I hate to ask that question because, generally speaking, I get along pretty well with dudes.
There isn’t a general parking lot where I work, just one for the higher ups. Because of that, I have to park a couple blocks away wherever I can find street parking. This is not a great situation, not because I mind the walk, but for whatever reason this particular neighborhood, which is quite nice, has some very not nice traffic in the form of guys who like to harass women.
Up to now, this has only really been a problem in the evenings, after dark, and if I leave particularly late or am parked particularly far away, I can usually get someone to walk with me. Which I never do because that seems pathetic. I have been followed by cars, honked at, and screamed at. It’s usually just a brief scare and it passes.
Not that it matters, and it certainly shouldn’t matter, but I don’t dress provocatively. 80% of the time I’m wearing some variation of jeans, t-shirt, ponytail and glasses.
Anyway, the point is that the summer has been a welcome respite because it stays light longer, so I walk to my car from work in the daylight and it’s all good. I haven’t been bothered in ages.
This morning, I parked not terribly far away, and someone in a gold forerunner not in very good shape honked at me and waved like crazy as I was walking through a crosswalk. I looked at them, it was some guy I didn’t recognize and who, even at a distance, looked skeezy. To be fair, honking at a girl automatically puts you in the skeez camp, even if it is 10AM.
I crossed over another street and saw that the forerunner was driving too fast up that street and quickened my pace a little to be well out of the way. The guy had driven around like 5 blocks to get back to me. The guy started screaming at me, but I just ignored him since he was behind me, hoping that he’d go away.
The guy swearved around traffic and pulled into someone’s driveway to cut me off. He very nearly ran me over.
Creep: Hey, I’m the guy who honked at you.
Me: Yeah, I got that.
C: Do you have a boyfriend?
(The inflection here has to imply the imaginary boyfriend is a linebacker, very violent, and the jealous type)
C: Does he make you happy?
C: That’s too bad, I was hoping I could take you out some time.
M: Sorry, you can’t.
C: You could still go out though, right? I mean —
M: Really I couldn’t
C: Do you have a sister?
M: No, I have a brother, I doubt you’d be interested.
Do you have a sister? WTF SERIOUSLY?! Who goes around picking up women on the side of the road?
Anyway, this all reminds me of a post on Pharyngula yesterday, about why there aren’t more women who go to conventions. It’s because women deal with shit like that on a regular basis and walking into a room dominated by strange guys by yourself isn’t fun. It’s not fair to the vast majority of guys who aren’t super creepy, but it’s true. Even if only one guy in the room is super creepy, if none of the other people have your back, many girls decide that it’s not worth it.
And if one person comments that I’m lucky to have the attention, I will find you and bring a baseball bat. I don’t own a baseball bat, but I’m seriously reconsidering my position on that.
There is a really cool convention in Las Vegas every year hosted by James Randi, The Amaz!ng Meeting aka TAM. It is not, however, the cheapest thing in the world. Registration costs $450 and a room for three nights would be $250 (not really that bad), which brings it to $700 upfront costs. Also, two days of lost work, gas, and eating out of town. And if I had an extra $1000 I could eat dinner with James Randi and Richard Dawkins.
Obviously, I don’t have an extra thousand. I don’t even have the first thousand to go to TAM in the first place. Suddenly, $50 to eat dinner with PZ Myers makes him seem like kind of a cheap date.
Anyway, I was bemoaning this yesterday, being in a particularly bad mood thanks to a migraine, and Jen “inventor of Boobquake” McCreight over at Blag Hag ended up bemoaning her own inability to pay for it. Made even worse in her case in that she was invited to speak, but JREF doesn’t cover speaker’s registration, travel, or hotel expenses. In 8 hours, she raised $1500 dollars. That’s insane!
Suffice to say I am jealous and astounded, probably in that order. Because, in addition to Dawkins and Randi, who are both pretty much 10s on the awesome scale, there will also be Penn&Teller and Adam Savage, all of whom are probably 11s.
Not a totally new draft, just a tweaked one. I have a hard time doing rewrites immediately, I need time for things to gestate. I think I’m different from most writers in that I’d rather spend a lot of time thinking and write in a mad dash than to write a little each day. I think a little most days, and then write 10-20 pages a day for a week. I think this is absolutely not the way they recommend doing it.
I think about 30% of it is a procrastination thing*, it’s hard to write without deadlines, but most of it is about the fact that in the rewrite stage I need to get away from the previous draft enough that changing it doesn’t feel like I’m betraying the truth of the story. Because when you write something down it becomes sort of solid; while it’s floating around in your head, changes are easy, but once it’s on the page it’s just a little bit harder to change.
*Writing is tough when you’re at work 50hrs/wk and you have other stuff you’ve got to do. And there’s the internet.
In other, unrelated news, I met Mr. Deity on Friday! So in one week, I’ve met Michael Shermer, PZ Myers, and Mr. Deity. Only slightly related, UPS was supposed to have delivered my new business cards on Thursday, but even though I left them the signed thing saying they could just leave it, they didn’t. So I don’t have them and I am frustrated because I spent hours (maybe like an hour) designing new ones and I could have had those on me at the time. Oh well.
In other other news, I spent all of Saturday (14 hours) ACing on a spinoff series of Gold. They’re shooting for four days, but 28 hour weekends is a lot when you’re not getting money or an above the line credit, so I did yesterday and probably will help out a little next weekend. It was an interesting day, they’ve got different directors working on the project, but two different people were directing different bits, so it was interesting to see how differently it went with the two of them.
And, we were shooting in the garage, and the garage door fell off. And I thought that was hysterical, which I think is allowed because they fixed it.
A) I’m not sure why one wouldn’t conflate truth and goodness
B) Atheism is a neutral, it’s morality that is positive or negative, and atheism doesn’t create a set of moral values
C) I still haven’t heard a cogent definition for what a “New Atheist” is as compared to a plain old normal atheist
D) What exactly is there to be sad about not being religious, what do you lose that you’d want to keep?
E) I’m not sure why someone needs to deeply try to understand Christianity in order to reject it outright. I don’t need to understand Greek mythology all that well to ignore it
F) Why is it the atheist’s job to disprove a religion and not their job to prove it?
G) There are many examples of the struggle to get out of their faith by so-called new atheists. They all address how difficult it is to leave, they just all think it is better to not be religious
H) Do they think that someone born and raised atheist feels a profound lack in their life?
I) There is a difference between allowing people to be free and allowing people to take advantage of, abuse, mislead, lie and steal from people. Simply exposing ideas for what they are and providing information isn’t illiberal it’s common decency
1. Toilet seat sheets. If you’re too grossed out to sit on the toilet, is a sheet really going to make it better?
The show I’m working on, these two women who were otherwise not like high maintenance said they would never use a toilet that wasn’t their own without a toilet sheet. What? Seriously? Was I raised by weirdos because they never said don’t put your butt on the toilet?
2. Ableism and online dating. Particularly in the mental health department, but also in general.
Now I appreciate that online dating attracts a somewhat skewed group that has the semi-anonymity of the internet to make unusual demands, but I have seen so so many guys profiles where they say they don’t want to date “anyone who’s ever been on anti-depressants” or “I don’t want to date anyone who has had any health problems”. These are not necessarily guys who, in my opinion, have girls knocking down their door and they’re just trying to filter out some people by being picky. And I realize we’ve all got things where we aren’t able to have a nuanced viewpoint, but here are guys lumping in people with asthma with people with cancer, or people with well-treated depression with untreated schizophrenics. I get how taking on a significant other with terminal cancer or an untreated illness might be difficult, but are we going to scratch out every one with a health quirk?
At first I thought, oh it’s just this one guy who had a bad experience, but I’ve seen it so many times I just don’t know what to think. Is it really that awful to date someone who at some point in their life was depressed or has some other chronic illness that’s well under control?
3. Also related to online dating, why do guys who are super Christian message me advertising their good Christian morals when I state that I am an atheist? I mean, I know why, they don’t read, but I mean really.
4. Equating religion with race. There’s a super long thread over at Pharyngula where people are accusing PZ of being a Nazi for posting a picture that a cartoonist drew of Muhammed because there are people in Europe who are racist against Muslim immigrants. I’m just not sure “racist” is the right word. “Religionist” maybe? Anyway, critiquing a religion isn’t a violent act, no matter how crudely done, and I don’t understand how blasphemy is racist.
5. How difficult or impossible it is for the religious to understand that there is value and meaning to life regardless of whether there is an afterlife.
The conference was in Costa Mesa, and I’m in Glendale, feel free to map it, suffice to say it takes about an hour fifteen to do that drive. I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself and try to get there at 9 since I didn’t really know any of the morning speakers and I didn’t want to get up at 6AM on a Saturday. So I got there around 10:45 and got through the whole check in thing to catch the second half of Brian Dunning’s talk. He was talking about the Virgin of Guadalupe and I confess my interest was not sparked by the topic. Which is just as well as it gave me time to get my bearings.
The conference was held in a community center adjacent to a local public library. It was a smallish venue, and everything was contained within one large room. This was a little awkward because the vendors and speakers were in the same room, so if you wanted to go look at stuff you had to do it either as quietly and unobtrusively as possible or in short bursts between speakers.
After Dunning was finished, I met up with a guy I met on Meetup.com who had said he was also going and sat up front with him. So the first talk I sat through entirely was William Lobdell. Lobdell is a very dynamic speaker, and I really preferred the speakers who focused on sort of broader strokes and the whys and what we can do about it, not just simple facts. And I am always drawn to stories of how people lost their faith.
Then, it was lunch time, and I walked across the street to Quizno’s because I’m a picky eater and I doubted they were serving a sandwich I would eat. There was a very strange homeless guy who sort of followed me and I bought him a sandwich. Don’t tell my mother, she gets freaked out by those things. Ran into an interesting guy, I want to say from Riverside, who was also at the conference and eating at Quizno’s. Apparently Riverside has the biggest Atheist community like ever.
I took my sandwich back across the street and there was a seat open next to meetup guy who was sitting with PZ, but first I wanted to say hello to my twin. There was a guy there wearing the same shirt as me, and interestingly enough he and the guy he was sitting with, lime green Alaskan, would end up being the people I sat with at dinner. Anyway I said hello and they graciously offered me a seat but I wanted to go sit with PZ.
So I sat with PZ during lunch, which was really half over by the time I got back with my sandwich. But it was an interesting group. Talked about why we call evolution a theory and why changing the name to something like “law” is letting the terrorists win. Here’s where my former math major instincts made me probably a bit too ferocious about the fact laws involve math equations and there’s no mathematical way of predicting evolution.
Post lunch and it’s Michael Shermer, the aforementioned Jonathan Pryce doppelganger with the arrogant swagger, and I can’t for the life of me remember what he talked about except that it pissed some people off. If anyone was there and remembers, tell me?
Then it was PZ and he went out of his normal field and talked about astronomy and William Herschel. And posed the simple answer to the days topic “Can science and religion coexist? Yes.” And made many many jokes about stepping all over Dan Barker’s time. And then he talked about neanderthals and people having sex. What I like about PZ when he speaks is that he seems like he’s going to be a stuffy non-offensive professor, but he’s someone who’s genuinely at ease with both himself and the realities of human nature. In other words, he likes to talk about sex with neanderthals.
Dan Barker spoke and, again, his was a story of de-conversion so I found it pretty interesting. His book has been recommended to my by Amazon but it didn’t strike me as interesting til I saw he talk. He spoke mostly towards lawsuits, particularly the one against the National Day of Prayer. As someone who finds the intricacies of constitutional law interesting (nerd!) I thought this was interesting.
I did not find Stephanie Campbell that interesting, not because she’s a bad speaker, but because her talk was so focused on the facts of the case of Texas Education and not about anything broader reaching. The entire thing ended with a Vote for your School Board plea that I guess was somewhat universal, but it felt very much like a lecture. And this is a topic, education and the south, that I find generally interesting, but I guess it was just that it was all about Texas and not about why it was happening, or the players involved, or how it impacted people. Just the facts, ma’am. I was also sad that there was only one woman speaker. Where are all the ladies at? Clearly I need a book deal so I can be invited to conferences to be snarky about religion.
John Shook surprised me and was, I thought, the most interesting and compelling speaker of the entire event. He was so interesting that I briefly entertained the idea of sitting with him at the speakers dinner instead of PZ. He’s a philosopher and is of the opinion that philosophy, not science, is the natural opposition to religion. And he used a term “a-theology” as that which is most directly opposed to theology. He recognized that the more insidious religious ideas are those that are constantly moving the goal posts, because they accept science and then turn it into religion. Anyway, if they end up selling DVDs of this or it ends up on youtube, I’ll link to it.
The day ended with Joe Nickell who talked about the Shroud of Turin. PZ had just talked about it, so I was up to date on the facts. He’s an interesting guy. After he spoke, I talked to him when we walked over to dinner and he’s one of those guys who is determinedly open minded. In a way where you worry that they’re too open minded, but he’s dedicated enough to the scientific method that he seems all right. But he doesn’t judge things as a whole, only specific incidents. Like if a woman is possessed, he would go and look at her specifically rather than looking at possessions as a whole. He doesn’t consider himself a debunker, but rather an investigator of supernatural claims. It’s a fine distinction, and I’m guessing it wins him points with the people he’s investigating, but I found it interesting that he is so committed to not being dismissive of people’s bizarre claims.
And then was dinner, which I’ve already talked about, and after dinner I went home because it was a long drive and I didn’t want to spend another 50 bucks to stay for the rest of the program and not get home til one in the morning.
I have no camera, but I do have an iMac. Apologies for any legibility issues, it says, “Notice: No Squid! This is Bullshit! PZ Myers.”
That’s the Gideon Bible what I stole and kept because it was green. I stole it because that’s generally my MO in hotels, but I didn’t throw it away because it was green and I didn’t have a Bible to desecrate reference. I got it signed because I had the brilliant idea at midnight when talking to a friend who was super jealous he couldn’t go.
I’ll probably do a separate post about the whole conference thing, but the dinner was really neat. Firstly, there was someone else wearing the Squid vs. Noah shirt, and there was a very cool and interesting guy from Anchorage/Irvine/England who was wearing lime green. I have forgotten his name. There was also Phil Zuckerman and a cute blonde guy in glasses, who were sitting a bit down the table but occasionally joined in.
But dinner was really cool because it was basically just hanging out with some really interesting smart people who enjoyed snark. And I learned new things about PZ. We hit a broad range of topics but I’ll give the highlights.
We talked about his experiments with zebrafish. Apparently fish in captivity are really dumb, and fish in the wild are really clever. I’m not sure how much to talk about because apparently some jerkface stole something about the zebrafish experiments from PZ’s blog and published it so I don’t want to spoil anything. Suffice to say we spent a long time talking about zebrafish and it was pretty interesting.
We talked about Neanderthals. I asked how do we decide that Neanderthals are a different species from us since we could interbreed, to which PZ gave the witty reply that they are all dead, that’s how. I’m fond of Neanderthals because they had red hair.
We talked about the Uncanny Valley and the creepy proportions of the Shroud of Turin. And how the fingers look like they’re made of rubber. Funny Alaskan said they were tentacles, and I made a jab about Onanism with tentacles for fingers and PZ drifted into a reverie for a moment or two.
I got to be directly catty about the comments in favor of the genital nicking on the part of pediatrics. I feel often that my comments are fairly ignored over there, which isn’t that big of a deal, comments seem mostly about hearing yourself talk anyway, but it was nice to feel heard on the issue.
I found out PZ’s opinion on Andrew Sullivan (nuanced), Episcopalians (relatively OK with), men hijacking any thread about women to make it all about them and their issues (aware of), Dr. Who (for), Macs (for), Linux (against!), PZed (against!), Australians (arrogant bastards insist on saying PZed), and steak (medium).
I also got to see the cover of his upcoming book which apparently needs to be written. I give the cover a B+. It has tentacles, an elephant and a great deal of purple, but it doesn’t have PZ and there’s something weird about the color scheme in general. I suggested he get a quote from Trophy Wife TM and if that happens I’m just going to go ahead and claim credit right now.
I never quite figured out what he was vaguely irritated with Michael Shermer for. Michael Shermer, by the way, looks eerily like Jonathan Pryce and has a weird arrogant swagger to him that is both compelling and a bit unsettling. He was super nice when I talked to him and I got his newest book, so nothing personal there, just an observation.
I also saw PZ at lunch where he said he knew what his grandmother’s face looked like when she orgasmed, made fun of Utah and Mormons, and laughed heartily at my True Stories About Atheism. I made my mother’s friend cry when I told her I was an atheist. Hysterically she asked, “Don’t you want to get married and have a family?!” I told my ex-Catholic mother when she was taking me to college that I was atheist and she said, “I’m so disappointed you don’t believe you’re going to Hell. Wait, that came out wrong.”
There was lots more and I don’t remember it right now, but if I think of it, I promise I’ll add it. It was totally worth the money. And not just for PZ but for the other interesting people who also wanted to have dinner with PZ. It was all very snarky and civilized.
I forgot to ask him if he’ll do a bit appearance in Bible Con, my script making fun of Christians and atheists, if it actually gets made.
Poor Roger Ebert has created some sort of Internet Firestorm by claiming that Video Games aren’t art. Everyone is pissed off at him, which is really quite silly. But it’s interesting. PZ Myers posted in agreement with Ebert, and now there’s extreme craziness over there as well. Seriously, 3000 Comments at Ebert’s page and over 500 at Pharyngula.
It all seems a bit ridiculous to me because obviously art is a subjective experience. One man’s art is another man’s urinal. This hits home with me because I think comedy is an art form but it generally isn’t treated as one. If it makes you cry, it’s art, if it makes you laugh, it’s just entertainment. Video games straddle this line between entertainment and art, much like film does, and it’s why people act as though some films are art and some aren’t. Rather than accepting that some films are just really shitty art made by committee. As though calling something “art” automatically makes it good, worthwhile or insightful. Have you ever been to DeviantArt?
Someone mentioned this in the comments over on Ebert’s page, but it seems like it’s the difference between a chess board and playing chess. A chess board can be a work of art, but a game of chess is a game. The act of playing a video game isn’t artistic, but the game itself is some combination of puzzle and art. Although, playing a game for other people might be considered some kind of performance art…
I think the lines are a bit blurred, because storytelling is generally considered art, though it is also entertainment. Video Games, particularly RPGs, follow specific story lines and develop characters, you can genuinely become emotionally involved with them. This is why the people defending the video games are so defensive, to them the games have real emotional depth and feeling and Ebert and PZ are saying that that isn’t a valid reaction.
I don’t think it makes you old-fashioned not to think of video games as art anymore than it makes someone old-fashioned to think TV or bad films aren’t art. It’s a very difficult line to draw between entertainment and art. Is Blazing Saddles art? Is Die Hard? Is Eddie Izzard?
It’s a subjective question. Some people might say that Uwe Boll is art, and I’m not sure I could disagree with them. Now, if they claimed it was worthwhile, I’d have to laugh derisively in their face. Personally, I think the in-depth narratives, stunning graphics, and emotional investment that a lot of video games provide do make them art. I’d argue for Kingdom Hearts, Prince of Persia, Ocarina of Time or even Katamari Damacy — they present unique visions of the world and stories that have stuck in my mind as much as any film.
But, I think the entire discussion is best encapsulated by a comment by Brownian over at Pharyngula:
You know what this society sorely lacks? More pretentious conversations asking What Is Art? (and then answering with something along the lines of “Whatever it is, kids today aren’t doing it.”)
I look forward to Ebert’s next essay: “Why Lawns Are Important And Why The Kids Should Get The Fuck Off Mine.”
If you want to see something really boring, watch someone else playing a video game.
Complete bullshit. Boring for you maybe, but I spent a great part of my childhood and teenage years watching other people play video games, and found it to be as full of opportunities for socialisation and entertainment as many other activities.