I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to post more, even if it’s not about anything particularly interesting or a particularly in-depth post. It turns out writing a personal blog while writing for a professional one becomes a lot more difficult. Not because there aren’t things I care about, but because they necessarily take a backseat to paid work.
I’m trying to train myself to write more anyway, because I should.
I spent several hours yesterday at a media seminar with Fred Edwords (Fredwords) and it was very interesting how much of his talk overlapped with the things I’ve been talking about at TAM, D*C, and at the UU today. PR is basically reliant on getting emotional responses from people. It seems very straightforward to me, but I guess when you don’t come from that background it is difficult to understand why just a logical argument doesn’t work.
I haven’t written about the legalization of gay marriage in New York. It is a big deal, obviously, but it didn’t have any sort of direct impact on me or anyone I know. Unlike Prop 8, which went down while I lived in California and which went on for a very long time, the decision in New York was quick and not where I lived.
But it doesn’t just matter in New York. It matters everywhere — even in South Carolina.
Today in The State newspaper, South Carolina’s big paper, there was a marriage announcement for two men who met in South Carolina and married in New York. On top of that, it’s an interracial gay couple. As a friend on Facebook said, he’s sure the Baptist churches are blowing up The State’s phone lines.
The couple met in Columbia, S.C., in February 1984. Gregory and William were both commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. Best men for the wedding were the couple’s two sons, Dudley Smith Hasty and Baker Smith Hasty.
They have been together since before I was born. Over 27 years together, 2 children, one working and one a homemaker, both veterans and unable to marry until this summer. And still in a marriage that can’t be recognized federally or in the state that this announcement was made and where they met.
Anyway, congratulations to the Smith Hasty family and thank you for making SC a little bit more interesting and broadminded today!
What a crazy weekend that was. So crazy that I’m writing about it what, on Thursday? Yeah, I was tweeting, hello, busy! In fact, nothing I’m going to say here wasn’t said with worse grammar and lack of access to spell check earlier.
I landed at Ronald Reagan airport (DCA) and took a cab to the Hyatt on Capitol Hill, which has a view of the Capital, assuming you can stand in exactly the right place and lean as far to your left as possible. My cab driver asked me what I was doing in town, and I was a little hesitant to say “CONQUERING THE WORLD WITH ATHEISM” because cab drivers have the power to not drive you anymore, and that would be unfun. So I started in easy, and then discovered that my self-proclaimed religious cabbie was totally on board with secular values and gay rights! Huzzah!
I hadn’t eaten yet, and the conference started at 1:00, which was exactly when I arrived. In the elevator I met Liz Gaston and Omar Rashid, who would become my companions over the course of the event. Because they were also awesome.
The event opened with Sean Faircloth, Woody Kaplan and Amanda Knief taking the podium in turns. I learned a lot of stats that I will now list for you, because you’re apparently reading this:
Avg # of Staffers per House/Senate member: 18, split between home and DC
Percent of staffer time spent with constituents: 75%
Percent of staffers who think constituent visits are VERY persuasive: 97%
We broke down into groups after being given a rather lengthy guide to sales lobbying for people who don’t know anything about sales lobbying. Being from SC, I got to work with Herb Silverman, who invented the SCA, and Sharon.
The issues we were planning on discussing the following day were the need for Humanist Military Chaplains and HR 1179 2011, a bill which allows medical service providers refuse to provide service if their religion demands it. The first is an easier sell, because everyone likes to help the military, the second is one that requires reframing the debate.
The reason we need Humanist Military Chaplains is not necessarily intuitive for people on the edges of the debate: who needs an atheist chaplain? Well, if the army is going to institutionalize having counselors on the ground and then NOT train them in how to deal with the 20%+ of armed service members with no religious preference, then that’s a problem. Humanism is a life philosophy and not actually synonymous with atheist, there’s just a large overlap. There aren’t any, despite the fact that there are people graduated from places like Harvard with divinity degrees focusing on Humanism.
HR 1179 2011 is more of an issue of patients rights. Doctors, Insurance, Nurses, Pharmacists, Hospitals and so on can not only refuse care that they don’t approve of, they can not tell you that they won’t do those services and not inform you that such services exist. This includes obvious things like abortions and birth control, but also things like living wills and DNRs. A Catholic Hospital can say it offers comprehensive female care and then not tell you most of what’s involved with comprehensive care.
I mean, it just seems to me that if you’re a Scientologist, you don’t become a Psychiatrist; if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, you don’t become a Doctor; and if you’re someone with a political agenda that puts church in front of saving lives, you stay the hell away from medicine. But what do I know?
Sorry, shaking it off. I got to walk around DC, I wanted to see if maybe I could get into SCOTUS, but I couldn’t. Omar took this very cool picture of me at the Supreme Court. And then it was time for dinner.
Jennifer Michael Hecht, who has been my Facebook friend for a long time, but whose books I’ve never read and who I’ve never hung out with as such but is now my new favorite person, gave a speech at the dinner. She is a proponent of Poetic Atheism, which is like Atheism, but it rhymes. I’ll give you some quotes, grossly paraphrased:
When you know your history, you are powerful. More people in the history of humanity have not believed in God than have. (Atheism began around 600BC)
If I enjoy every day of my life I don’t worry so much about death. I mean, we barely use the life we’ve got — I dunno about you but I walk back and forth between the fridge and the computer a lot, what, I need a thousand years of it?
We were the first country founded as a secular rationalist country but we were also the first country to give the uneducated poor the vote. They worried that the uneducated poor would elect a poor man who would redistribute all the wealth. The uneducated poor won’t vote in a poor man, they’ll elect a stupid rich man. This is why we need free mandatory secular education!
Nothing in science fiction, in religion, in myths is as weird as this: (points to her head) the meat thinks. Nothing is as weird as love.
George Hrab, who is Spider Jerusalem, then performed some of his atheisty songs.
George Hrab is of the belief that James Randi is a garden gnome. This is undeniable.
My favorite zinger was aimed at Hitchens, when Hrab was talking about an event that Hitchens was going to be at but then wasn’t actually there.
Christopher Hitchens was supposed to be there, but I guess he had to go to a scotch festival… But at least that worked out for him.
OH SNAP! Basically what I’m saying is that George Hrab was pretty good, but he talked about his balls a lot.
After Hrab, Sean led trivia. I had talked a rather big game before the conference, so there was some pressure to win. Which I did quite handily, thank you very much. With the help of Omar for “Mumford and Sons” when all I could remember was “Little Lion Man”. We won an extra drink ticket, which I used to buy other people’s love, because people are irrationally in love with drink tickets.
After that, I went to meet George Hrab because I have a friend, Jarrett, who is a big fan. There are all these people who really dig on podcasts and I don’t get it. It’s like NPR but less focused, I know, I’ve been on a podcast. He wrote a note and let me take photos and then I ended up going down and hanging out with him and Liz and some random other people in the bar downstairs. There was an origami velociraptor involved.
I’ve had a very strange day. I have a lot I’m supposed to be working on, but I’ve found myself in the middle of this tragedy playing out in Columbia, SC today. You hear about shootings and tragedies on the news, maybe you, like me, find them disturbing and fascinating and horrifying. Sometimes even those distant horrors can seem personal, like Columbine, and people who weren’t even close to being involved have to get through the grief of the event.
I certainly didn’t think I’d ever know someone at the center of something like that. Why would I? It seemed like something that happened in other worlds. Certainly not in Columbia, SC, and definitely not in the whitebread, middle class neighborhood of Shandon.
I woke up early this morning and couldn’t quite go back to sleep, so I checked my Facebook. One of my FB friends wrote that they’d heard shots outside their house, and they live in Shandon. My mom lives in Shandon, but all I really thought was, “Now I can get back at her for all the paranoia when I lived in Echo Park.” And I went back to sleep.
After I got to work, I read a little about it, and the information was sparse: a police officer had been shot in the protective vest, a suspect with an AK-47 had been killed, suicide by cop, and it all happened within sight of my mother’s house. That was a little bit too freaky, so I texted her to make sure she was OK. She didn’t reply for a long while, and when she did I was really flummoxed.
“It was Blake Jernigan.”
And here was my thought process: Blake Jernigan. Was the shooter? That can’t be right. Does she mean he was the officer who is OK, no, he’s too young, that doesn’t make sense, she must mean he was the shooter. He did get in trouble a couple years ago for drugs or something, but he’s like 22, he’s a kid! He went to high school with my little brother! He used to hang out at our house, he’s friends with my little sister, clearly she’s got something mixed up or is talking about something else…
So I texted my little brother, hoping that he’d say something like “Oh, no, she just meant it was at his house, it wasn’t him, he’s fine.” He didn’t say that.
Then the news caught up with gossip and reported that the shooter was Blakely Jernigan. They even found a picture of him from Facebook. He looks exactly like he did when he was 12.
If you ever know someone involved in some sort of story, don’t read the comments. Really, do not, it will only make you angry and sad and doubtful of the worthiness of humanity. I don’t begrudge the cops for shooting him, they did what they had to do and shooting at cops is basically a death wish, but I don’t understand the people crowing about the death of a 22 year old troubled kid. Calling him names, discussing which more terrifying weapons the police should have used to destroy him, and of course the one guy who says he’d wished it was Obama that got shot instead.
Then my brother FB IMed me, he seemed really freaked out. No one was surprised that he came to a bad end, but no one thought he’d be at the center of a police shoot out either. Apparently his personality had drastically changed since going to college, he started doing and selling drugs, and he got a fully automatic AK-47 because people were robbing him. Not really a story that’s going to have a happy ending.
I dunno, maybe this is one of those bleeding heart liberal things, where I just can’t make anyone into a cardboard cutout bad guy. I can’t help but see people in these stories, even when I don’t know them. I just don’t know why anyone is happy at the death of another. I have no distance from this, so I guess I can’t really say.
I am very glad that the officer is going to be just fine, I only wish the same could be said for the Jernigans.
I am a big fan of the arts and, particularly, the arts in education. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life either working on the business side of arts, like in film, or volunteering in artistic communities or for arts groups. I think people are drawn to causes because they have personal meaning to them in addition to doing good, and I grew up in the arts community. Creative pursuits made public school very nearly bearable and, in addition to my own anecdotal evidence, many studies support the fact that access to arts has a major positive impact on grades and scholastic success.
The site I write for is about Social Media, with a bent towards businesses, and while most of what they post seems to be aimed at for-profit businesses with a product to sell, non-profits can use a lot of the same tools to make themselves more successful. For example, in the state of South Carolina, the new governor, Nikki Haley, has threatened to completely cut the budget for the Arts Commission and ETV/NPR Public TV and Radio. In response, the Arts Commission has engaged in a small scale social and traditional media blitz, particularly on Facebook, that’s meant a lot of calls and e-mails to the representatives of the state and some spinoff groups joining the cause. (Full disclosure: I’ve volunteered for SCAC on multiple occasions)
I bring this up not to toot the SCAC or etv’s horn — before the budget is finalized, it’s unclear how successful they’ve been — but because YouTube is launching it’s 5th Annual DoGooder Non-Profit Video Awards and it’s reminded me of how important it is for non-profits to exploit the same marketing and advertising tools that any business has access to. For the YouTube competition, The Case Foundation will give out $10,000 in grants to video winners and they’ll all be featured on the homepage of YouTube –advertising probably worth way more than $10,000 in eyeballs.
YouTube has also launched a page for non-profits which will be a channel dedicated to sharing non-profit messages. Joining not only gives you exposure, but access to Video Volunteers to help make your video a reality if your organization finds the process of making videos out of their reach. There are also lots of tips and guides, so if you’re a non-profit thinking about expanding your online presence, you could do a lot worse than starting with youtube.
This is, of course, great for any non-profit not just the arts. I think any atheist, secular, gay rights, womens rights, or any of the absurd things I support could benefit, so if you’re associated with one, spread the word.
I am about to drive to South Carolina, on Friday, from LA, which will be quite the adventure. I’m planning on being in SC for the next couple of months, working on some various projects, and hopefully getting some writing done. Debating pursuing more screenplays or another attempt at a novel, it’s weird though, I find LA to be not a great place for writing. Maybe that’s not that weird.
Power Corrupts, PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely — Edward Tufte
I went this morning to something I found on meetup.com, which was an event hosted by Atheists United. I’m not a dues paying member of Atheists United, but they function as sort of a community for Atheists that’s analogous to a church. The event was a speech and lunch function, and the speaker was Barbara Forrest, who was instrumental in the Dover case against Intelligent Design.
She was very interesting and knowledgeable, and I feel immediate kinship to smart, rational, public school educated Southern women. She had a powerpoint (keynote) presentation, and I really hate those, but other than that it was fascinating in a somewhat horrific way. In Louisiana they’ve passed a law (SB 733) that basically says that a science teacher can supplement the science curriculum with whatever they want, the intention being that science teachers can teach Creationism if they so choose.
It’s so bad that, even though they’ve tried to pass it in several other states including Texas, the only place it’s actually passed is Louisiana. It is a point of embarrassment that it’s still under consideration in South Carolina. But apparently Louisiana, in addition to being ridiculously religious and conservative like the rest of the south, suffers from having an incredibly strong Executive Branch with an extremely right-wing religioso and politically vindictive governor, Bobby Jindal. You’ll remember him from his embarrassingly bad response to Obama’s State of the Union.
I was shocked that I hadn’t heard about this at all. I mean, you can teach creationism in public school biology classes in Louisiana. It’s really icky. Being a SC native, I’m hoping that the particularly weak governorship in SC will prevent this legislation from being pushed through there.
So, she was interesting. But the event as a whole was a bit… geriatric. I mean, I would guess the average age in the room was over 60. They need to start a youth outreach or something because I felt very awkward being one of 2 people there under the age of 50. Nothing wrong with older people, of course, it was just a bit weird. I mean, people were impressed by the powerpoint presentation…
I am still sick, I have been sick for so so long. I mean, I’m 87% better. Which is to say I’m not totally exhausted but I’m still coughing and my nose is still icky. I finished my course of antibiotics, so I’m guessing there’s nothing to do now but hope.
My posting is probably going to be erratic at best starting Tuesday — I’m going to be in South Carolina for a week. I’m hoping to start getting some feelers for raising money there.
I was on set all weekend, shooting two different things. I was script supervising the pilot for Alice and the Monster, which is from the same creative team as Gold: The Series, and then I “starred” in a makeover shoot from which I got a super cute dress that I wore to my company’s holiday party. So, huzzah.
Also, you can nominateGold: The Series and/or my editing of Gold for the Streamys. They’re pushing for Gold to get Best Comedy and Best Ensemble. Under individuals, you can nominate me for Best Editing, and you can nominate the super awesome Frederick Snyder for Best Director. The site address is www.goldtheseries.com
I wanted to have my rewrite of Bible Con and first draft of Dyke for a Day done by Thanksgiving. I also wanted to have a business plan for the former ready for my trip to SC at Christmas. You know, so I could sort of test the waters for raising the money there. So new deadline, Dec. 22. Except I’m working days, nights and weekends.
It would help if my health wasn’t undermining my energy and I was less easily distracted by QI, which is my new favorite thing in the universe.
In other news, I got my feedback from ScriptSavvy, and for the most part the notes are very good. If you really want decent notes on your script, I would send off to them long before I did to Zoetrope or any other script contest. My only complaint is that the notes have a tendency to talk down to the writer, as though they aren’t terribly bright and don’t know anything about screenwriting. I’m sure this comes from an attempt to guess what you can assume the author knows. They don’t appear to have a terribly high opinion.
I got a 48, which is about 5 points off an honorable mention score, and 7 off a win. I guess that means a strong rewrite could be a winner. One thing I really don’t like about the Nicholl is the complete lack of notes, even for the people who advance. That’s true of many contests, but it’s definitely a flaw in the Nicholl and a strength of ScriptSavvy.
Go to 47:55 of this YouTube video to be incredibly impressed by Senator Parker of NY.