DashCon was created by a 15-year-old girl
Read to the end for a good Tumblr post about Jimmy Buffet and "Jurassic World"
Some news! Next week, all readers will be getting a free bonus Thursday interview with Substack co-founder and CEO Chris Best. We had a super interesting conversation about Substack’s foray in podcasting, the creator economy, posting burnout, Twitter dunks, and how content moderation and individual publishing can co-exist.
But if you’re looking for more bonus Garbage Day content, like yesterday’s big DashCon deep dive, hit the button below!
Finally, The True Story Behind DashCon
Yesterday, I sent paying subscribers an interview with Lochlan O’Neil, the creator of the Tumbl-Con blog, the Tumblr that would eventually evolve into DashCon. You can read our whole interview here. Until now she really hasn’t told her side of what happened and I think it provides a lot of context as to how DashCon became the iconic disaster it did.
O’Neil made the Tumbl-Con blog when she was 15. She said that she had met a good friend on Tumblr and thought that maybe other users would love the chance to meet in real life, as well. The only problem was O’Neil had never really attended a real convention before. So, instead, she said she modeled DashCon off rabbit breeding fairs she had attended.
“I had been to three conventions. One of them was a rabbit convention, where I spoke about rabbit genetics. So my experience was zero. But I had a lot of enthusiasm,” she told me. “In my head, my idea of a convention is, you know, what I was seeing at these these rabbit shows. Each place had a different booth and different exhibitors, and they would put on sponsored panels. So in my mind, I thought, ‘well, okay, each fandom can come and they'll have their own fandom booth and they can have their own fandom merch and be their own committees.’”
By the time DashCon actually materialized on Jul 11, 2014, it had cycled through about 30 admins. A group of adults had registered DashCon as a limited liability partnership and put O’Neil in charge of running all of the social accounts for the event as well as on-site logitics. She said that things very quickly began to unravel as it became clear that there weren’t enough paying attendees to pay the hotel properly. Some estimates put the total DashCon attendance at around 300 people, O’Neil thinks it could have been around 1000 people. Making things worse, as the convention devolved into chaos, she said she also started exhibiting symptoms of what she would later learn was narcolepsy. She said she spent most of the weekend sleeping or crying.
O’Neil said that things came to a head on the first day, while she was on stage, dressed in Homestuck cosplay, participating in the “Ask A Troll” panel. She was asked to beg the attendees to collect money from the crowd, hoping they could get enough cash to pay the hotel. “I was crying by this point. So I went up on stage. Either [DashCon LLP co-owner Meg Eli] or [fellow DashCon admin] Cain Hopkins gave me like a brown paper, like a lunch bag. And they were like, ‘well, you're crying the most. So you're going to hold the bag and we're going to have them put money into the bag.’”
O’Neil said that the ball pit was her idea. She said that she had seen a post on Tumblr that said that, “strangers, sit together and meet new people in a ball pit.” She thought it would be a great thing for her fandom convention. She envisioned a really big one that people could get to know each other in. Instead, the company they rented one from delivered the infamous blue kiddie pool.
“I walk into the room where the ball pit is supposed to be and I see the kiddie pool,” O’Neil said. “And I just kind of saw it and I leave, and I go into [con ops]. And I'm just like, I don't know, not even crying at this point. I just feel very defeated. And I'm like, ‘hey, what's going on with the ball pit?’ And I think [DashCon LLP co-owner Roxanne Schwieterman] told me, ‘well, they gave us one that was not advertised on the site. But they said we can have an extra hour because it's not the right one.’”
After talking to O’Neil, my understanding of DashCon shifted greatly. Yes, it was a cringy catastrophe of historical proportions, setting the standard for fandom secondhand embarrassment. But it’s also the story of a teenage girl with good intentions who’s idea was taken by adults — people like Megan Eli and Roxanne Schwieterman, who registered the DashCon LLP — and mismanaged completely. And then, as things spun further out of control, those adults made that teenager go around a hotel auditorium begging for money.
“I've had a bunch of emails from people on my personal email saying they were going to sue me. But I responded, ‘I'm 17,’” she said. “I was very lucky that I was 17. Yeah, I was very lucky that my name was not on anything. I am very lucky that I am a nobody.”
Beyond threats of legal action, O’Neil said that following DashCon she was sent death threats, went to therapy to process it, and still suffers from feelings of guilt about her role in an event that is often thought of as the “death of fandom culture” or the “end of peak Tumblr”.
“I think that because it happened, because it was so bad, people thought, ‘wait a minute, this was so easy for them to do something so bad. I bet I can do it better.’ And then people from the internet just started getting together,” she said. “And their only goal was to make sure it's not bad.”
Aren’t You Just Tired?
A bunch of unmasked Republican staffers spent yesterday afternoon playing water pong and drinking White Claws in the hallway of Rayburn House Office Building. It was part of protest organized by Republicans against a mandate bringing back in masks in the lower chamber.
As the Delightful Children From Down the Lane gleefully engaged in a le epic troll on democrats or whatever, their conservative constitutes like Daryl Barker lay in hospital beds around the country fighting for their lives. Barker, a 31-year-old from Missouri who recently was told by doctors to say goodbye to his children in case he didn’t recover from COVID-19, was profiled in an AP News story yesterday.
“I was strongly against getting the vaccine,” Barker told AP, not knowing about his taxes were paying for ghoulish Republican children dressed in Paddington Bear-looking country club attire to throw a mask-less kegger in DC. “Just because we’re a strong conservative family,” Barker said, not knowing how much disdain prominent conservatives in America have for their own voters.
Look, I don’t want to go too deep into this because it’s Friday and a lot of this stuff is so incredibly grim that it’s actually hard to process. But the idea that there are thousands of Americans not getting vaccinated, getting sick because of it, and then dying while a bunch of Republican staffers do their best impression of a Barstool Sports kickback is just so unbelievably sad. I mean, aren’t you just tired? After a year and a half of this, aren’t you just exhausted?
The Scarlett Johansson lawsuit
Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over Black Widow’s Disney+ release. Johansson claims that Disney promised that Black Widow would get a full theatrical release and that its concurrent streaming release affected Johansson’s salary, which was largely based on box office.
Understanding how the Disney+ release affected Black Widow’s box office is complicated. In a previous Garbage Day, I compared its release to F9, arguing that Black Widow’s cultural footprint was much more sustainable due to the fact fans could immediately create iterative content about the film on platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and TikTok, which F9, which was only released in theaters, felt like it didn’t really exist.
Well, it turns out that I should not run a movie studio! Because F9 made a lot more money than Black Widow lol. F9 made $623.9 million, while Black Widow only grossed $319.5 million. Obviously, the movies aren’t a perfect 1:1, but it’s suspected that the simultaneous streaming release may have had an impact on its box office.
I reached out to my friend Julia Alexander about it. She’s a senior strategy analyst working for Parrot Analytics and is one of the best people working to untangle the streaming media rats nest right now. I asked her for her take on this whole thing. She said that there are two issues at play here, one about the legality and one about the ethics.
“Legally, Johansson’s party is going to argue that Disney did not attempt to renegotiate the contract that gives her additional payment depending on box office success. Legally, Johansson’s lawyers will say that not attempting to renegotiate financially hurt one of Marvel’s core actors, and was done so in a blatant attempt for the Walt Disney corporation to make as much money as possible while building up its new streaming service,” Julia told me. “On the other side, legally, Disney will argue that under extreme circumstances, the company did everything in its power to give Scarlet Johansson everything laid out in the contract. Black Widow was pushed back a few times, it still got a theatrical run across 1,500+ screens in the United States and, allegedly, Johansson still made additional revenue somehow. Disney is going to try and prove it did everything to the best of the company’s ability.”
Julia said that, in her opinion, the more important question for the future of streaming is the ethical one. It’s unclear who’s in the right here. Is it the studios who are trying to build up their streaming services or is it the mega-stars like Johansson getting the full shot at box office earnings they were promised.
“This lawsuit is the first domino falling, but the rest will cascade around Hollywood,” Julia said. “People are angry; corporations are trying to reclaim lost revenue; everything is changing. And whatever happens here (I’d assume Disney will try to settle, but then they haven’t so far) will affect how top contracts are created and negotiated going forward. And that’s the real story.”
A Good Tweet
Have nothing to wear after a year-and-a-half inside? Want to easily tell other people that you have weirdly complex thoughts about digital content? Check out the Garbage Day store.
Some Good Lawyer Content (That’s Also Good Boston Content) On TikTok
Fun fact: my first real internship for anything was writing depositions for a Massachusetts-based defense attorney. It was actually a great job. I spent the summer conducting interviews and helping an attorney poke holes in absolutely awful and predatory police practices in an area just outside of Boston.
A Cat Watches The Olympics
This cat’s name is Grappa and if you click through there are more videos.
A Cool Shower Hack From Japan
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by coffeentacos. While watching this video I was like, “huh, yeah, that’s a pretty intense stream. That’s funny.” But then the banana came out and I feel like things took on a new dimension. The original non-subtitled video comes from this YouTube account posted back in January. Their content is absolutely wild.
A bit of context here: This kind of content — a weird elaborate household prank created by a person who has blurred out their face or eyes — I’ve usually seen referred to as “traditional Japanese blogging style”. It was super common on Japanese blogs in the early 2010s, but has since aesthetically made the jump to video platforms like YouTube. There are some sites that still do this, but it’s not as common as it used to be.
I Love This YouTube Series
If you’ve never heard of Two Minutes To Late Night, it’s a YouTube channel that, pre-pandemic, was a death metal-themed late night show. It should also be much bigger than it is. The host is called Gwarsenio Hall, get it? But since the pandemic, the channel has shifted a bit, posting extremely good remote covers with big metal bands, and, most recently, an album review series that I love.
The premise is that Gwarsenio’s mom sent him a bunch of albums he listened to as a teenager and each week he revisits them. The video above looking back at Underoath’s Define The Great Line is tremendous.
Another Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***