From Gamergate to “Ghostbusters” to Suicide Squad: The Problem of Fan Entitlement

Published: Salon (August 9, 2016)

It’s easy to roll your eyes at the “Suicide Squad” petition. In case you’ve been lucky enough to miss the news, fans of the new movie “Suicide Squad” have created an online movement to shut down aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes for posting predominantly negative reviews of their beloved film. Cue the inevitable jokes about how nerds need to get a life.

Is it really that simple, though? Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly clear that fans of pop culture properties – whether movies, TV shows, books, video games, or anything else – don’t merely view them as forms of entertainment, or themselves as consumers of said media. From Comic Cons to the nostalgia craze, it is clear that millions of people deeply identify with the culture produced by others, and, as a result of this feeling of ownership, many of them have developed a deep sense of entitlement that at its most innocuous is merely silly, and at its worst manifests itself in ugly bigotries. read more

Chief & I

Published: The Good Men Project (July 19, 2016)

The following article was first written on my personal blog more than six years ago. Upon rediscovering it, I knew I had to publish it here.

If there was ever a moment when I wished I had a camera, it was last Friday, when I found myself emotionally bonding with an unkempt bovine named Chief at the Turtleback Zoo in Livingston, NJ.

My affinity for animals has caused some of my friends to express surprise. One saw fit to comment on my tendency to put pictures of interesting critters on my Facebook profile; others have marveled at the trivia I can spout off on zoological specimens from canines and bears to elephants and pangolins. On those occasions when someone inquires as to the origin of my interest, I find myself in an uncommon position – i.e, one in which I have no idea what to say. read more

Why do we have ‘fish sandwiches,’ but no ‘bird sandwiches’ or ‘mammal sandwiches

Published: Good Men Project (June 9, 2015)

Why don’t we care what kind of fish we eat?

As the title of this article indicates, I have a very simple question:

If we wouldn’t be okay with eating a “mammal sandwich” or a “bird sandwich,” then why do we acquiesce in being fed something simply known as a “fish sandwich”?

My first hypothesis was that, on a cultural level, Americans simply don’t care to distinguish between different types of fish, at least not to the extent that we do higher animals. While we’re likely to encounter many of our fellow mammals in our day-to-day lives—to say nothing of various birds and insects—most of us can go an entire day without seeing (or at least paying attention to) a single fish if we so chose. Inevitably those fish that are commonly kept as household pets are not viewed as tantalizing potential food; the goldfish may outrank his domesticated counterparts in the mammalian and avian worlds (e.g., dogs, cats, parrots), but it’s doubtful most Americans would choose to eat one if other culinary options were readily available. As a rule, however, fish that aren’t specifically protected by our cultural mores are generally lumped in together. read more

A Man and His Dog: The Story of Bixby

Published: Good Men Project (May 14, 2015)

The Good Men Project interviews Mike Minnick, who has been cycling across America with his dog Bixby.

Have you heard about the cyclist who’s been crisscrossing America with his dog in tow?

His name is Mike Minnick, and four years ago he was in a very different place, both literally and figuratively. As he describes it, he was “stuck in a tiresome job in Austin, TX, overweight, a chain smoker and bored with life.”

… Four years ago he was in a very different place, both literally and figuratively. As he describes it, he was ‘stuck in a tiresome job in Austin, TX, overweight, a chain smoker and bored with life.’ read more

Pennsylvania Desperately Needs Rick Santorum Right Now

Published: mic (April 15, 2013)

Here are eight words that I doubt have ever come from the pen of a liberal columnist:

“Where is Rick Santorum when we need him?”

This thought comes to mind as soon as one looks at PA HB683, a new bill introduced in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania that would outlaw whistleblowing on factory farm cruelty. Sponsored by Representative Gary Haluska (D-Cambria) as a companion to a similar measure proposed by Senator Michael Brubaker (R-Lancaster), the potential new law is careful to include every conceivable scenario in which a concerned citizen, journalist, or employee could record and publicize animal abuse on agricultural operations — and then criminalizes such actions, placing them under the same title of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that covers “arson, criminal mischief, and other property destruction.” read more

“Gay Dog” in Tennessee Might be Killed Because Owner Doesn’t Want Him

Published: mic (January 31, 2013)

A dog in Tennessee is going to lose his life today because of suspicions that he is gay.

As explained by Examiner.com, “According to the prior owner, the dog was seen ‘hunched over,’ another male dog, therefore, in this owner’s mind, the dog must be gay.”

One could respond to this by pointing out that dogs “hump” each other as a way of asserting dominance, thus undermining the entire basis of the erstwhile owner’s decision to drop his animal off at a “high kill” animal control center. Of course, homophobes already display a pathetically poor understanding of human biology (e.g., insisting that homosexuality is a choice rather than epigenetic, despite scientific evidence to the contrary). In light of this tendency, it shouldn’t come as much of a shock that their knowledge of canine biology is equally sub-par. read more