Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

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Odigan
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Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Sat Dec 22, 2018 3:25 am

I was recently directed to a blog entry which I feel is applicable and important to many of us here, both with regards to our pursuits in Middle-earth rangering/re-enacting, and related activities many of us routinely engage in.

Having navigated the fringes and occasional depths of a variety of "scenes" over the years, I can say there exists a predictable sequence of events which delineate their rise and fall. Some of us intuitively understand the perils of certain developments within and without these "scenes," (or "fandoms" as they might be), but may lack a coherent means to convey this progression to others. While warnings typically go unheeded regardless, being unable to clearly articulate perceived dangers ensures that they will.

Our society often defines success by the degree of growth shown, and so everyone wants to show growth to demonstrate success. Suggesting that one should strive to limit growth or put a cap on it is generally met with severe criticism and even fury. For example, I regularly express the opinion that further popular mass media (films, TV series, games) of Tolkien's works should not be produced, encouraged, or desired, and this is almost universally met with derision. I can now put labels to this experience; such mass media is being produced by "sociopaths," for consumption by "mops." Neither group truly shares in our interests, and it would be wise for us all to remember that.

I heartily recommend said blog entry, for discussion, or simple amusement.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Iodo » Sat Dec 22, 2018 8:43 am

Interesting, thanks for lhe link :P

It feels a bit like this is starting to happen to steampunk??
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Peter Remling » Sat Dec 22, 2018 1:07 pm

While an interesting article,I feel that Rangering falls into the Geek category of not being big enough to become a subculture.

A easy example of why I feel this way would be to check out birthdays as they come up near the bottom of the main page.
About 1/3 to a half of members have listed their DOB when they set up their accounts. On the days that someone's Birthday shows up, instead of immediately opening a thread to wish them a Happy Birthday, I tap on their name and check their status. If they have looked at the site in 2 months or less and contributed at some point in time I may open a Birthday thread.

While we have over 550 members, less than 20% are active. This indicates that most of the people who sign up originally do it out of a specific Tolkien based interest and not Ranger specific. For example: I'm in college and one of my roommates decides to have a Tolkien based party in a month and I need costuming advice. Another example would be I'm into fan art and want some ideas or need some primitive woodsman/hunting skills or equipment and stumbled on this site.


Now the whole Tolkien community may fall under the subculture as more and more films, costuming and elvish merchandise becomes available. That lure of money will attract more and more vendors of mass produced goods that have no personal attachment to Tolkien.
Still before the subculture starts to crumble, it would have to have a central and cohesive organization and controlling body, which Tolkien enthusiasts do not.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Sat Dec 22, 2018 1:19 pm

Iodo wrote:It feels a bit like this is starting to happen to steampunk??


Oh, I would say it happened to that genre a while ago now, post early-2000s. This is about when a proliferation of Steampunk influenced film, tv, and music cropped up, with the first Makers Faire held in '06. Essentially once any of the "punk" genres loses their "punk" it's easy to see the decline, and people have long been asking where the "punk" is in "Steampunk." When morning talk show hosts no longer need to preface their explanations of new media with "what is Steampunk?" you can be assured of mop rule.

I would agree with the author's opening premise that subcultures in general are dead in the post-2000 era. It certainly aligns with what I've seen and follows exactly with the death of the Internet. That is, the shifting of control of that platform from the hands of its users, to those of corporations ("sociopaths"), the death knell of which was sounded in 1993 (see "Eternal September").

Is there any "subculture" you can now name that isn't also popular culture? Comics? Gaming? Kink? Anime? Fantasy literature...? It seems pretty clear these and most any other "scene" has lost their meaningfulness.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Greg » Sat Dec 22, 2018 4:33 pm

Our niche hobby, as Pete said, may not have anything to fear from growth, but I will say this...if there ever were a time when we were in danger of growth which could escalate things beyond our abilities or cares to deal with, that time is quickly approaching with the announcement of a Ranger-based TV series.

Interesting musings.

I was a reasonably nationally well-known member of the online Nerf gun modification community for the majority of my young life...over ten years. What was an underground community of youth re-engineering toys with dremel, duct tape, and rubber bands is now an animal that I no longer recognize, and have long since distanced myself from.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Iodo » Sat Dec 22, 2018 6:48 pm

Odigan wrote:
Iodo wrote:It feels a bit like this is starting to happen to steampunk??


Oh, I would say it happened to that genre a while ago now, post early-2000s. This is about when a proliferation of Steampunk influenced film, tv, and music cropped up, with the first Makers Faire held in '06. Essentially once any of the "punk" genres loses their "punk" it's easy to see the decline, and people have long been asking where the "punk" is in "Steampunk." When morning talk show hosts no longer need to preface their explanations of new media with "what is Steampunk?" you can be assured of mop rule.

Interesting thoughts, the more I think about it the more I have to say that I agree, thanks for the insight :P
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Ursus » Sat Dec 22, 2018 9:23 pm

Greg wrote:Our niche hobby, as Pete said, may not have anything to fear from growth, but I will say this...if there ever were a time when we were in danger of growth which could escalate things beyond our abilities or cares to deal with, that time is quickly approaching with the announcement of a Ranger-based TV series.


I think this is impart one large reason I prefer to stay very quiet and Ranger-like on my approach and participation in this hobby. The folks who’s interest I attempt to garner into this activity are of a very similar mindset to our more regular participating members.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Udwin » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:19 pm

Excellent find, Odigan. I definitely enjoyed reading and musing. The notion that the subculture died in the early 2000s aligns with an excellent PBS Frontline program 'The Merchants of Cool', and its 20teens followup 'Generation Like'. Both are worth checking out and should be available online.
I wonder if old guard Tolkien readers had a similar fear of mop influx circa 2000 during the runup to the Jackson films' release? I seem to remember TOR.N folks proudly proclaiming themselves as 'Book First'-ers.
I look forward to discussing this cycle indepth and inperson at our next moot!
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Elleth » Sun Dec 23, 2018 2:20 am

It's always a gamble, isn't it? A subculture needs enough new blood to survive the generations, but too much too fast and.... all the magic is gone.

I think one of the saving graces to this little corner is that our emphasis on functional kit weeds out a lot of the more casual cosplay enthusiasts*, which tend I think I to be more rooted in the films. In contrast, the constraints we choose to follow force us away from some of the "New Thing - Light" phenomenon the article discusses. WETA can get away with ginourmous armour and missing ration bags: those of us trying to make it work without the benefit of CGI in post can't. :)

Anyhow... as dissappointed as I've been with the direction most of the mass-market Tolkien..... "adaptations" ... have taken of late, I can't deny it's an attractive entry funnel. I wasn't ready for the Silmarillion at 13 either.

None of us gets here overnight.
Probably none of us *ever* gets to our own best ideal.

==========
* which is not to knock those that enjoy that. I'm not saying their fun is WRONG-fun, only that foam armor and purple haired long-eared elves aren't THIS-fun.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Kortoso » Sun Dec 23, 2018 2:23 am

Seems like an alternate (or negative) perspective of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

Small groups have different politics than large groups, by necessity. I think it has similarities to a tribal group compared to a developed civilization. Key people have invested in some aspects of the smaller group, which they may need to release when the group grows larger.

A group may choose to remain small, and fairly obscure, but this risks the fate of extinction.

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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Kortoso » Sun Dec 23, 2018 2:30 am

Greg wrote:Our niche hobby, as Pete said, may not have anything to fear from growth, but I will say this...if there ever were a time when we were in danger of growth which could escalate things beyond our abilities or cares to deal with, that time is quickly approaching with the announcement of a Ranger-based TV series.

Interesting musings.

I was a reasonably nationally well-known member of the online Nerf gun modification community for the majority of my young life...over ten years. What was an underground community of youth re-engineering toys with dremel, duct tape, and rubber bands is now an animal that I no longer recognize, and have long since distanced myself from.


In light of the coming "Young Aragorn" season of Amazon's LOTR series, it's probably a good idea to define our core tenets very clearly. I have no doubt that the depiction of Strider (and his gear) will be different than that seen in Peter Jackson's epic. As always, it's always best to retreat to the original source material, and make up the missing pieces with an eye firmly fixed on the spirit of the thing.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Sun Dec 23, 2018 6:28 pm

Peter Remling wrote:While an interesting article,I feel that Rangering falls into the Geek category of not being big enough to become a subculture.


While I generally agree, I think your later point concerning the influence of the upcoming TV series is certainly a potential "threat" as it were. While assuredly very few persons will ever actively engage in what we do specifically here, the public perception of what that constitutes (given that the majority will not explore on their own) can easily be derailed by what becomes commonly understood. One only needs to look at how LARPing was painted by Darkon (2016), Furry fandom by MTV and NCIS, or Parkour by The Office, to see that even limited stereotyping by the right/wrong entity becomes the predominate cultural definition of a given interest/past-time/hobby for the bulk of the population. Such popularization often centres on ridicule and shock value, and even those who participate independently of such cannot escape it whenever their interest is raised. In effect, the negative image created drives the core participants from it to avoid association with what they once loved. Just as Greg's example with NERFmodders, there are many instances where this has happened.

Whether we like it or not, there exists certain high-profile Instagrammers who shall remain nameless that - for better or worse - actively define what it is people think we do simply by association, even if what we do is completely different. Just like the "What people think I do" meme...

Kortoso wrote:In light of the coming "Young Aragorn" season of Amazon's LOTR series, it's probably a good idea to define our core tenets very clearly.

Elleth wrote:I think one of the saving graces to this little corner is that our emphasis on functional kit weeds out a lot of the more casual cosplay enthusiasts


The article does specifically mention "costly barriers to entry" as a means by which successful subcultures have persisted. A lot of people are resistant to the idea of being exclusive, or having "standards," because they often feel it isn’t fair, or that everyone should be able to play. Not to journey too far afield here, but I think present culture drives a lot of this thinking, given that limiting participation based on just about anything will be labelled with an "-ism." Allowing anyone in can be great, but it can also be awful; it just really depends on what your objectives are.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Taurinor » Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:24 am

I tend to agree with Pete, Greg, and Elleth about our hobby being niche enough that it is less likely to attract a lot of attention, but I think that if folks are worried about it, there are some concrete steps that could be taken to keep this corner of Tolkien enthusiasm focused largely the way that it is now.

1. Create a subforum at the top of the page containing a mission statement and forum rules. Call it "New Members: Start Here" or the like to make it very obvious. Explain that we are a community more focused on the books than film adaptations and that we are pursuing functional kits, rather than cosplay. We could just migrate the intro to the Wiki over, since I have a feeling that most image searches are going to bring folks to the forums first. Write out a formal list of rules expressly stating a lot of the unwritten ones that have kept this space focused and civil, and outline clear consequences for breaking them. If we want to try to make sure that new folks are reading these things, the account creation question could be changed to something that requires lifting a section from the mission statement. Not foolproof, of course, but potentially helpful. If someone wanders in from the Internets and can't easily understand who we are or what we do, I'd argue that that's a failing on our end, not theirs.

2. More active moderation. Topics that head off-topic need to be split and/or moved to the "Off Topic" forum, with an explanation given that goes back to the rules or mission statement. Repeat offenders will need to be given warnings and/or have accounts suspended or deleted, with the process for that outlined in the rules.

3. Remain friendly and welcoming. Continue greeting new members, wishing Happy Birthdays, and generally being decent human beings. If someone comes and expresses an interest in only cosplay, express appreciation of their enthusiasm but gently point out the mission statement. If they decide that they want to change directions and play with us, awesome! If they decide that this is not the space for them, at least they don't think we're all jerks. If they try to only discuss cosplay or drag conversations off-topic, see "2. More active moderation" for how to handle that.

I personally don't think that we need to do something like create standards for participation on the forum - we just need to make sure everyone is playing the same game by clearly defining what it is we are playing (see "1. Create a subforum at the top of the page containing a mission statement and forum rules"). The metaphor that my wife and I have used when discussing this is a sports one. Here on this forum, we are playing soccer. It could be argued that some of us are playing with the aim of one day competing in the World Cup, and some of us are perfectly content playing pick-up games at the local park*, but we are all using roughly the same rules and we all started out playing pee-wee herd-ball. The conflict is when some folks show up and want to play American football. Superficially, there are some similarities - team sports played on a similar pitch that involve some amount of kicking and throwing a ball. They aren't the same game, though, and they don't follow the same rules. There's nothing wrong with football, of course, if that's what you want to play! But it's not polite to show up to a pitch where folks are playing soccer, tackle someone, pick up the ball and start running to try for a touchdown.

Cosplayers and the like are playing football in that analogy, but it's also not impossible for someone to like both soccer and American football, or for someone to learn how to play football first but then decide that what they really like is soccer (once they find out about it). It's entirely possible that someone will find the forum because they are interested in cosplay, but they'll look at what we do and say "Wait, THAT's what I really want to do!" A few of our active members come from that background. I started out in the cosplay/Ren faire world, and Manv moves through those spaces (and if the suspicions of this topic are correct, he's probably one of the most influential members of the forum with regards to the larger internet ecosystem).

Speaking of the larger internet ecosystem and influencers/Instagrammers/the public perception of our hobby, I would argue that we have a bit of a choice to make. As participants in this very particular corner of the larger Tolkien fandom, we can either offer a competing narrative to the un-named Instagrammers by putting what we do out there ourselves, on our own terms (which is, I believe, what Manv is trying to accomplish with the Middle-earth Rangers instagram), which will bring more attention to our hobby and likely create growth (and some conflict), or we can try to stay small and focused but likely externally (and perhaps negatively) defined, and folks might show up anyway.

__________________________________________

*This is not to say that no one can ever have standards ever. If folks organizing a league want to have try-outs, fine! If folks organizing events want to make participation requirements for kit, that's their prerogative, and where groups like MERS come in to play. But the purpose of this digital space (as I understand it) is primarily for discussion, and as long as topics fit within the mission statement, I don't feel like someone should have to have a totally accurate, hand-sewn kit before they can start talking/asking questions/sharing insights. As Elleth said, "None of us gets here overnight. Probably none of us *ever* gets to our own best ideal."
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Elleth » Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:29 pm

Standards-wise, I'm quite satisfied with the existing inner bailey / outer bailey of MERS And MERF. (and I say that not feeling quite ready for MERS!) Anyhow, one place for casual "Middle-earthy play in the forest," and another for stitch-counting perfectionism is I think good accommodation for most folks in our silly hobby.

That said, in a perfect world I'd love to see our community evolve a tier that could match the "American Mountain Men" - a gentleman I once knew who came up in their ranks in the buckskinner movement of the 1970's told me about their standards:

1. Must have a full set of hand-cut and -sewn clothing and handmade accoutrements. These must be researched for authenticity of the 1800-40 period and be of a type which would have been seen on men in, or moving to, the Rocky Mountains. Rifles, saddles, traps, blankets, and other accoutrements that would normally have required the work of a specialized craftsman need not be handmade, but must be as authentic as can be purchased today.

2. Must have spent at least two days and one night in a primitive camp during each season of the year.

3. Must have spent an accumulative time of two or more weeks in the wilderness under primitive conditions in the company of no more than one other member. Each stay must be at least three full days and two full nights.

4. Must have spent at least one full week in a primitive encampment in the company of other members at the territorial AMM Rendezvous (Eastern or Western) and/or the National (Rocky Mountain) AMM Rendezvous.

5. Must be able to demonstrate the skills needed for primitive survival in the wilderness of his area and must be willing to teach said skills to other members when requested by a Party Booshway or Director of this Association.

6. Must be able to demonstrate trapping ability using steel traps, snares, and traps made from natural materials found in the area. As many states do not allow the use of some, or any, of these traps, the actual taking of game is not required, although it is suggested where possible and legal.

7. Must be able to demonstrate ability to track man or animal under natural wilderness conditions.

8. Must be able to demonstrate the ability to properly pack a horse, canoe (or bullboat), or a man for distance travel under possible adverse conditions.

9. Must be able to properly field dress (clean and skin) a game animal under primitive conditions.

10. Must be able to start a fire in wet, as well as dry, weather using flint and steel or fire drill using tinder and wood found under natural conditions.

11. Must be able to show ability to tan or Indian-dress hides.

12. Must have spent at least five days traveling on foot, snowshoe, canoe, and/or horseback.
a. One method or a combination may be used.
b. Bullboat may be used in place of canoe.
c. You are expected to gain as much distance as possible.
d.This trip must be under primitive conditions, taking nothing that would not have been available to the mountain man between 1800-1840. Rifle, hunting bag, powder horn, and knife must be along.

13. Must be able to cook a meal of meat using only the meat, fire, a knife, and materials found in nature.

14. Must be able to converse using Plains Indians hand talk. The 200 words on page 64 of Tompkin’s book “Indian Sign Language”, will be used as a basis for conversation. To complete this requirement, you must demonstrate your ability to read the signs for 50 words, as well as to give the signs for 50 words.

15. Must have hunted for and killed at least one game or fur animal with a muzzleloading firearm or primitive bow and must have used the skin and/or meat for food, clothing and/or accoutrements. The hunt must be made from a strictly primitive camp, the hunt accomplished under primitive conditions within the limits of local game laws.

16. Must have at least three full years of membership in the AMM.

17. Must be able to properly skin an animal and prepare the skin for market.

18. Must have served as a Booshway for at least two activities of the AMM.

19. Must spend three days and two nights totally alone under primitive conditions and aux aliments du pays [“off the nourishment of the land”].

20. Must have made a study of the life style of the mountain man, frontiersman, or American Indian before 1840 and must submit a report of this study to the association Capitaine.

-http://americanmountainmen.org/membership/requirements/


:jawdrop:

Not a perfect 1:1 for our purposes, but pretty darn close in a lot of respects!
I also think it's a bit easier to maintain a cultural consistency if there's a consensus pull to a difficult goal: it keeps one from getting too lazy and distracted. :)

It goes against my own personal nature I admit: I've finally made peace with the reality I'm more homesteader / crafter than adventurer, at least in this season of my life. But I think if I had a preference for the general direction our hobby moved, it'd be this one. It's also frankly harder, so... "barrier to entry" and all that.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Greg » Mon Dec 24, 2018 1:56 pm

Interesting thoughts. Wow, what a list, Elleth! Things to aspire to!

In all of this talk, I think the thing I'm most seeing (and agreeing with) is that we aren't necessarily of a mind to change our community (and why would we, when we can have a conversation like this and yet remain this level of civil?), but there is perhaps a desire to have some Standards of Citizenship, rather than strict standards of participation, to help encourage newcomers to understand what we're about and make clear what will not fly here.

I'll write something up today and fire it off to Jack and see what he thinks.
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