of the world of the imagination, with enough talking animals to please any Furry fan.

Unico was conceived in the U.S.; Tezuka was visiting Sanrio’s Los Angeles animation studio in 1976, where the animated feature Metamorphoses (Hoshi no Orufeusu) was in production. Metamorphoses was designed to look “cute” (if you never heard of it, it’s because the feature bombed so badly that it was pulled from theaters one day after its release), and Tezuka was inspired to draw a cute baby unicorn. Sanrio was planning to publish Lyrica, and the company quickly commissioned him to write and draw Unico’s adventures for serialization. This became a typical example of Tezuka’s prolific output; Unico appeared in chapters of over 30 pages per monthly issue for most issues of Lyrica, from its first issue in November 1976 to its final issue in March 1979.

Digital Manga Publishing, April 2013, trade paperback $34.95 (410 pages; on Overstock).

Fine art: The sculpture of Beth Cavener Stichter

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (5 votes)

RunMy brother (an artist himself) texted me a while back: “Hey! I think the fandom should have a dose of fine art maybe? Check out Beth Cavener Stichter. Art reviews may not be your thing, but art exposure could be fun.”

He’s right; art reviews are not (usually) my thing, but art exposure can be fun. Especially when the art in question features anthropomorphism of this quality. As my brother’s follow up text put it, “And she is just that @#$%ing good.”

According to quotes from Stichter’s Wikipedia article (I told you I was bad at art reviews), her sculptures:

… are simply feral animals suspended in a moment of tension. Beneath the surface, they embody the consequences of human fear, apathy, aggression, and misunderstanding.

Basically, she is using the term “feral” in exactly the same way furries use it, though completely incidentally. Probably. However, her sculptures are made in such a way that we can’t help but anthropomorphize them – just like “feral” characters drawn by furries.

Interview: Polish con-runner and forum admin Lemurr

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Pablo Lemurr, by Maciej 'Agent'WeFurries interviews furry convention-runner and administrator Pablo Lemurr. Transcription: Solovari.

Nickson: Soo, Lemurr, hi!

Lemurr: Hi-hi, hello.

Nickson: OK, so, who wants to start?

Pillgrim: Lemurr, please, introduce yourself to our listeners and tell us what you do in normal life. When did you become a furry, how did you get to know about this sub-culture and so on?

Lemurr: I am a professional web designer and a programmer. I've been furry for, like, five years. I came upon the fandom from browsing some YouTube channels; then I saw the keyword, googled it and came up with some Polish forums. Nothing really special, I guess.

Nickson: Can you tell us more about your fursona?

Lemurr: I don't think it will be a surprise. My fursona is an anthro lemur. Nothing special or fancy like colored fur, just a plain lemur.

Nickson: It's interesting that you are a lemur because sometimes people choose different species.

Hi-jera: What's more interesting is that he pronounces it like l'amour.

Lemurr: I am sorry about the pronunciation, I just pronounce it this way - lee-murr. What's pretty annoying is that everyone thinks I chose this fursona because of Madagascar, but it's not so. I just like the stripy tail and stuff.

Reviews: 'Critter Costuming: Making Mascots and Fabricating Fursuits', by Adam Riggs

Your rating: None Average: 2.6 (10 votes)

Critter CostumingVirtual Costumer magazine, published for members of The Silicon Web Costumers' Guild (SiW), has reviews of the fursuit-making manual Critter Costuming in its latest issue.

Phil asked me to review it. I don't make costumes, just wear them, so I put out a request to the Furry community for their reviews. I selected two to share, by Schrix and Kellan Meig’h.

Critter Costuming: Making Mascots and Fabricating Fursuits, by Adam Riggs (Nicodemus), is the first published book about fursuit making. You can buy it on Amazon.

R is for Review: 'The ABCs of Death'

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The ABCs of DeathAnybody can die, evidently.”
-“ABC”, Robert Pinsky, United States Poet Laureate

Necrophilia is more erotic than that [censored!].”
-SWfan, Flayrah commenter

The ABCs of Death is the brainchild of producer Ant Timpson (an end credit suggests the whole thing was inspired by a nightmare of his): take 26 horror directors from around the world and give them a letter of the alphabet. They then pick a word with that letter, and direct a short film for $5,000 that depicts a death involving that word.

Pretty simple, and a great concept for a horror anthology, but why the review on a furry site? Well, there’s Thomas Malling’s “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion,” which is basically a live action Tex Avery cartoon. And there are plenty of animal-related shorts available, as well; some of the best shorts on the roster, including “D is for Dogfight,” “N is for Nuptials,” “P is for Pressure” and “Q is for Quack,” involve animals, if not always anthropomorphic.

But are these highlights worth the time for furries?

Review: 'The Iron Breed', by Andre Norton

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

The Iron BreedAndre Norton (Alice Mary Norton, 1912-2005), “the Grand Dame of science-fiction”, was one of the first authors of Young Adult s-f, and of anthro s-f. At a time when most s-f featured teenage or adult human heroes fighting alien adversaries, her novels often starred humans working with sympathetic anthro aliens against human villains, anthro protagonists, or humans transformed into anthro aliens.

Today, Baen Books is reprinting many of her out-of-print s-f titles, two novels in each book. The Iron Breed reprints two of her anthro classics together for the first time: Iron Cage (Viking Press, September 1974; original cover by Bruce Waldman) and Breed to Come (Viking Press, June 1972; original cover by László Gál). If you have not read them before, read them now.

Baen Books, January 2013, trade paperback $12 (448 pages), Kindle $8.99 (preview).

The weird crossover of furries and industrial music: Part 1

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Industrial music is aggressive, exciting and ominous, with futuristic themes of dystopia and urban decay. As art, you might call it the cold, metal shadow to the light side of nature, animals and furry things. It's a big contrast to the sunny electronic pop that furry con-goers may expect. (Does music have anything to do with animals, anyways? Well, heavy metal gets associated with Wolves...)

It's a challenge to make this weird connection and wonder who wants to read about it. (Not coming soon: my article about Furries and Juggalos.) It might be oil and water to many, but let's shake it up and see if anything mixes. In Part 2, I'll be posting interviews with DJs.