Saturday, November 22, 2014

What I Was Watching The Past Week

Desert Bus 8 has ended after 158 hours. They're still working out the exact amount to hang on the toteboard; they put in some stand-in donations to reflect people who'd bought something in an auction and whose money wasn't actually going to come in until sometime after the run, and now that the run is over, those stand-in donations are back out of the system, and meanwhile, some scattered postgame donations have been trickling in. But the final number is going to be somewhere north of $630,000. They figure $637,000 is where it'll end up.

What they do know, however, is that at one point in the last day, the winner of an auction for a stained-glass figure of the Desert Bus 8 logo immediately donated it back to be part of another lot, which worked basically as a raffle that you could enter by donating a target amount or exact multiple thereof (in this case $13.37). And then this happened.

And then that kept happening for like 20 minutes straight.

The night prior, there were other social functions going on at the venue in Victoria, BC's Fort Tectoria, and the group decided, hey, why not conga-line right into the other parties? As you do. It just so happened that in that other group of people was the British Columbia Minister of Technology, Andrew Wilkinson, as well as a member of the legislative assembly, Greg Kyllo (analog, state legislator in the US). They decided to crash Desert Bus right back. It probably wasn't the best decision to follow a tradition of showing newcomers the video 'Going To The Store'- a clip of a naked, genital-free inflatable doll being marionetted around town- as the chat room was insisting upon (and it didn't get a reaction), but the two were good enough sports about it that Kyllo, who runs a rental houseboat fleet, decided he would contribute a week vacation on one of said houseboats as an auction lot.

As the participants of Desert Bus will tell you themselves, that last clip stands as the all-time strangest moment in the history of the telethon. They didn't even really think Kyllo was serious until he started going into detail about the houseboat, which ended up going for $5,000 (which got Kyllo and Wilkinson to high-five each other, so you know they were happy with it). The thing is, it's not normally a thing that would seem weird. In most places, a houseboat vacation being auctioned off wouldn't raise any real eyebrows, at least, none that didn't want a houseboat vacation. It would just appear to be one more item up for bids along with the furniture and the vases and the grandfather clocks.

Desert Bus, though, deals in geek-culture items. Five hours after the houseboat auction, they put up a replica sword from the anime series Kill la Kill that was in the shape of half a pair of scissors. THAT was what the audience was expecting to fight each other over that night more than anything else (and it went to the representative from Twitch that happened to be in the room), and that came on the heels of a new record for largest-ever bid, $10,001 on rare Borderlands merchandise along with a visit to Dallas to meet creative director Mikey Neumann. Both, you'll note, went for more than the houseboat vacation.  Here's what the scissor sword auction looked like.

In the setting of Desert Bus, while it may be weird to see someone put on the costume head of a giant anglerfish, or perform Caramelldansen multiple times in a row, or espouse on the crafting potential of human entrails, it is quite expected that you will see things along those lines. And all of those things happened in Desert Bus 8. It is normal to be bizarre, and the unexpected part is simply what exact brand of insanity you will see at any given moment.

When you drop normal folks, in suits, from the government, into such a situation, now there's a fair amount of trouble trying to process it. Wait a minute. This isn't weird. This is a perfectly normal thing being done by perfectly normal people that also happen to be from the government. The closest thing to 'normal' is a guy who people feel comfortable asking to recite the periodic table, in order, with no misses allowed (but nonconsecutives allowed). And then watching him rack up 36 before bowing out. And then asking him to read 'Go The Fuck To Sleep' (but with the all-expletive-replacing word 'bus' substituted).

Weird is a relative thing. In the world of government, it is not expected to have a conga line from next door barge into your social function, and it is not expected to watch weird and slightly risque videos from the Internet. In the land of the weird, the Internet geek-culture telethon, it is similarly unexpected to see politicians acting like the elected officials they are. In the land of the weird, he who is normal stands out most of all.

But through that, despite the wide gulf in personal subcultures involved, they did all see eye-to-eye on the important thing: the kids in the children's hospitals- and domestic violence shelters, although that never came up during the meeting- that were counting on all of them to do their bit, whatever bit that happened to be. And they absolutely did.

Now if we can just get that kind of thing going a bit more often on the American side of the border.

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