Dogpatch Press

Fluff Pieces Every Week

Category: history

Meet Unid, the only known furry from Sri Lanka.

by Patch O'Furr

There’s an island off the southern tip of India, with a small furry animal on it, looking out for who else may share the same fandom. Through the internet, other creatures reach across the ocean and an international fandom works its magic. They may not all speak the same language, but they can share the art and everything else that furry fans call theirs.

Previous stories here have found furries in places like Iran. Today, meet a furry from Sri Lanka. A species so rare, there may only be one. The story tip about Unid came from Zinger, who wanted to share a friend’s wish to singlehandedly bring the fandom to his country. In return, we can learn what it’s like to live there.

Furries contain multitudes. If a fandom is a Venn diagram of overlapping interests, it looks plaid. So let’s find out more of what Unid is into. Are there Sri Lankan nerds? If a con happened there, what would everyone eat, hear or see? How about a heavy metal show?

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Q&A with Christopher Polt PhD., who teaches a Talking Animals course at Boston College (Part 2)

by Patch O'Furr

We’re back after Part 1 of the Q&A with Christopher Polt, PhD., from Boston College. His Twitter is full of art and animation history that welcomes furry fans.

Rate My Professor loves him.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1756-0101-1126

She talks about chasing other animals through the woods, how she used to nap on her humans’ laps and sleep in their bed, and how she barked a lot but never scared anyone. So after we read a range of things like that, we go to the pet cemetery and read modern grave markers, and we compare how people grieve for animals differently and what they choose to celebrate and memorialize about them. My favorite is this one for a cat named Useless:

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Q&A with Christopher Polt PhD., who teaches a Talking Animals course at Boston College (Part 1)

by Patch O'Furr

It wasn’t long ago that Furry Twitter found Christopher Polt, PhD. and his threads full of art and animation history that whole-heartedly welcome furries.

His content isn’t just catering to fandom — it goes deep into history in a fun and engaging way. But the parts with furry interest reminded me of another account profiled here before, Ancient Furries. I asked him if he wanted a brief “Great Accounts To Follow” article, and it led to a much more involved Q&A. It’s special to get such effort from a professor who handles lots of students and curriculum! Here’s Part 1, with Part 2 posting tomorrow.

(Dogpatch Press): I see you’re a Classicist and Assistant Professor at Boston College. That looks like a super active place (with beautiful architecture!) Can you talk about what it’s like to work there and what the job involves?

(Christopher Polt:) If you like Collegiate Gothic, we’ve got you covered! It’s a nice place to work — supportive colleagues, friendly and bright students, freedom to teach mostly what and how I want. Each semester I teach two or three courses, which are a mix of intro/intermediate ancient Greek or Latin, advanced seminars on Latin literature (esp. Roman poetry), and courses on ancient culture that don’t require knowing ancient languages (some examples: Roman spectacles; art and resistance under the early Empire; and “Beast Literature,” which is about talking animals in ancient and modern literature and film).

I also spend a lot of time on research and writing. My first book, which is coming out from Cambridge soon, is about how Romans in the 1st century BCE used theatrical comedy to think and talk about their everyday lives and relationships.

I’ll bet Covid has really affected everyone at colleges everywhere, what’s your story for that? You mentioned starting to tweet about Disney history a few months ago, is that using social media to maintain energy with your work that got disrupted by the pandemic?

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A 1990’s fax to troll Confurence shows how long there’s been culture war with furry fandom

by Patch O'Furr

Hairy Horny Freedom

Media was different in the 1980’s. There was a TV channel just for music videos. Furry fans got their fix from Saturday morning cartoons or cult films on VHS. Smartphones, Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist. Sharing a meme could need paper mail or a fax.

On MTV, there were lots of metal videos with men who acted macho but looked like hot women. Think: bikers in mascara who switched meth for hairspray. They sang about love over widdly-diddly guitar wizard pyrotechnics. (They were rockin’ like Dokken.) There was an arms race to be the most Glam until Grunge bands stole their place. But first, they were challenged by disco DJ music, minus the hair farming and augmented by rapping and controversy.

In Miami, a club scene rose up that thrilled crowds with rappers doing porn lyrics. Horny young people loved it. The rappers were a few young guys in the Air Force with a music hobby named 2 Live Crew. A recent rap history podcast (Mogul) tells the story of how their song “Me So Horny” went huge even without MTV. It helped rap cross from black to white people, and also pissed off a lot of them.

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The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media

by Patch O'Furr

Premiering JULY 3, 2020 at thefandomfilm.com.

When the media shows furries, do they get it right?

It’s a constant furry worry. In 2017 it was announced that CNN was making a show about them. Backlash rose about sensationalism, but few critics gave a fair shake to the producers of This Is Life with Lisa Ling. Then it came out and it was a flat-out advocacy piece on behalf of Furry“, said Joe Strike, a fan since the 1980’s who wrote a book that covers the subculture’s run-ins with bad media.

Joe Strike’s Furry Nation is the essential fandom history book.

Positive response didn’t satisfy every critic. Some asked why the 3 fans featured by CNN didn’t include more diverse people. But the show (with an asian-american woman journalist) got backlash while asking volunteers to raise their paws and be counted. That seems like damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

In answer to this, The Fandom is a documentary made by the fans. It features outstanding writers (like Joe), artists, animators, musicians, costume designers, event organizers and founders. It celebrates the roots with pro quality and appeal for outsiders who might not have given a fair look before.

For decades this subculture has thrived despite adversity. Bad media is one kind, but not the only kind. Some is internal. Some is homophobic. Some is happening right now with this screwy year. There’s even a villain to tell you about.

$10 million worth of trouble

Anthrocon is the 2nd largest furry convention, led by Uncle Kage (Dr. Sam Conway), the longstanding CEO and fandom public relations figure. It was due to bring $9.9 million to Pittsburgh’s economy in 2020. Now it’s among 70 furry cons canceled by COVID-19. The movie is launching anyways on the con’s dates, without opportunities that could have won distribution. (No film fests either.)

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More Animal Impersonators From Theater History

by Patch O'Furr

Don’t miss the series of stories about animal impersonators.

George Ali as Nana in Peter Pan (1924)

Yesterday’s article revisited the history of animal impersonation for theater. It’s the study of how animals move and behave, for acting with emotion and character. Beautifully crafted costumes were used on live stages before cinema matured, from artists forgotten by time. It’s deep rooted “Paleofurry” inspiration.

Previous stories here looked at British Panto-animal actors, but overlooked other actors in American Vaudeville (which fed talent to Hollywood). An expert covered some of them to round out this history. (Thanks to Trav S.D. who is linked here; a theater director, producer, and author.)

George Ali: Critter for Hire, and Arthur Lupino

Trav’s short article adds a little about George Ali, who played the dog in the first filmed version of Peter Pan. But in 1904 the role was played by an actor who I haven’t found much about. There’s just a very short blurb from Encyclopedia Brittanica saying Arthur Lupino was an “incomparable animal impersonator” and chosen personally by Peter Pan playwright JM Barrie.

Fred Woodward: What an Animal

Mules and creatures from Oz. It’s another short mention of how “Animal impersonation was a whole sub-specialty in vaudeville… This was an era when fairy tales were frequently presented on stage for audiences of children and their families, so it’s not as odd as it may seem at first blush.”

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Animal Impersonators of Vaudeville and Pantomime: call them Paleofurries.

by Patch O'Furr

Check out this “fursuit” acting from 1924. That’s George Ali as Nana the Dog in the first silent-movie version of Peter Pan. (Here’s a longer clip).

In 1924, there were no archives for movies, so many were destroyed or disappeared when they stopped making money from screening. The first Peter Pan movie was believed lost, but two copies were found including one at Disney Studios (who must have studied the innovative special effects.) A restoration in 1994 was added to the US National Film Registry. It makes a rare recording of this kind of performing.

George Ali was an Animal Impersonator — much more than just a costumer, but a specialist artist. There must be tons of forgotten lore about this. It was featured in my furry history series about Panto-animals (with beautiful photos, but no videos I could find until now!)

What were animal impersonators?

Fred Conquest and Charles Lauri appear in those stories as British Pantomime theater players. Panto had roots as old as Shakespeare — a mash-up of clowning, burlesque, satire, and lower-class popular theater for the masses. It was for live stages, not permanent Youtube-ready media, so the actors may be barely remembered today. They were huge stars in their heyday 100 years ago. Most were known as human characters, but ones like Ali, Conquest, or Lauri won stardom in their own right as animals.

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A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club — by Sy Sable

by Dogpatch Press Staff

Courtesy of Changa Lion and the Confurence Archive, cover art by Ken Sample. 5 years after it was founded, the club newsletter covered news from 9 American club chapters and the 1982 release of Don Bluth’s Secret of NIMH.

Sy Sable co-founded the first furry con and helped grow a new worldwide furry fandom, with 1970’s roots in a small clubhouse in Los Angeles.

On 4/4/2020, Sy Sable (Mark Merlino) sent this brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, founded in 1977. His story comes from recent message trading with someone interested in the C/FO and those involved. He couldn’t connect her to people out of contact for over 20 years, but he could tell how the club started. 

Today, there’s a worldwide network we could call capital-F Furry fandom, but some key founders were “proto-furries” who met at the C/FO. The club introduced new and unusual imported Japanese anime that was starting to reach America through rare home video tech. Club members loved anime for featuring adult, science fiction and action themes unlike 1970’s American animation aimed at kids (then dominated by studios like Hanna-Barbera.) There was a lot of “giant robot” anime, but certain fans preferred to combine adult themes plus traditional “funny animal” comics and animation that eventually spun off their own, new hybrid fandom.

Sy was a founder who went on with partner Rod O’Riley to host 1980’s science fiction convention room parties, then ConFurence in 1989, and longstanding monthly parties at The Prancing Skiltaire in Southern California (when not under quarantine in 2020). The C/FO had other chapters and there were other fan groups, but this is a major root. Another founder, Fred Patten, wrote about the C/FO in How Home Video Created Anime Fandom — or check Fred’s review of Joe Strike’s Furry Nation history book that covers this. (Fred was also a writer with Jerry Beck, East Coast C/FO chapter founder and animation historian, tying in much more history.) Sy says: “This is from my perspective and drops names something fierce… but it IS my personal take on things.” ( – Patch)

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Great accounts to follow: Unintentional Furries

by Patch O'Furr

Announcement – until March 31, vote for the Ursa Major Awards to support the best works of furry fandom!

If you’re a talking animal on social media, Furry Twitter is the place to be. And if you aren’t on there yet, or if you’re new, it may seem like a perplexing jungle of stunning art, cute fursuits, drama, social commentary, memes, nature videos, hitting on corporate mascots, and crazy happenings with a huge fandom of friends who have fun like nobody else. Finding the good stuff could use a guide to bushwhack through the wilderness. Wouldn’t it be cool to get an article series about entertaining and well curated accounts?

These will ask the account owners a few short questions about what they do. Enjoy whether they’re new, or you like learning more about stuff you already love.

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A tribute to Fred Patten, 1940-2018

by Patch O'Furr

Fred in 1993 at a furry party at San Diego Comic Con. Lizard unknown. Photo by William Earl Haskell.

Fred Patten passed away on November 12, 2018 at age 78, leaving a legacy as historian and founder for the anime and furry fandoms. He was the star guest poster here. It’s hard to think of having no more Fred posts, but easy to say how much he influenced everyone. I’m really going to miss him sending in news tidbits or emails from curious fans, and asking if I can use them, then working out collaboration posts from his prompts. This was one of many, showing how he was sought out as an authority on anime and furry by people as far away as Malaysia.

Fred is remembered by many outside of furry. A memorial post on File770 highlights author David Gerrold calling Fred a “classic old-school fan”.  The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s memorial page has Melissa Conway saying: “He was, without a doubt, the dean of Furry Fandom.”

From fellow furry fans, Dronon posted a rememberence of Fred at Flayrah news.  So did Mark Merlino, cofounder of the first furry convention (ConFurence) and organizer of science fiction con parties that paved the way. Shortly before Fred’s passing, I ran into Mark and Rod of The Prancing Skiltaire (the long-running fan house in southern California) at PAWcon in San Jose. They had a table set up to remember gone but not forgotten fans. I think Fred deserves a place of honor in the middle of them all.

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