Saturday Storytime: La beauté sans virtu

I don’t often repeat authors for Saturday Storytime, but oh, I do like what Genevieve Valentine does when she’s writing about fashion. Though, maybe, “like” is not quite always the right word.

The Old Baroque Concert Hall is on the edge of town, and only the House of Centifolia’s long history and Rhea’s name could get anyone from the industry crowd to come out this far.

The runway snakes across most of the derelict space, weaving back in on itself in a pattern that came to Rhea in a dream—it reminded her of the journey through life, and of the detox trip she took to Austria.

The narrow walkway crosses itself at different sloping elevations to mimic the mountain trails; the oily pool sliding beneath it all reflects the muted tones of this season’s collection, and pays homage to the foot-buckets of cold and hot water in the Austrian spa that drained lipids and negative thoughts from the body.

With thirty-five looks in the fall collection and six points of varying heights across which the meandering runway connects—“It’s more of a maze than a trail,” Rhea explains to potential choreographers, “it’s very spiritual”—the timing has to be precise, but there are only two windows in which the girls are available to practice: once during the fitting the day before, and once mere hours before the show.

Three of the models have to be fired for having scheduled another show the day before this one, which makes them traitors to the House (you don’t book something else without permission, rookie mistake, Rhea cuts them so fast one of them gets thrown out of a cab), and the three alternates have to be called up and fitted. It means six hours of all the girls standing in the unheated warehouse, loose-limbed and pliant as they’re ordered to be for fittings, while assistants yank them in and out of outfits and take snapshots until the new assignments emerge and they’re allowed to go rehearse.

The choreographer—he has a name, but no one dares use it when speaking of him, lest he appear before they’ve corrected their posture—thinks carefully for a long time. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: La beauté sans virtu”

Saturday Storytime: La beauté sans virtu

TBT: About Those HPV Vaccines

This is a repost from several years ago. If you read my post from earlier this week, you know I dealt with some medical trauma related to HPV. This touches on the aftermath of that. I don’t remember writing it, though that’s not unheard of for something this old. More remarkable is that it contains a link to me writing about the bleeds that occurred after my surgery. I should remember that. I don’t. It’s fascinating to see the spots that memory has tweaked or erased in the intervening years.

Go get them for your kids who are in the appropriate age range. Tell people you know who have kids in that age range that these are important. That’s all. Just help deal a major blow to the most pernicious forms of this virus.


Photo of cells stained light and dark blue for viewing. One cluster of cells has large dark blue centers.
“High-grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion of Cervix, ThinPrep” by Ed Uthman, CC BY 2.0

Yesterday I had an appointment to get a Pap smear. This is a routine appointment for most women. It isn’t for me. It was a six-month follow-up to my last test (clear), which was a follow-up to my surgery for extensive precancerous lesions last November.

It also marks the second birthday in a row during which I will be waiting for more information on my health. A friend noted yesterday, “It’s not a Heisenberg cervix; you won’t alter it by looking at it. So even if it WAS bad news, that means you can enjoy your birthday without having it hang over your head.” It doesn’t exactly change the situation, but at least it made me laugh, which I needed by then.

I didn’t think the Pap was going to bother me. I thought it would be just as routine as any before last year. Some part of me had other ideas. Continue reading “TBT: About Those HPV Vaccines”

TBT: About Those HPV Vaccines

Supporting Skepticon

Skepticon 9 text logo, angular blue lettering with a drop shadow.
If you listened to this week’s episode of The Humanist Hour, you know that I support Skepticon. I’ve spoken there. I’ve run a workshop there for free each year they’ve offered them, and last year and this, I’ve been one of the organizers of a full track of panels under Secular Women Work. I’ve helped them with communications and fundraising, and I’m part of their Dino Club for monthly donors. And this year, though I can’t say more just yet, I’m helping them bring panels back to their programming. (Okay, I strong-armed them into having panels again, if you must know.)

So when I say Skepticon is worth supporting, you know I’m talking from experience. This year, Skepticon, like many other conferences and organizations after Reason Rally and before the election, is behind in its fundraising. It needs your support.

If you like Skepticon and want to help make it a reality, consider doing one of the following:

If the fact that Skepticon is changing how we run conferences for the better isn’t enough, Skepticon’s been talking about why you want to support them for the last couple of weeks. Continue reading “Supporting Skepticon”

Supporting Skepticon

“Skepticon and Rethinking Conferences”, Lauren Lane on The Humanist Hour

This week, I talked with Lauren about Skepticon’s track record of mucking about with the conference format. Pretty much everything I cut while editing this podcast was laughing.

Skepticon is an unusual conference in several ways. It started as a student-run event that survived its founders’ graduation. It’s an independent event, run as its own nonprofit organization. It’s a free conference and vows to remain that way. In any given year, roughly half its speakers are women. It’s held in a smaller city in the middle of the country in a very religious area. It attracts a younger audience on average, many of whom bring their families. It blends religious skepticism with what proponents call scientific skepticism with a minimum of friction.

In short, Skepticon meets many of the demographic and other challenges the secular and skeptical movements have identified. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s the largest annual conference in either of these movements.

This week, we talk with Skepticon co-founder and president Lauren Lane about Skepticon’s past and its future. We talk about its history of innovation, and what’s changing this year. Lauren will tell you what you can expect at this year’s Skepticon, November 11-13, 2016. We’ll also laugh rather a lot.

You can listen to the podcast here.

“Skepticon and Rethinking Conferences”, Lauren Lane on The Humanist Hour

The Illnesses We Can’t See

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”

The Illnesses We Can’t See

“DYIscizone: Science Engagement for Kids”, Raychelle Burks on Atheists Talk

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.

Related Links:

Continue reading ““DYIscizone: Science Engagement for Kids”, Raychelle Burks on Atheists Talk”

“DYIscizone: Science Engagement for Kids”, Raychelle Burks on Atheists Talk

“Foundation Beyond Belief”, Noelle George on The Humanist Hour

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.

“Foundation Beyond Belief”, Noelle George on The Humanist Hour

Mock the Movie: That Happened Edition

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”

Mock the Movie: That Happened Edition

Saturday Storytime: A Deeper Green

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”

Saturday Storytime: A Deeper Green

On the Limits of Artistic License

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”

On the Limits of Artistic License