That's the bus. That's the only picture that I'm including of the bus, although I did get a couple of others that I sort of liked. Because as tacky and awful as that fucker is, it's not the point. It points to the point, but it's not the point.
Okay, lemme back up a second here. There's this bus making a trek across America (Murrca!) encouraging people to pray for America in a pretty blatantly political, Dominionist-y kind of way. We heard about it here. A couple of us decided to crash the party. One of us (not me, I suck at those things) is hassling them online and in email for the way the article was written (as though everyone in Omaha is presumed to be Christian, and not just that, but the sort of Christian that thinks Separation of Church & State is A Very Bad Thing). And in a blog post, which I shall link here as soon as I have it. You'll love his blog posts. THEY ARE AWESOMESAUCE. Plus, the title of his blog. I mean, come on: All These Pious People. How good is that? At any rate, this is a little photo essay of the experience. (You'll have to pardon me on not getting correct the finer details, whatever the fuck they are, of photo essay-ing. This is my first go at just quite this sort of blogging/essaying/photoing.)
Why they actually put the outdoor canopy up in the middle of the indoor facility is not actually that baffling. It just makes the fact that it's pure propaganda that much more blatant.
A predictably old white dude who was just as predictably trying to preach to the kids while not excluding the adults (who were all predictably in the very front and very eager beaver, while the kids were in the back and... not so much?
I think we managed to get so close and personal because they took us for some sort of journalists. Which, I suppose, we are. (Not that we actually talked to any of them, except for the one lady who commented on my shirt [a Kaylie/Morton Salt mashup which I absolutely love] saying, "That's an appropriate shirt for today," and then I think I actually said, under my breath of course, "You... don't know what it is, then." It also turned out that I'd completely missed her meaning though [it was raining cats and dogs outside, and Kaylie's holding that umbrella - you know the one] so I guess turnabout is fairplay.)
There weren't actually all that many people there, I thought. At least not for something that's supposed to be this big national tour thing. I may have just had inflated expectations.
The age range you see represented here in these two pictures was pretty much it, which may have been a quirk. But I doubt it. These kids were fucking bused in from wherever. Already creepy, right? At any rate, there were the teens, and then the over 50 crowd with very very little in between. In fact, the little Latina making googoo eyes at the pastor on the far right of the second of these was pretty nearly the only representative of any other age range, near as I could tell. Not that I'm the best subjective judge of ages, I guess, but you get the point, right?
A couple that are, I'm presuming, on staff. I included this one because something about the tilt of her head, her posture, and her clasp on her husbands arm speaks volumes to me.
This one is here for two reasons, both are very very serious. I found the backrub that the one girl was giving the other girl through the whole fucking thing slightly... odd, given the prayerful, preacherful, evangelical context, and a little amusing. Now, I know that there may have been absolutely no erotic undertones whatsoever, and the other girl may have just needed some knots worked out after volleyball practice or whatever. But then again, teenagers. Hormones. Raging.
The other reason is that the look on the middle girls face at just that moment said something to me. Actually, it's one of the few of these that I really thought the lighting worked for me for just a second, too. This kind of gymnasium flourescent indoor lighting is my fucking worst enemy. (Well, almost, anyway.) I hates it. Aaand that's as far down the photo-geekery rabbit hole as I'm gonna let myself go for the moment. I do have to warn you, though. That's gonna happen from time to time. Because I love photo-ing. So, nyeah.
So after doing some preaching, and trying to get the adults not to answer the question of what the kids were struggling with (when he finally got a kid to answer [the back-messaging girl from above], the answer was, "they're disrespectful." What? Really? That's your biggest fucking struggle in life? Of course, it was immediately re-couched in the appropriately biblical "honor thy mother & father" terms), preacher man invited all of the other preachers up (a good 1/2 or more of the non-bus-riding adults present) and began praying over them, for strength against persecution, strength to stand up to the sinful ways of godless 'murica, etc, etc. There was the typical laying on of hands, the raising of hands, the tight closing of eyes, the nodding of heads, and even the low-voiced glossolalia that they call "speaking in tongues."
Then, for the culminating event, the real brainwashing power of which I hope to leave to the photos and my cahort's description (because it just creeps me the fuck out thinking about it), he invited the kids out. To hold up their arms, to pray for the pastors, to give the pastors strength. Woah.
And yet, the stances of some of those people read discomfort. Maybe some of the same discomfort I felt as an awkward kid when people were doing this shit, and I wanted to believe, I wanted to be in the ingroup, I wanted to be able to pray like that, I became that, dove deep inside and refused to acknowledge the fourth wall of my brain that was SCREAMING WITH WHAT THE FUCK. (Remind me to tell you about the time my best friend & I went to a YWAM Conference Thingy when I was around sixteen or so & I figured out the Speaking In Tongues Is Bullshit.)
Here was the tongue talker walker whisperer. I swear I've seen this guy before.
Afterwards, they broke into smaller groups. The bus' preacher man invited anyone who was troubled and needed specific prayer to come up to the front, vaguely under the tentish, along with some of the other preacher peoples. And the general intensity dissolved, sort of, or devolved into some people being released from the tension while other were gathered up more intensely into the smaller little prayer huddles of mostly twos, but one very intense little circle of five or six.
This adorable, timid woman was hesitant to interrupt the two people praying just a couple of feet away, but really wanted to listen and to help them pray. So this is the, "I'm praying with you, but not intruding," stance. Then again, maybe some part of her wasn't really so timid, because I'm pretty sure that this is her purse, too.
And then this. The quality of the image came out for shit because I'd just switched lenses to try to get a wider shot, and my little 18-55 doesn't do that well in low light, but then we saw this. It had to be shot. So regardless of the graininess and what-not, I still think this is a telling, compelling image. A pretty decent summary and closing line.
"vlog|6 20 13" in which I discuss @MrAtheistPants, @JustinVacula, @BraveHeroRadio, the @NationalAtheist Party, and the @GoodNewsClub!
I'm gonna have to update these more frequently as at least one issue I mention is already moot. Oh, well. What are you gonna do?
As a bit of an update to the thing I mention about the stupid atheist movement, I'm actually not so sure I'll make a video about it. I've become less and less concerned about the movement and what happens to it. Mainly this is due to the fact that I've found a direct correlation between what's going on in the movement and my mood. And here's the thing:
I like being happy.
That's right! As energizing as it can be in the moment, being pissed off about boneheaded things that stupid people say or do only carries one till about noon, then one just wants to hear happy, cool stuff. I frankly don't know how cats like Justin Vacula do it, not only being activists, but putting up with some people's bullshit.
This is not to say that I won't ever criticize my fellow atheists again, far from it. If someone does or says something that's bullshit, I may feel compelled to say something about it, but there's at least one thing on which I agree with Dave Silverman, I'm getting pretty sick of the shit.
So, in one of the top secret-y secret forums, someone who used to be Islamic and is struggling posted a whole bunch of shit that they (using the plural there to keep from using gender'd thing to keep the anonymity thing wrapped up tight) are struggling with. I read it and it kind of kicked my ass. So I went back and tried to think of things that were brief enough to post, but not so trite that they sounded meaningless to me.
"1- thinking that there will be no afterlife is really killing me 2- thinking that when someone dies i will not be able to see them again because i used to believe in this a part from believing in heaven :( 3- my life is now useless i'm not finding any convenience reason for my existence because i used to believe that life is a place for worshiping 4- thinking that there is no one to do justice for people who are suffering is so unfair 5- believing that bad things on earth happen because it is bad not because it is bad for good future reasons 6- thinking that there is no one to depend on when i feel alone and tired which used to be God 7- thinking that there are alot of believers around the world makes me rethink about my decision of leaving my religion which is something i 100% can't deal with any more"
1 & 2 - Those are tough, and may not really get easier (but they probably will), because they mean that when people in our lives die, there is no easy escape from the grief; we have to confront our grief over these very real losses directly, face-to-face.
3) life is still a place for worshiping, in some sense. It's just that what you're "worshiping" is very real and directly in front of you: the people around you, the beauty of the world around us, the beauty of the universe, the cosmos we find ourselves in. Instead of uselessly worshiping something that is not real, we turn our worship to the real.
4) it is true, there is no one to do justice after death. There is only now to fight for justice. Which makes it very very important to fight for justice and a better world in whatever small or great ways that we can.
5) but the good is also just because it is good, not for some ulterior motive of an afterlife
6) this is why finding a community, even a virtual one like this one, is important, because we all need someone when we feel alone and tired and scared. We do really need places to turn to.
7) there are a lot of believers in the world. And none of them agree with one another. Their beliefs sort of cancel each other out; not one of them can be right without all of the others being wrong. The only one that doesn't is the one that holds that there probably is no deity at all, the one that does really go that one step further and say, "All of the gods that you say don't exist, you're right, they don't. And neither does yours."
Later, this person responded that all those things were new to them. Huh. So, this made me think that maybe I shouldn't have been so worried about what sounds trite to me, because that triteness so often comes simply from familiarity, use, overuse, whatever. To someone for whom these ideas are brand fucking new, trite could be the slap upside the head of a new insight. Images of bathtubs and euruka! ensue.
Let's just hug. Keep things simple.
As I state in the video, I have absolutely nothing against Myers. I'm serious about that. I've never met the guy, never spoken to him, and couldn't possibly care less if he lives long and prospers or croaks tomorrow (Okay, I'd care a little if he croaked tomorrow).
I do admit, however, that in the last couple of years of in-fighting in the atheist community, I've made a note to pay less attention to him than otherwise I might have. It's been my observation that he seems to be a petty, mean-spirited, can't-ever-admit-when-he's-wrong, entitled, self-important, blowhard, privileged, white, male, heterosexual, who somehow thinks he has more right to comment on feminist issues than, say, other petty, mean-spirited, can't-ever-admit-when-they're-wrong, entitled, self-important, blowhard, privileged, white, male, heterosexuals. Notice I say "seems." I recognize that I can't read his mind and so can't know his thoughts, but his words and actions certainly have demonstrated my adjectives.
And yes, I also admit that I've actively avoided atheist conferences that advertise his lectures because 1. I see no point in paying to see what I can catch later on YouTube and 2. of that material, I've yet to see anything of any interest to me. Myers is a feminist. We get it. Next?
Every once in a while, though, I venture a challenge to my previous notions on Myers. For example, I saw some link to him complaining about the Pastafarian thing and pointing out some alleged sexism in it. I partially disagreed with him, but saw it as entirely a non-issue. He wants to think Pastafarianism is sexist: have a ball.
When Reap Paden sent me Myers' little Google Hangout stand-up act, though, I was more than a tiny bit intrigued. I go into it in the video, but very briefly, and as everyone's now seen, Myers criticized rape jokes in Facebook ads (or was it elsewhere?), then added to his commentary by--you guessed it--cracking a rape joke.
Following are my thoughts on that and on the brutal excoriation that Myers doesn't seem to have suffered at the hands of self-proclaimed anti-rape-joke, never-eat-your-own feminists.
Check out my "vlog|6 10 13" in which I discuss the @NationalAtheist Party and @AmericanAtheist's @DaveMuscato's #TenCommandments monument!
As any even occasional reader knows, I've found almost no time for this site, let alone relevant updates, on-going projects (like poor Steve Shives over there!), and certainly nothing new. In fact, I'm still way backlogged on some Conversations with Believers from months ago. And while I truly do endeavor to get around to all that, I figured in the meantime, it'd be a dandy idea to provide content.
I really hate that word. I don't even know why. I think because it's become an all-encompassing, and thus utterly meaningless term for... anything one can create? I don't even know. All I do know is that it seems to be here to stay so I might as well use it.
Due mostly to a good friend's suggestion of keeping a vlog, I thought, hey, why don't I do that? I made two promises to myself. 1. that I could just riff on whatever happened to be on my mind that day, whether it be news items, my own activity, or anything else that happened to be atheist-related. 2. I didn't have to do anything special to it like lots of editing or clips or anything. i still save that for other videos.
So here it is approximately once a week, my brand-ass-new vlog in which I share all my little thoughts on whatever I share them on!
Have at thee!
Toon-Sweeney, Bonnie Jean 59 Jan. 21, 1954 June 14, 2013 Bonnie Jean Toon-Sweeney, beloved wife, daughter, sister, auntie and friend, passed away peacefully at home while surrounded by friends and family on June 14 following a courageous three-year battle with ovarian cancer. For all those who were fortunate enough to know her, she will be greatly missed for her kindness, generosity and gentle, caring nature. She was truly a gift from Heaven. Bonnie was born Jan. 21, 1954 in San Francisco, the first of seven children for Dr. Robert W. and Joan Marie Toon. She grew up in the Irvington neighborhood of NE Portland, attending the Madeline School and later St. Mary's Academy, where she first developed her interest in theater and graduated in 1971. Bonnie continued to study theater at Fort Wright College in Spokane and later at the University of Portland, where she returned to college after a 15-year hiatus and earned her bachelor's in theater management in 1994. Along the way, she worked at Meier and Frank by day and in local theater productions at night and on weekends. It was during one of these average work days at Meier and Frank that she met the love of her life, Patrick Sweeney. They were married in Sept. 1981 and shared a life of laughter, respect, adventure and love. The door of their home in SE Portland has always been open for family and friends. Throughout her adult life, Bonnie made a name for herself working in live theater productions in and around Portland. She began her Portland career acting and directing with Summus Theatre Ensemble, a company established by Fort Wright College alums. Her later work was primarily as a stage manager and producer for several local theater companies, including Oregon Stage Company, Classic Greek Theatre, Lakewood Theatre Company, Coho Productions, Quintessence Language & Imagination Theater and the Portland Revels. As much as she was known for her love and commitment to theater, there was no greater priority in Bonnie's life than her family. From an early age, she embraced the role of being the "big sister" to her six siblings and carried on in the same fashion as aunt to her many nieces and nephews. She never missed a family gathering, near or far. She always remembered to congratulate or acknowledge. Her love and caring was genuine and she always had time for family. No tribute to Bonnie would be complete without acknowledging her love of animals, particularly cats. Bonnie and Pat's home provided shelter, comfort and love to countless feline friends over the past 30-plus years. If there was a cat in need, Bonnie and Pat made room in their home. Bonnie Toon-Sweeney is survived and loved forever by her husband, Pat; mother, Joan; and siblings, Brian (Kathleen), Mary, Michael, Kathy (Heather), Karen (Andre) and Kevin (Christy); and by sisters-in-law, Molly Chong and Kathleen McIntire. She is also survived by 26 nieces and nephews, many of whom will always know her as Auntie Love. Bonnie was preceded in death by her father, Robert. A recitation of the rosary will be at 7 p.m., June 27, at Zeller Chapel of Roses. A funeral mass will be held at All Saints Church at 2 p.m., on June 28, with a reception to follow. Private burial will take place at Belle Passi Cemetery in Woodburn at 11 a.m., June 29. Arrangements by Zeller Chapel of Roses. In lieu of flowers, Bonnie encourages you to buy a ticket and support live theater. Sign her guestbook at Caringbridge.com.
Published in The Oregonian on June 23,
The above official obituary can be found here.
I have a couple of rambling thoughts on this.
Bonnie's death wasn't unexpected. She'd had cancer for a couple of years and had gone through the whole mess of treatments. I don't remember when exactly, but I remember that one of the blog posts on CaringBridge said that she'd stopped receiving treatment. Of course that meant that it was only a matter of time.
I was sort of okay with this. I've learned in the last few years that it's futile to "fight" against terminal illness. At some point, nothing can be done. But when I say "okay," I don't mean "happy." As much as I was reading the facts, a tiny part of me hoped that she'd somehow pull through even though my rational side kept reminding me that such a hope was horseshit.
The thing for Bonnie was, though, that yes, she was in my parents' generation, which, by definition, mean that she's older than I am, she still seemed far too young to die. Sort of in the middle of my former friend Tim who committed suicide last year and my late grandmother who died of natural causes a few years ago. Tim was near my age and I certainly don't feel close to death. My grandmother was 90, so that made total sense. Bonnie I guess made half sense.
The emotional side of it too is strange. Even though we all knew this was coming, the day I found out, it was a bit of a broadside. I thought something like, "I'm now in a post-Bonnie world." I'd had an identical thought several years ago when my aunt Janice, my dad's sister, died of a brain hemorrhage (or something.) I don't know because I didn't care. Janice was a bitch, I was glad she was dead and felt nothing at all when I knew she was. A post-Janice world felt no different than one with her in it.
Not so with Bonnie. As I wrote on Facebook shortly after I was informed of her death, she was one of the kindest people I'd ever known, and that's including my parents! It was always a wonderful thing to see her about once a year and chat about the goings on in our mutual lives.
That'll never happen again. And unlike with Janice, I'll miss it forever.
But I won't eulogize further. I think the obit does a fine job of that. My second thought is a little more on the difficult side.
Soon after the announcement that Bonnie had ceased using her feeding tube, she received last rites.
There's something about her and her and my godfather you have to understand. Yes, they're Catholic, but they've never seemed Ca-tho-lic. I can remember literally zero conversations during my time with them that had anything to do with the Church other than the fact that he'd gone to a Catholic school. I mean it. The fact of their faith never came up. I think that's partly why I always felt, with some small exceptions, perfectly comfortable with being an out atheist in my family. No negative social consequences.
so there it was. In black and white. Bonnie getting last rites. i thought even, Why's she getting last rites? She's not THAT Catholic." Obviously it didn't matter to me. It was Bonnie's time left and hers to do with what she pleased. If getting last rites made her feel good about what was gonna go down, more power to her.
But that kind of bothered me. Not that she was doing it, but my reaction to it. See, for years I've had a giant problem with the Catholic Church and I've not been quiet about it at all. I've been gone so far as to say--and I stand by this--that the little old lady dropping a dime in the box is complacent in the evil the Church has committed. Not only that, but her dime is helping to fund the Church's activities--good and evil.
And yet I was sitting there, reading about Bonnie's last rights, then later mass, funeral, and burial, and kept thinking more along the lines of, "Isn't that nice?" The hypocrisy bothers me. Why am I not okay with the anonymous, hypothetical old lady dropping the dime, but I have no issue at all with my late godmother's faith? I really don'e know. to be honest, I think I give a pass for no better than emotional reasons.
Finally, the big thing that's kind of bothered me about all this, all the now knowing that bonnie was most likely a "real" Catholic is that that inescapably means that she bought into the bullshit. I'm not even talking about the truly evil child-rape bullshit. No, I'm sure she wasn't into that. What I mean is the basic, day-to-day, St. Peter's-wiating-for-you bullshit. Several times in blog posts, mentions were made of St. Peter welcoming bonnie and long-dead relatives greeting her again.
I just couldn't shake it. My annoyance. "No, they're fucking not," I thought, "because it's all made up. Bonnie's dead and that's the end of it." I of course have made no comments as such in any manner to the family. I'm not a rude asshole for the sake of it. And honestly, if they wanna truly believe that, obviously that's their choice, but it still saddens me. That life, on its own merits, is not taken seriously. It's forsaken for bullshit fantasy because we're all so fucking terrified of death.
In the end, though, none of my pissing and moaning matters. What matters is that Bonnie was a great lady, had a wonderful life, and though I hate that it was cut short, I'm proud that she lived it to the fullest.
Miss you, Bonnie.
my de-conversion|DEVELOPMENT DIARY #3
I'm also posting this on my brand-spankin'-new Daisies and Shit site I also posted this on my original Atheist Asshole site and once I figure out how to do both posts at once, I'll be really happy. Oh, and this video will be posted under My Media or some similar category. Actually, I need to overhaul the My Media section, so it may not end up exactly there.
Anyway, onto the business. I set out to make a short film, animated, about my de-conversion experience, and Iv'e failed almost every step of the way. For me, it's a joke at this point. While I still intend to finish the short, I have no idea how or when. I just sort of keeping charging at windmills with the hope that something will eventually work.
This is an entirely space-filling post to say that I'm here and figuring it out. I've used WordPress for my native site, but I'm trying to figure out how to automate everything. Until I do, I'll have to, hmmm...
Until then, go look up "Burden of Proof" because chances are, you don't know how it works.
That is all.
Earlier this week I happened upon the Academic Men Explain Things to Me Tumbler. The concept of "mansplaining", defined above, isn't new to me and I generally enjoy Tumblers that detail personal experiences, so I subscribed and started making my way through the archives. A couple of pages in, however, I realized something...
I have some difficulties with the concept of "mansplaining".
It's not that I don't think mansplaining is a thing. I know mansplaining happens, and I find myself pretty much immediately annoyed by individuals who dismiss it as an expression of sexism. It's possible that my issues with the concept are purely pedantic, though I prefer to think of them as "nuanced", but I still feel they're worth exploring.
Mansplaining v. Arrogance
I'm no stranger to condescension; I've been on both sides of that coin more than once... and that's where my first issue with the concept of mansplaining arises. No matter how condescendingly and unnecessarily I explain something, my gender automatically exempts me from the mansplaining label. Because I've exhibited similar, and no less insulting, behavior, I'm led to consider that some of the men who have been accused of mansplaining were inspired more by arrogance than sexism.
There are, of course, clues that such condescending behavior is deserving of the mansplaining label. The inclusion of infantilizing terms of endearment like "sweetie" and "honey", for example, are certainly mansplaining red flags, as are stretched analogies including "woman things" like makeup and shopping. Some mansplainers are even kind enough to come right out and identify themselves with snide comments about the level of understanding one ought to expect from "girls", but most aren't that obvious. Was the business major who carefully explained the difference between sandstone and limestone to me, a biology/geology double major, guilty of mansplaining? Was he inspired by sexism or just arrogance?
Essentially, to paraphrase Freud, I think maybe sometimes a douchebag is just a douchebag.
Victims of Mansplaining
The most easily identified victims of mansplaining are, of course, women. To be treated as inferior based on your gender rather than your intellect or experience is undeniably hurtful. I don't, however, believe women are the only victims in regard to mansplaining. As with many other social issues, I think mansplaining is as much an indicator of the gender policing aimed at men as it is an indicator of the sexism aimed at women. Men are often taught that they should be the authority in any situation, regardless of whether or not they actually are. Humans are prone to social pressure, gender notwithstanding, and I think it's important to remember that mansplainers may simply be acting out of a sense of self-preservation. How many times does a young boy have to be ridiculed for being bested by a girl before they learn that the one thing they never want to be is lower than a female? I'm a firm believer that eliminating mansplaining, and the gender-policing culture that supports it, requires that the culture's effects on all genders be examined. Focusing on the effects experienced by women doesn't expose the entire issue.
Women's Role in Mansplaining
You don't have to look too hard to find women calling men out for their mansplaining behavior, but I'd like to take a moment to call out those women that actively encourage mansplaining by intentionally portraying themselves as generally ignorant or in need of help when they're really quite knowledgeable and capable. My own grandmother laughingly instructed me to never do anything I could get someone else, preferably a man, to do for me. The cultural crap runs deep. It's quite likely that some women who encourage mansplaining are acting on the same social fear that pushes some men to mansplain - they just want to be accepted, and society has made it clear that women who are too smart, too capable, too independent, aren't accepted (I do, of course, realize that these cultural messages are largely heteronormative, LGBT individuals have their own cultural messages to deal with). There's also the, somewhat accurate, notion that not allowing a man to play the authority is hurtful; that a woman expressing her authority emasculates the men in her presence.
The truth is that intelligent, capable women will be accepted by those communities that find intelligent, capable women valuable and that's a good thing. Similarly, most men aren't so fragile that their egos will be demolished the moment an intelligent, capable women enters their proximity.
Let's give each other some credit, eh?
Questionable capitalization of the title aside, there are some changes coming to the Daisies and Shit blog. You may have noticed that I haven't posted since September of last year. See, I was under the rather erroneous impression that, having quit my day job, I would have plenty of time for blogging in spite of my full-time course schedule. Silly me. As it turns out, a full-time course schedule is, you know... a full-time undertaking. Did I spend the entirety of my 18 waking hours working on coursework? Of course not. Was my brain at all interesting in spending my "free time" constructing blog posts after several hours of labs, research, and studying? Not in the slightest. Did I suddenly shed all other responsibilities aside from pursuing my degree? *chuckles*
Life. Therefore, blog suckage.
As so often happens, my "yes, and..." philosophy of life (more on that later) has provided me with an opportunity to keep this blog chugging along with a bit more regularity even after the school year swallows my blogging will. Recently, I joined the Freethoughtify blogging network, a network designed to highlight "alternative" voices in the atheist community. Even more recently, and regrettably, Freethoughtify died. Not wanting to see the associated bloggers simply wash out into the internet seas, I asked if anyone might be interested in blogging here. Happily, I had a couple of takers.
So, does that mean that Daisies and Shit is morphing into a zombie version of Freethoughtify? Not at all. The "theme" of the Daisies and Shit blogging network is pretty much the same as the Daisies and Shit blog - a matrix mainly composed of atheism, skepticism, and science, pretty liberally studded with special interests, opinions, and whatnot. I've sent out an invitation to another blogger not formally associated with Freethoughtify, and I'll likely invite a few more as well. I'm not going to be screening posts or censoring topics, but I will encourage formal responses to any "controversial" posts. Each blogger will be responsible for their own blog and will have their own RSS, but all of the posts will appear here on the main page as well. A quick glance at the information given below the post title will clue you in as to which blogger wrote the piece, and participating blogs will be listed in the menu area to the right.
Here's to diversity! *cheers*
I'm just not feeling very blasphemous.
I do, of course, emphatically support blasphemy. I look forward to a day when it will be unthinkable for a government to imprison an individual for the crime of insulting a concept, no matter how revered that concept may be, and I firmly believe that such a day will only come when acts of blasphemy are so commonplace that those seeking to criminalize such expression will be met only with ridicule.
While I remain rather aggressively anti-theistic, my activist fire has temporarily been dampened. On the surface, my priorities have shifted to place an emphasis on university, which commands not only a great deal of my time, but also a great deal of my mental energy. On a deeper level, I've reached a place in my recovery from religion where my fueling anger has been replaced by a muted sadness that leaves me somewhat avoidant.
I feel a profound sense of sadness for the True Believer; those who feel they cannot stand without their faith, who offer praises to their deity for both triumph and suffering, who endure this life rather than living it, who exist as long as they must in pursuit of the day they finally achieve death, who are wracked with guilt for undiscovered sins, who ascribe self-accusing meaning to tragedy and self-degrading meaning to joy, who define themselves as unworthy and unclean, who are compelled to neglect and debase the ones they love, who act in fear of unknowable forces, who chain themselves to accidents of birth, who call their own power by a fraudulent name.
So, for blasphemy day, I offer this simple observation:
Religion is a sinister parasite so psychologically enfeebling that its favored victims apologize for lacking the strength to bleed.
For me, that truth is blasphemy enough.
Gearing up for the War on Christmas, or as I like to call it, the Annual Fuck All Other Holidays Campaign, the American Family Association is now offering these yard signs on their website:
No, really. I'm serious. Let the money shot jokes commence.
I often rely on my favorite bloggers to act as a news aggregation service of sorts, to deliver the interesting happenings of the day to me in tight little bundles, complete with commentary. I go through a number of more traditional news sources most days as well, of course, but I appreciate the filter that is applied with blogged news - I follow the bloggers I do, in large part, because they're interested in the same sorts of things I'm interested in, so the news they blog about also tends to be the sorts of news I'm interested in. In fact, what first attracted me to blogging was the potential for spreading the word about news that I found interesting along with my related opinions and comments.
Reality, however, is a bitch and I've learned over the last couple of years that blogging bits of news requires a couple of skills I simply don't possess:
First and foremost - posting frequency. For example, it's not unusual for Joe.My.God. to publish 50 posts a freakin' day. I can't regularly manage 50 posts a month. It's current events that matter when blogging bits of news. Nobody cares what I think about that thing that happened three weeks ago
Secondly - succinctness. When I do manage to blog about something current, I generally find myself wanting to either simply Tweet a link to an article or write up a "proper" blog post... which often takes me so long that I wind up not posting it at all because I no longer feel it's relevant. Tweeting article links is all well and good, especially as it posts to my Facebook as well, but I really prefer the "one stop shopping" that blogging bits of news gives.
As it turns out, Freethought blogger Al Stefanelli recently published a blog post that clued me in to a little service that just might allow me to pass on those little bits of news that catch my eye without violating my intrinsic nature. Paper.li is a service that allows users to publish their own internet newspaper cobbled together from sources of their own choosing. Each addition also allows for a bit of personal commentary via Editor's Note, and a discussion corner. Most importantly, given my nature, publishing an article to the next addition of my paper is as simple as clicking a link on my browser bar and checking a couple of options.
It's possible my little fledgling paper will die of neglect in less than a month, but for now, the Daisies and Shit Daily is set to publish, somewhat ironically, twice daily (morning and evening). I will continue to use the free version of the service until I'm reasonably convinced that it's fit enough to survive. As always, comments and suggestions are more than welcome!
Yeah.. yeah... I'll never be a Famous Blogger™ if I don't learn to update consistently. Thing is, working against one's nature is hard, and well... doing hard things without the promise of fabulous reward isn't really in my nature either. Being casually insulting, however, is. So... um... consistency is for pussies.
I stumbled upon the Six Songs of Me project yesterday, thanks to The MikeLewpedia (a new blog, and clear finalist for Blog Name of the Year, written by a man I met at the recent Midwest Freethought Conference), and thought I might take a bit of time off from queer/atheism/critter championing to participate.
1. What was the first song you ever bought?
I haven't the vaguest of ideas. I do, however, know the first song I ever owned - "Take the Long Way Home", by Supertramp.
I owned it as a 45 that I played on my plastic Fisher Price record player. This one:
Not the crappy little music box sold to be drooled on by the infants of parents who didn't want to expose their spawn to "devil music":
2. What song always gets you dancing?
Blerg... SO. MANY. I'm a former dancer, I did a little bit of everything - Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Ballroom, Broadway... moving to music is just what I do. I will say, however, that Ska motivates me to move more than other genres, so I'm going to go with "Zoot Suit Riot", by Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
"Now you sinners know where your women come for love!" Indeed.
3. What song takes you back to your childhood?
Anyone familiar with the lyrics of this song is probably mildly alarmed that it reminds me of my childhood. That it reminds me of my childhood for the sole reason that it reminds me of my father is probably more than mildly alarming. There is, of course, a perfectly innocent explanation for this connection.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of my father and I dancing in jazzy circles, my tiny feet perched upon his, through our sunbeam swept living room as he sang the chorus of Popsicle Toes to me through my uncontrollable giggles. I was maybe four or five and, for me, the song was about the frigid tootsies that I so enjoyed planting on my daddy's belly while he watched tv. An action he dutifully rewarded with comical jumps and tickle-laden jokes about how I'd kill him with frostbite.
It wasn't until I listened to the song again as a teenager, armed with a map, that I realized just how pervy the song really is. Regardless, it still took Herculean restraint to not use it for the daddy-daughter dance at my wedding.
A close second, for very similar reasons, is "Thank Heaven for Little Girls", as performed by Perry Como.
I listened to this song perched on my grandfather's toes as we waltzed around the finished basement that once served as my great-grandmother's apartment. It just doesn't sound right without the static and scratches that accompanied anything played on his old crank phonograph.
4. What is your perfect love song?
"Love Cats", by The Cure.
No real explanation beyond the fact that it isn't covered in syrupy, fantasy-laden bullshit like so many other love songs and has the added benefit of actually being enjoyable to listen to.
As an aside, the video linked above is from the German music video program Formel Eins because UMG, who apparently owns the rights to the official music video, has blocked it from being posted to YouTube like utter asshats. Seriously, UMG, you lose nothing by granting YouTube distribution of a video from the 20th century. Yeesh.
5. What song would you want at your funeral?
Seriously, I don't really know... whatever songs bring to mind favorable memories among those that gather there. Less seriously, "The Ride of the Fucking Valkyries" by Wagner. Yes, that's the only title for the song that I'll accept.
6. Time for the encore. One last song that makes you, you.
As much as I would love to be brilliantly academic or existentially deep here, nothing flatteringly pompus would be as honest as "Somebody Hates Me", by Reel Big Fish.
The realization that I actually have very little control over the opinions others will form about me, especially those that I only know tangentially, has had a more profound effect on the person I have become than just about anything else.
For fuck's sake, people. If you're going to use your alcohol-sodden vocal cords to hoot, holler, or (gods forbid) sing over the band, don't bother posting the video of the musical performance you've so blissfully humiliated yourself to on your vapid YouTube channel. I'm sure it was an awesome concert, especially considering how you screamed just how awesome it was at seemingly random intervals throughout the video, and you should totally keep that shit on your iPod to remind you of just how awesome it was, especially considering the long-term effects frequent binge-drinking may have on one's memory, but you're annoying the fuck out of everyone who's casually searching for a version they can actually, you know, HEAR.
My day is better because this exists.
Now your day is better too.
Today was my last day as an administrative assistant, and August 20th will be my first day as a full-time student.
Today represents an end to the financial security I've been so lucky to have. It represents the end of bi-monthly paychecks that actually covered the bills, "free" health insurance, and annual bonuses. It represents the end of a familiar routine and the security that comes with a position one is adept at. It represents the beginning of a new form of social insecurity as a "non-traditional student" on campus. It represents fear and doubt and hope and anticipation. It represents the possibility of a future in which I can spend my days immersed in a field that lights my shit right right up. It represents the possibility of failure and its consequences. It represents an adventure of exploration and discovery and stress and worry. It represents change and growth. It represents the person I've become and the person I want to be.
I think I may be in shock.
For the third year in a row, the U. S. Forest Service has renewed the emergency closure of caves in the Rocky Mountain Region in order to minimize the spread of fungus responsible for white-nose syndrome in bats.
White-nose syndrome is an aggressive and deadly disease, killing nearly 7 million bats across 19 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces in just 6 years. Identified by white fungus growth on the wings and fur of affected bats, particularly around the muzzle, the disease causes erratic behaviors including premature rousing from hibernation, affinity for cold temperatures, day flight, and aimless activity leading to exhaustion. The fungus is also responsible for damage and scarring of the wing membranes, but uncharacteristic behaviors and associated starvation are typically the ultimate cause of death.
Nine hibernating bat species are currently affected by the disease, at least five of which have suffered devastating losses. With mortality rates exceeding 90 percent in some affected caves, experts expect the disease to continue its spread across the United States, inevitably driving some species to extinction.
What you can do to help:
While researchers agree that bat-to-bat transmission is the predominant infection factor, there is evidence to suggest that human exploration of caves may be responsible for the spread of fungus spores into previously uninfected colonies. It is currently believed that a single fungus, Geomyces destructans, is responsible for white-nose syndrome and carefully disinfecting clothing and equipment after cave exploration may help to prevent spore transmission to unaffected sites.
There is also evidence that some bats are adapting to the crisis by roosting alone, or in very small groups, rather than in large colonies. One way to encourage this protective behavior is to provide a bat house and fresh water on your property, or sponsor a community effort to build multiple roosting habitats which can be monitored for fungal infection. If erratic behavior, or white fungus growth on the wings, fur, or muzzle of roosting bats is observed, report your observations to your state conservation agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. Instructions for reporting white-nose syndrome related mortalities can be found on the USGS mortality reporting page.
For more information on white-nose syndrome and its effect on bat populations, visit the White-nose Syndrome Wiki.
P.S. - for those of you that, unfathomably, dislike bats, it has been estimated that at least 2.4 million pounds of bugs would have been eaten by the bats that have died due to white-nose syndrome, and scientists have estimated that bats provide some $53 billion worth of pest-control services to the American agriculture industry. They may give you the huzz, what with you being certifiably crazy, but they're working hard to make your world a better place for you to live.
This last weekend, I once again trekked across the barren wastelands between my home and Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Midwest Freethought Conference. As usual, the conference was at turns entertaining and informative and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of really amazing individuals I remember from conferences past as well as making the acquaintance of a bunch more really amazing individuals for the first time. One such individual was a man I chatted with after the conference had wrapped up on Saturday when a small sub-section of conference attendees, myself included, chose to return to the hotel lobby after dinner rather than attend the scheduled bar-crawl. Friendly, intelligent, passionate, and charming, I was quite happy to have met him and very much enjoyed our conversation.
Earlier today, I was informed by another conference attendee that the man in question is a fellow blogger. I tell you this for three reasons:
1 - He didn't tell me himself. Blogging came up, but I don't believe he mentioned that he was among the ranks of the internet content producing hordes*. Granted, I didn't manage to mention that I was a blogger until it came out that I story I was busy telling sounded familiar, but in the spirit of "do as I say, not as I do"... bloggers - please tell the people you meet, especially at functions where like minded people congregate, that you blog. You are your public relations and advertising department. Don't let yourself down by failing to do your job.
2 - Having read through his archives, it seems we have more than a passing commonality. Being an Arrogant Cunt™, I'm instantaneously amused by individuals that remind me of myself... as long as they only remind me of the things I actually LIKE about myself. Essentially - we've got a lot of shit in common, I think very highly of myself**, therefore he must be pretty fucking awesome.
3 - His writing is focused and introspective without losing the charm and personality that made speaking with him enjoyable. Seriously, it's a pretty good blog. Go read it.
* It's also possible that he DID mention it, and I had just phased out. It was late and I am, as I have stated, an Arrogant Cunt™.
** Yes, one can both think very highly of themselves AND think that they're shite. Humans are complicated.
Short answer: We binned it.
Long answer: It was a bad idea, so we binned it.
For all of you that purchased access to the Member's Only section, I thank you for supporting NinjEel; your money has been fully refunded. The content we had intended to offer in the Member's Only section will soon be freely available in the Extras section which will be updated as frequently as possible In the end, I just didn't feel right holding content hostage behind a pay wall when it might actually useful to people as well as entertaining.
That sentiment does not, however, apply to the comics themselves. Girl's gotta at least break even, you know?
I know, the shock is likely unbearable for some of you. Stay strong... you know... for the children.
To all the awesome individuals I met at Penguicon who are checking in, thanks for being a part of the greatest convention I've ever had the brilliant pleasure of attending. To everyone stopping by, I've just got to get through this last week of finals and then I'll be dedicating the summer break to Daisies and Shit Productions. As such, you can probably expect the site to go live sometime next week.
I'm really excited to get going again, and I'm really glad you're all along for the ride.
Those of you familiar with comic title launches might notice that this one seems a bit... subtle. I just want to take a minute here to assure everyone that this is by design and not due to funding issues or anything equally doom heralding. The pre-sale launch date for NinjEel: Origins - Part One was August 7th, chosen in honor of James Randi's birthday. Because first issue sales typically drive sales for the rest of the series, such launches are usually bathed in fanfare and advertising. NinjEel, however, is just a little bit different than most other comic book series in that it's not necessarily targeted to traditional comic book readers. While my ideal target is believers in pseudoscience, my practical target is other skeptics.
Which brings me, finally, to the atypical marketing campaign.
I happen to be a skeptic who loves comic books, but I'm occasionally forced to recognize that not all skeptics do... yet. Since the skeptic movement is a big part of our hero's personal identity there are a few skeptical tidbits in the first two-part issue of NinjEel, but the issue is mostly dedicated to setting up the superhero aspects of the story. Comic book readers pretty much expect this and generally enjoy learning about the hero's background, skeptics... well... they just might rather get right on with the woo bashing. Basically, my reader base looks something like this:
As you can see from the highly accurate and scientifical* diagram above, I'd very likely be wasting my advertising budget if I used it to heavily promote the first issue (even though I think it's made entirely of awesome and win). Skeptics, and the woomeisters skeptics might be trying to reach, are my main audience and they just may not care very much about issue #1; but just look at the scientificals for issue #2!
In Issue #2, Antivax Anarchy!, we get down to the business of kicking ass for science! Skeptics love that shit!
Essentially, you'll get your fanfare and advertising a couple of weeks before Issue #2 is available for purchase. Stay tuned for more news, with or without nonsensical Venn diagrams, in the coming weeks.