c.e. taillefer

August 16, 2016

Good Lord turned his back on me: Preacher, Season 1

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It’s been 2 weeks since the season finale of Preacher aired, so it’s high time to talk about Preacher and its theology.  If you haven’t seen the first season of Preacher, on AMC, stop before you click the cut, go find it, watch it and then come back.  I’ll wait.  Go on.

Tulip - Red Jacket

Spoilers for all episodes, including the season finale, behind the jump:

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July 8, 2016

Police Brutality and You: A Primer for Brantford Citizens

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Bit of a rough post today, but one that I hope will be helpful.  This is gathered together from the tips at this fantastic post on Ravishly, “What you can do right now about Police Brutality” (and my hat is off to Lora for sharing the Ravishly post today.)

  • Educate yourself on your city’s police conduct review process.

The City’s page for Complaints and Concerns about the Brantford Police Service states that “The Brantford Police Service views the complaint process as a means of maintaining public accountability, correcting police misconduct, and improving police services to the community.”  Complaints must be made within six months of the incident, so there is a time limit.  You can choose to speak with someone in person (the informal complaint process) at the BPS office, on 344 Elgin St., Brantford, ON, or

file a complaint online through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director – this is considered the formal complaint process, although there are alternative modes of resolution offered, including mediation.  The IPRD is a civilian lawyer who formerly served on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and Executive Director of Legal Aid Manitoba.    The website includes an online form, accessible PDFs of both the form, and the pamphlet on how to make a complaint.  However, it is noted on the investigations page: “If, during the course of the investigation, the Director discovers evidence that an officer may have committed a crime, the matter will be referred to the police for further investigation.”  Kind of a problem, no?

In Ontario, there are also the Special Investigations Unit, and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission that offer independent, civilian investigative bodies for police conduct.  The entire text of the BPS complaints by-law is online, but highlights the gaps wherein all decisions tend to be made first by the Police Board, including the decision to bring a complaint to the OCPC.  The Brantford Police are represented by the Brantford Police Association in contract negotiations. (Unfortunately, the link wasn’t working today, so I can’t confirm the information found there on their roles in conduct review processes.)

There are some definite gaps and ambiguities in this process that should be clarified and detailed, with civilian input and oversight.

  • Pressure your mayor and city council to address gaps in this process.

The Brantford Police Services Board appears to meet monthly outside of the summer season, and you can find details, including times and locations on the City Calendar.  Unfortunately for those working day jobs, they are all in the afternoons on weekdays.  Worse, the link to Agendas and Minutes from previous meetings is dead, which I’ve emailed them to correct, and you can find the archived minutes searching the BPS website. City Council meets on a biweekly basis and is another place to bring up issues of police oversight in the city.  The aforementioned site includes contact information for the City Council clerk if you wish to submit agenda items. There’s also an  RSS Feed Link that lets you subscribe to any of the public committee meetings.

The Brantford City Mayor is Chris Friel, and you can find out who your ward councillors are on the City’s website. This map will show you what ward you live in, if you’re not sure. Oluo states in the Ravishly essay, “Don’t just ask once. Ask and follow up regularly.”  Ask what you can do to contribute to the processes that shape community services, outreach and policing.

  • Vote for reform-minded city government.

“Make police reform a requirement for your vote.”  Elections are held on a four-year cycle in our city.  The last city elections were in 2014.  This gives us two years to make this issue important to people running for elected offices.  Judges are not elected at the municipal level, and the next provincial election is not until 2018, so in the meantime, we should probably focus on the government we have and putting pressure on them to adapt.

  • Write to your representatives.

Our MP for Brantford is Phil McColeman (CON).  You can write him at:

Email: phil.mccoleman@parl.gc.ca

Constituency Office
Summer Hours – July & August -Monday-Thursday 8:30am-4:00pm Friday 8:30am-1:00pm
108 St. George Street, Suite #3
Brantford, ON  N3R 1V6
t: 519-754-4300
f: 519-751-8177
Ottawa Office
The Valour Building, Rm 850

Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6
t: 613-992-3118
f: 613-992-6382

Our MPP is Dave Levac, and you can contact him at:

Queen’s Park
Room 180, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
Tel 416-325-6261
Fax 416-325-6358
Constituency
Suite 101
96 Nelson Street
Brantford, Ontario N3T 2N1
Tel  519-759-0361
Fax  519-759-6439
dlevac.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

  • Know your right to record police encounters.

Despite filming police encounters being entirely legal (and brutality being captured on film doesn’t appear to affect sentencing of cops who murder), it may be that an officer will try to confiscate your recording device.  There are a number of apps available now that allow users to film discreetly, or uploads to the cloud as it records, preventing someone from erasing the data.  Copblock has a huge list of these kinds of apps; while some are US-related specifically, like PocketJustice, many are region-free.

  • Support legal defense funds and activism groups.

I’ve mentioned this on Facebook, because #BLMTO not wanting to sell their shirts to allies has been kind of a “thing”, but don’t ask what you think they want you to do – ask them what they need. As allies, it’s important our desire to do good (and be seen doing it) doesn’t do more harm than anything else.  The community knows what it needs – they even had a list of demands ready to present at Pride.  Follow them on Twitter, or Facebook and see what kinds of requests for aid they’re making – and do that!

There’s also Disarm Toronto Police, and “Affected Families of Police Homicide” (no known website, but affiliated with #BLMTO) for semi-local activist movements.  Many students at Laurier Brantford’s campus are motivated, passionate people with a desire for social justice and change, and there are always groups needing support there during the school year.  First Nations peoples are particularly vulnerable to police abuses, as the #MMIW movement has revealed the complicity of federal, provincial and municipal forces in the death and assault of aboriginal men and women. Both Turtle Island News and the Two-Row Times are good places to keep your eyes and ears peeled for news of activist groups, or people in need of legal defense funds.

This post barely scratches the surface of what we, as allies, can do.  But it’s a start – and I hope with some of the research legwork done laid out in one spot, people will be encouraged to get out, agitate for reform and ask for strong statements from our city leaders and police services that condemn racist police actions, and express their committment to ending police brutality and abuses. Things have to change. We can’t let our brothers and sisters live like this any longer. They’ve made their demands clear.  Will we stand with them?

March 18, 2016

Just Star-Do It: a Stardew Valley post

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Unlike most who played Stardew Valley right from launch day, I hadn’t been following it’s progression over the past four years at all.  It came up in my Steam queue as a suggested title, and I bought it on a whim.  Looks cute, has farming, supports indie development? Sure, why not.

200 hours later:

what is sleep? what is food?

There’s a few reasons why SDV sucked me, and so many others (it’s currently 3rd on the Steam top seller list) in.  One major one for me is I don’t know when to quit sometimes and SDV capitalizes on that – not in a malicious way, but the mechanics of saving are tied directly to going to bed at the end of the day.  You fall into your little pixel bed at the end of a long day, get a progress update on your farm’s productivity, and the game saves.  Before logging out, however, the cheery 6AM music entices you to just check your mail.  Maybe see if that chicken hatched? All of the sudden it’s 10PM in-game, and another hour of your life is gone.

The simple tasks – farming, brewing, raising livestock, mining for ore and treasures, fishing – are compelling enough to keep players on their own.  But it wasn’t until I started investing in the community that the game really got its hooks into my tender heart.

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March 9, 2016

Season of the Switch

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I promise this post is not actually about Game of Thrones. But I can’t lie, and tell you the season 6 promo trailer wasn’t the final straw for this post.  In the season 6 promo, we’re treated to the usual array of quick cut scenes, including one of two unidentifiable women kissing.  One of them looks a lot like Sansa (some on Westeros dot org speculating one of the women is Asha/Yara); of course shortly after this realization, I remembered all the awful brothel scenes from earlier seasons, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume it’s something from there.  Vomiting forever if both those speculations are correct at the same time.  The main thrust is, for a brief moment, I was excited. Sansa! Alive! Maybe her happily ever after with Margery isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.  But look at tv this year.  It’s a trick.

(The rest of the post contains spoilers for all 3 seasons of the 100, and season 1 of the Shannara Chronicles)

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November 22, 2015

Officially For Real – The BGNLab is Launched!

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Laurier Brantford professor Scott Nicholson wants to help his students change the world — one game at a time.

Nicholson is leading the university’s innovative Game Design and Development program, unique to the province, which debuted this year at the campus.

Friday marked the official opening of new Brantford Games Network Lab, known as the BGNlab, located on the main floor of the university’s Grand River Hall on Colborne Street.

The former credit union building has been transformed into a gamers’ paradise.

Students wearing white lab coats welcomed dozens of guests into the lab outfitted with computers, white boards, screens, game tables and a huge collection of board games. It’s here that students will work on their gaming projects.

A lounge area, equipped with plug-and-play screens, will be used by students to test games. In an area called the Zone, students will mostly have fun with various gaming consoles and high-end PCs.

The goal of the lab, said Nicholson, is to spark engagement and collaboration between Laurier students, community organizations and local game enthusiasts to develop “made-in-Brantford” solutions to improve lives through games and play.

Read the whole article at the Expositor here.

As you can surmise, the past four months has been something of a blur with starting a new program, full-time work, raising a puppy (yes, he’s still here. More on that later!), house work and frivolous stuff like sleeping and eating.  It also occurred to me at the Friday launch event that as a part-time student, I’ll be part of four or five different cohorts of students, which is a shame because I really like the ones I’m with now.  I know I’m in the right place though, because half of my insomnia lately has been on account of having Too Many Ideas, which is a good problem for a creative type person to have.  It was the same when I was starting Paucity, and we all know how well that’s been going.  That’s not even sarcasm, it’s been going pretty well!

I also want to re-iterate again what a friendly program GDD is to mature students; because it’s not solely about programming, or AAA games, I genuinely feel anyone, of any age, with an interest in games and social change, would do very well here.  Hint, hint, pretty much all of my twitter friends.

August 22, 2015

Review: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season

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This one may have broke me.

I don’t write very many book reviews, for someone who reads so much.  My kindle is littered with dozens of samples, and even more samples-that-became-purchases in the last year alone.  In the past twelve months, I estimate I read about 20 new books, and probably re-read a dozen more.  And yet my last book reviewed was (it’s embarrassing how long it took me to search this out): World of Shell and Bone, in 2013. 

I’ve read some really great books in the past year, like Uprooted by Naomi Novik, of Temeraire fame. Seraphina and its sequel by Rachel Hartman.  Some really clever fairy tale retellings by T.K. Kingfisher.  I’ve read some books I wasn’t enthralled by, despite expecting to love it, like Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.  And I’ve read some truly mediocre stuff, like Virgina Boecker’s The Witch Hunter. I didn’t review any of them beyond perhaps a star rating, primarily because I was prompted to by Mother Amazon at the end of reading.

When I reviewed WOSAB in 2013, I did it because I was possessed with the need to dissect the failings of a post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novel – probably borne out of a desire to avoid making any of those same mistakes in my own writing.  Or to warn people that a pretty cover can hide a multitude of sins.  I want to make explicit that is not the case here. The Fifth Season was a good read, with solid characters and world-building. Given my lukewarm reactions to both the Inheritance trilogy and the Dreamblood duology, I was far more invested in this book.

No explicit spoilers past the cut, but some minor ones.

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May 11, 2015

The North Remembers – Sansa’s Arc

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Warning: Here be spoilers (but no dragons) for books and seasons 1 thru 5.

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April 30, 2015

10 Years

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Stood a Chance – Taking Back Sunday

It takes so long
You’re never one for looking back
A body like a punching bag
You never even stood a chance

Seek Advice Elsewhere – Off With Their Heads

You hit the bottom, you think that’s all
But the bottom opens up and you continue to fall
And everywhere you turn to yell for help it goes unheard

Devil in Stitches – Bad Religion

She was living on the edge of a knife.
His head was filled with restless ghosts.
It’s so easy to love a bringer of destruction.
She said, “Darling, I love you madly.”

Dipshit – Rufio

Use your mind you dipshit
I’m wondering why not just let me live on my own?
On my own…

U and Ur Hand – Pink

I’m not here for your entertainment
You don’t really want to mess with me tonight
Just stop and take a second
I was fine before you walked into my life

I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore – the Menzingers

I push my emotions off a bridge,
I’ve been taking them hostage with a shotgun
Now I’m somewhere treading water,
Somewhere lost inside the the man that I’m not

Blah Blah Blah – Ke$sha

So cut to the chase kid
‘Cause I know you don’t care what my middle name is
I’m gonna be naked
And you’re wasted

Somebody that I used to Know – Gotye

But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

Flowers in the Window – Travis

wow look at us now
flowers in the window
it’s such a lovely day and i’m glad you feel the same

Demons – Lawrence Arms

And the dying ain’t gonna stop
just because you walk away.
And you can cry for everything that you’ve lost
but you ain’t never gonna bring back these days

Stranger than Fiction – Bad Religion

life is the crummiest book I ever read,
there isn’t a hook, just a lot of cheap shots,
pictures to shock and characters an amateur would never dream up

Under Pressure – Queen

Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush

rest your head
you worry too much
it’s going to be alright
when times get rough
you can fall back on us
don’t give up
please don’t give up

February 7, 2015

Owning a Dog – Step 1: Open Wallet, Burn Money

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Every dog is different and nowhere have I seen this more than in trying to keep the puppy we’re fostering (NSD Edge) happy and engaged. While it’s true that training a service dog means he spends very little time home alone during the work day, in order for me to accomplish … well, anything, he needs to be relatively quiet and occupied.

Hello Kitty died on the way back to her home planet.

Hello Kitty died on the way back to her home planet.

Labs love chewing.  Fortunately, there are a ton of items out there made to keep dogs who love to chew occupied!  Unfortunately, whether they will work for your puppy seems to vary wildly according to the dog.

20141201_135325

Rest in pieces, Kong Genius, we hardly knew ye.

Through a great deal of trial and error, I’ve gradually found a small niche of toys that seem to be a good combination of durable and interesting enough to keep Edge’s attention for longer than .5 seconds. (Note: I’d love to have the amazon links in this post go to a shelter’s affiliate program – if you know of one, please send me a note, or leave a comment!)

1. Jolly Pets Teaser Ball

I was skeptical of the hard plastic, but this ball has withstood daily play for over a month now.  The holes are big enough that his snout can’t get stuck, but too small for him to get a good grip on the interior ball and puncture it.  This has been great for tossing around in the snow for exercise! (I’ve heard pretty good things about their original toy too, but haven’t tried it myself.

2. Bionic Stuffer

Since Edge is being trained as a future service dog, we’re limited to the types of toys we can use with him.  Anything resembling potential distractions (balls, frisbees, sticks) are out.  Bionic balls have been highly recommended by a lot of sides, but we’ve gotten a lot of use out of this one.  You can use kibble or small treats in the toy, or cram a piece of jerky or similar treat in the slot end, which can take some time to wiggle out.  After nearly six months, Edge has finally managed to chew one end off but the integrity of the toy overall remains durable enough for some supervised playtime and treat dispensing.

3. Kong Classic

Naturally!  We used a smaller puppy grade one till he outgrew it, and now use a regular red classic kong.  It’s a great way to keep him busy but the prep time and washing can be kind of a pain.  I started freezing wet dog food/canned pumpkin mixed with kibble to help with his teething, and it takes him much longer (and is less messy) than not freezing it, but if I forget to put everything together in the morning before work, it’s too wide open to last long with just dry kibble in it.  I have found some success with pushing bully sticks through the tiny hole, and breaking them off so they end just before the big opening, so he has to spend some time working it out.  There’s a million sites out there for Kong stuffing ideas and training tricks.  And neither the puppy kong nor this one have suffered any serious damage against his powerful jaws, so they are a great value.

4. Kong Extreme Goodie Bone

I bought this one recently after remembering how taken Edge was with my sister’s dog’s bone.  Unfortunately, one of the knobs was not long for this world – but Kong’s reputation isn’t just from the indestructible nature of most of their toys, but also because of how they come apart when they do get chewed up.  The end came apart in two or three big chunks that were easily taken away, and the rest of the toy is intact.  Since most of his toys are meant to keep him busy at my feet while I work, it’s easy to stuff this with a little wet dog food or soft treat, and supervise his playtime. I wouldn’t recommend this for crate playtime, however.

5. Kyjen Bottle Buddies

This is a weird one.  The first one we got when Edge was a baby and it lasted forever.  You could replace the water bottles inside when they became too crushed, it had a squeaker cap you could move to the new bottle and the velcro was very sturdy when closed.

2014-07-28 15.58.17

As you can see, they were of a size, once.

In fact, the only reason Pengu didn’t make it was because I foolishly put a treat he valued more than the toy into the bottle inside.

But the second bottle buddy I bought was destroyed within 48 hours, and had no squeaker cap, and crappy velcro. Caveat emptor, is what I’m saying.  Get this one in store rather than online.

6. Bumi

Awesome toy for fetch and tug.  Not really a chew toy, but it definitely holds up being carried, tossed, and yanked on. I’d be willing to try other things by this designer – they have some treat dispensing toys that look like they have potential.

7. Crinkit, King of Kings

Like everything on this list, Crinkits will vary in their indestructibility.  Our first one died prematurely when an Irish Water Spaniel did the impossible (so I thought) and bit a chunk out of one end.  It took a few months after that, but eventually Edge was able to take more pieces off.  Like the kong, it comes apart in big, easy to spot chunks, so there was little danger of him swallowing any.  I bought a second one immediately.  It feels neat (kind of squishy, which I didn’t expect for its durability), has a nice vanilla smell, has a space for a water bottle like the bottle buddy, floats. It does everything!  It’s great for fetch or tug, but holds up awesome to just hunkering down and gnawing on it.  This is just an awesome toy for the money you spend.

There are a few other we use around the house for various purposes (Dog Tornado, Tricky Treat Ball and Tug-A-Jug to keep him from scarfing his meals, for example, or Himalayan chews and elk antlers), with varying success. Soft toys are mostly a wash – every so often I’ll get him one at the dollar store, let him tear it’s belly open and toss it without too much guilt.

Another way I’ve found to mitigate the cost while finding durable brands or toys is a Bark Box subscription. For a set monthly price, you get a box of goodies delivered right to your home, and the contents typically exceed the subscription fee from anywhere between 5-20 bucks.  Their customer service is also spectacular – when a rawhide treat was one of the items in the box, and I emailed explaining I couldn’t give my dog rawhide, they sent me a $10 dollar gift card the same day to purchase something Edge could eat, and asked me to donate the rawhide to a shelter or other dog. Their items are all high quality treats and toys (even if some of them don’t last, or they’re not Edge’s favourite).  They also have an online shop where you can purchase items from the boxes, sorted by themes. (For ex: you can see a lot of my faves here, though only the football was one I got from a Barkbox.  Still, they know their audience!) Plus, just straight up adorable items that I wouldn’t have thought to buy come in from time to time, like Edge’s super snazzy ugly christmas sweater:

20141224_141159

Handsome nerd

All this to say, if you want tips on how to keep a puppy from completely destroying your life while interacting with it personally as little as possible, I’m your gal.

(I’m only mostly kidding on the last part.)(Really!)

October 30, 2014

#GameOverGate

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Gamergate* is dead.  Indeed, it’s been dead in the water since it began.  I’m not going to cover the genesis, or the long arc of harassment and continued misunderstandings about what words like “ethics“, “games” or “journalism” mean. That, as you can see, has already been extensively covered.

But like a rapidly transmitted virus – say, the flu – the reach of Gamergate went far beyond the borders of the nation of ManCavelandia to find coverage in the mainstream media from the likes of NPR, PBS or the New York Post.  In no particular order, the death of Gamergate:

1) Actually…

No one actually buys the ethics in games journalism defence.  It was a slapdash bandaid applied to a bitter ex’s angry blog rant about a claim of collusion that is provably false. More than a few minutes spent in any of the forums for pro-GG posters show that a) they’re primarily concerned with punishing women who critique the game industry status quo and b) they have no fucking idea what ethics in journalism actually means, since they feel like games coverage shouldn’t be critical or negative of a product when that company also advertises with you.  No, really.

gamergate-memes-actuallyethics-04

The smokescreen of ethics probably makes the next point so infuriating.

2) Mainstream media coverage:

In a setting where “fair and balanced” coverage means giving both sides of the story equal play, even if one side is completely ridiculous (looking at you, climate change “debates”), the MSM has been unequivocally critical of Gamergate. New York Times coverage focuses on GG as a movement devoted to silencing feminist critics of games, Forbes ran an article criticizing Intel’s decision in pulling advertising based on the campaign, and big name stations like CNN and the BBC covered the Utah State massacre threats because, well, obviously.

In fact, the only thing GG appears to have been remotely successful at with regards to mainstream media is getting Anita Sarkeesian interviewed on everything, including the Colbert report:

(In a cute piece of irony Alanis would love, most GGers seem to believe this is a coop for the movement because Stephen Colbert argues for boobies in video games.)

3)  Everyone knows it’s about hating women.

Chris Kluwe took basically an enormous verbal dump on Gamergate hydra-like head, and nothing happened. (He made a few people cry, maybe.) Nerd idols like Joss Whedon, Wil Wheaton and Greg Rucka have all spoken against the toxic nature of the movement.  And yet, it’s Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu – all relative small potatoes, until they got national attention for being targets, anyway – were the ones threatened.  Those threats were widely reported on, which led to a number of reporters looking into men who have criticized GG, and why they weren’t threatened.  Considering this is the media that was hesitant to talk about the Isla Vista shooter’s misogyny, don’t you think that’s a little telling?

4) Games are changing.

Anita covers it a bit in her talk, but the truth is that interdisciplinary programs are gaining ground in universities and colleges, and many media labs and incubators have computer scientists who are artists as well, visual artists who can code, writers who can market.  This isn’t just meant to double-dip and save money, but rather reflect the flexibility and diversity of the world in the people who make games, so that games can grow beyond the linear narrative structures and kill-to-win models that dominate a lot of major game studios’ portfolios.  Sandbox games like Animal Crossing, Tomodachi Life, the Sims, and Fantasy Life are immensely popular, entertaining and fun.  You can’t beat them them.  The only way to win is the satisfaction of enjoying the game while playing it.

Same.

Olaf gets it.

What’s more, you get games like Fold it, where the satisfaction and enjoyment from the game can also be derived from the sense of purpose that succeeding has applicable, real-life benefits.  Check out the latest puzzle, for example, where players need to find a way to bypass a cap on the ebola virus that prevents a cure from binding before the virus can bind to a human host. Terrified of ebola? Be the actual change here.

Gamification has gotten a bad rap because it’s used so poorly in most cases. rewards based systems only work so long as the reward is high enough value for you to press through doing your homework, or chores, or job.  But gamification done well broadens the scope and arena of gaming to be pretty much limitless, which is terrifying for Gamergate.  How can it be a special club if everyone enjoys it?

*not to be confused with gamergates, or reproductively viable worker ants.