This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. I’m posting it here now in part because there’s more nonsense going around about the HPV vaccine. We talk about bad things that happened to people who were vaccinated. We don’t talk so much about what happens to people who weren’t. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.
I’ve been sick. No, really.
It’s not surprising. There’s a summer cold that’s been making the rounds. It’s been months since I was sleeping regularly (or it had been). Being allergic to grass was already putting a strain on my immune system. It was going to happen. The only surprise is that it hasn’t been worse.
Well, no. That’s not quite true. The other surprise is that part of me wanted it to be worse.
As summer colds go, it wasn’t terrible. I mean, it wasn’t great either. My face hurt from the sinus pressure. My teeth hurt from the sinus pressure. My inner ears hurt when they weren’t itching. My throat hurt. The canker sore–ugh! I slept so much, and I wanted to sleep more every minute of every day. The occasional sneezing fits made that difficult, though.
And all you could see from the outside was that the circles under my eyes were very slightly darker than usual. Even in the middle of the sleep and the Anbesol and the ibuprofen and the hot liquids, I wanted proof I could show other people that I really was sick. Not having proof, I began to feel like I was faking it. In between naps and painkillers, of course.
I know it’s silly. I shouldn’t need other people to know I’m sick in order to believe it myself. On the other hand, I’m not alone in this. And if I allow myself to think about why I feel this way, what I get are all the times I needed to be able to pull out that proof, not for myself, but for other people. Continue reading “The Illnesses We Can’t See”
A couple of years ago, Dr. Rubidium (forensic chemist Raychelle Burks) joined us to talk about using pop culture to teach adults about chemistry. This Sunday, she returns to the show to tell us about the DIY science zone at GeekGirlCon in Seattle.
The DIY science zone uses a combination of demonstrations and hands-on activities to bring out the scientist or science enthusiast in young science fiction fans. Dr. Rubidium will tell us what the kids can expect this October and the lengths she and other will go to in order to make a place for exploring science.
Continue reading ““DYIscizone: Science Engagement for Kids”, Raychelle Burks on Atheists Talk”
This week, Peggy and Jenn talked to Noelle George about Foundation Beyond Belief and the AHA matching grant to support the Humanist Service Corps.
We like to say that we’re “good without a god,” but the fact of the matter is that we’re not always very organized about it. One of the good things organized religion has introduced to the world is ways to encourage giving and volunteering to help those in need. Foundation Beyond Belief is a secular nonprofit organization that provides a similar structure to help those of us who have left religion or who never had religion in the first place when we want to give.
Noelle George is the executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and the former head of the Beyond Belief Network, Foundation Beyond Belief’s program that supports secular volunteers across the country. She joins us this week to discuss the history of the organization, its various programs, and how people can contribute time, money, or word of mouth to Foundation Beyond Belief. She also talks about the matching grant that American Humanist Association is offering this month to support the Humanist Service Corps’ work in Ghana.
You can listen to the podcast here.
This month, we take on a divisive movie. Depending on who you ask, Valhalla Rising is either a grandly cinematic (we think that means it’s a movie) take on meaning or meaninglessness or…something, or it’s a bunch of pieces of footage in search of a plot. Given the movie’s themes of dirt, blood, and Christianity, we have a pretty good idea where we’re going to land. Still, we’ll give it a shot. We have Twitter to keep us company if–or when–things go horribly awry.
This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: That Happened Edition”
Sometimes you just have to find a way to say, “No.” Enjoy this story from Samantha Murray.
Davvi was not happy. Juvianna could read it in the tension in his stride, the small crease lodged between his brows.
“This does not feel right,” he said finally, as they neared Hensson’s hut, way down close to the shore of the Odaay.
Juvianna kept walking. “Oh really?” she said, glaring at him.
“No, it doesn’t. Ju—” He grabbed her arm and stopped her. “There are a lot of people who are not too happy about this.”
She had been at the public audience. She had heard the rumble of concern, of dissent, passing through the crowd, like low-key thunder grumbling on the horizon, when the mair had spoken of Juvianna using her gift as a preventative measure rather than just a reactive one. But the mair, by pure force of personality coming through his cool and persuasive words, had led the colony back around, gentled their protests before they could build into a storm. He had spoken to their need to feel safe. At the back of their minds, they all knew winter would return. How the darkness would worm its way into the minds of people they knew as their neighbors and friends when they were too long without a glimpse of the sun.
“They listened to the mair,” she said. “If I could save someone… Losing one—”
“—diminishes us all. Yes, yes we all know that, Ju. These people haven’t done anything. Going hunting in their minds…”
“They haven’t done anything—yet,” countered Juvianna. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: A Deeper Green”
So let’s say you’re an artist who works in very personal themes. You’re a comedian, or a nonfiction writer like me, whose work explores the way society treats you. You delve into some ugly realities, and you deal with fears and insecurities.
Now, hypothetically of course, let’s say you’re in a situation that prompts you to do what you feel is some interesting or insightful musing on these themes. Leaving aside the question of trying to objectively measure their quality, you’re happy with what you came up with. You want to share it.
And let’s, still entirely hypothetically, say that the situation that sparked your musing was public. The people involved are known. They have reputations of some worth. The way the public views them makes a difference to their lives and livelihoods. Continue reading “On the Limits of Artistic License”
This week, I sat down with Miri to discuss what sex positivity is, isn’t, and should be. We also talked about her well-received consent workshop.
Sex positivity sounds like a wonderful thing, but do you really know what it is? As a social movement, it’s older than you might think. It can be traced back through the Free Love movement. No, not the one in the 1960s: the Victorian Free Love movement. In its more modern incarnation, sex positivity has been associated with LGBTQ liberation and the battles within feminism over pornography and sex work. It’s also closely tied to movements to destigmatize kink and polyamory.
With all these associations, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that not everyone agrees about what sex positivity is and what it looks like in practice. Sex positivity fills different roles for lots of people. And while, at its heart, sex positivity is an intellectual tradition, not everyone relates to it on an intellectual level.
Miri Mogilevsky is a licensed therapist, a writer, and a long-time provider of sex education for adults. With articles having appeared in xoJane, Salon, and Everyday Feminism, she’s a recognized resource on mental health, feminism, and consent. In recent years, she’s offered a workshop at secular movement conferences titled, “Getting It On at the Con: How to Get Lucky Consensually”. She’s recently written about some of the common misperceptions about sex positivity, and she joins us this week to clear the air.
One note: This is a show about sex. While it doesn’t get graphic, it may still be inappropriate for work for other reasons, such as the swearing.
You can listen to the podcast here.
The secular movement is no stranger to conflict. It never has been, though it does have a tendency to treat each new round of conflict as a fresh problem with no precedent and the potential to rip apart a fairly healthy, growing movement.
Recently, such a conflict swept up Callie Wright and Ari Stillman of the Gaytheist Manifesto podcast, and they had some solid thoughts on managing conflicts like these. This Sunday, they join us to talk about it all, the good, the bad, and the ultimately irrelevant.
Then, join us again next week for part 2 of this discussion with another guest with a slightly different perspective.
Continue reading ““Navigating Conflict in the Movement, Part 1”, Callie Wright and Ari Stillman on Atheists Talk”
This week, we revisited the AHA conference in Chicago in May for some practical advice.
The concept of social justice is enjoying a renaissance. That doesn’t necessarily translate into action, however. Even people who support social justice may find themselves uncertain how to put their principles into practice. They may be unsure what is needed from them.
At the American Humanist Association’s 75th Anniversary Conference in Chicago this year, Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator of the AHA, moderated a panel on this problem. Diane Burkholder, co-founder of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color; James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis; and Randall Jenson, executive director of SocialScope Productions, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ and gender documentary projects, discussed the practical impediments to social justice in the humanist movement and our broader society. They talked about the needs we don’t see and the solutions that allow us to put our time and money where our mouths are.
This panel also had a Q&A session that is not presented here. This can be heard in the full panel video on the American Humanist Association’s YouTube channel.
You can listen to the podcast here.
I wasn’t going to write about Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies and their Hugo Awards slate this year. I was just going to enjoy Uncanny Magazine‘s win for Best Semiprozine and Naomi Kritzer‘s win for Best Short Story with “Cat Pictures Please“, because it is a weird and wonderful thing when people I know win awards for work I like. I was going to enjoy the success of a fiction slate swept by women, three of whom are women of color and one of whom didn’t write in English, because the WorldCon should look more like the world than it generally has. I was going to enjoy looking at a slate full of winners of serious quality, because I like this genre, and I get tired of defending it from charges it is only pulp (mmm, pulp).
I was going to do all that, which is plenty. Then I looked at the numbers in the nomination long lists (pdf, de-Puppied numbers at the bottom of this post). I noticed something important.
There is one thing you should know about Vox Day, assuming you can’t avoid him altogether. Well, one thing aside from him being alt-right before the alt-right was identified as a thing. One thing aside from him being such a secure sexist that he has to declare the inferiority of women whenever anyone will listen. One thing aside from his self-published fiction being just sort of tedious and fascinated by its own fascinations.
That one thing is that he always declares victory.
As schticks go, it’s not terribly impressive. It’s a lot like those people who look at science, scrinch their foreheads at the math, and pop out some late-night, freshman-who-took-one-philosophy-class deepity about “But what if the world is really…?” If your musings aren’t falsifiable, you’re not going to impress a scientist with your depth of thought. If you claim everything is a win condition, we all know you’re just not prepared to lose.
This year, Vox Day lost badly. Continue reading “Puppies, Slates, and the Leftover Shape of “Victory””