Those of us born in the 1980s came of age in an interesting time, as the Communist governments of eastern and central Europe fell, one country turned into 15 and somehow stayed the largest in the world, and computers learned how to handle four-digit years.
And you’d better believe it was a big deal.
Continue reading “Apocalypse of the Week 8: Your Mother Smelt of Subroutines”
Some end times scenarios are important not because of their modern adherents, but because of their pop-culture relevance. With the Norse mythos’s return to people’s minds via the Thor
movies of recent memory, and the sheer cinematic splendor of the Nordic eschaton, let us examine how the pagans of Scandinavia imagined the world would end: Ragnarok.
Continue reading “Apocalypse of the Week 7: Wolves and Snakes and Eyjafjallajökull, Oh My!”
I never liked eye contact.
I used to sit next to people and talk to them facing straight forward. I didn’t notice that I was doing it or understand why I was doing it. I knew that looking to the side for a conversation’s length made my neck hurt and turning my whole body was a bit crowded in those closely-spaced chairs, but it was an effort didn’t even begin to start making until sometime in high school. People noticed, people commented, I blamed it on my neck (which was not a lie), it kept going.
I used to practice eye contact, picking people at random in crowded classrooms and just…making eye contact. The majority of those times ended less than five seconds later with a “What the fuck are you looking at?” glare. This was not encouraging. Across the room it was bearable, but not for the other person, it seemed. Up close, eye contact was overwhelming. I remember an elementary-school dance in which making eye contact with my dance partner was so intense that I could not endure it for more than an instant and spent the whole time staring at her collarbone, the ruffles on her dress, my shoes, anything but her eyes. And they were very pretty eyes. Other times eye contact with someone I needed to talk to would transfix me, keeping my eyes trapped as a sense of alarm and discomfort slowly swelled in the background.
I got adept at looking at people’s cheeks, foreheads, the space just to the right or left of their heads, some other object of interest in the room, anywhere but the eyes. Even when I made a point to look someone in the eyes at the beginning of a conversation, I would end up in all of these other places without a concerted effort as soon as I shifted focus from that specific task.
I can look at eyes. I like looking at eyes. Eyes are beautiful and warm and inviting and swathed in a dense web of intimacy and connection even when I’ve never seen them before. Eyes are so much that they are too much for me when they are looking back.
I mouth my knuckles.
Continue reading “I Have Always Been So”
When I was in high school, my favorite history teacher would occasionally joke that his efforts to educate the students of South Florida would be for naught, as at some point a tsunami would wipe out the east coast of North America. He also insisted that a similar event would demolish the west coast, leading him to toy with the idea of retiring somewhere in the Alps. The idea of tectonic activity causing a cataclysmic wave sometime in the geologic future had enough prima facie plausibility that I didn’t think about it any further.
Now I have, and as it turns out, it’s bollocks.
Continue reading “Apocalypse of the Week 6: The Surf Shop at the End of the World”
The one that stuck, the one that made me want to come back and get involved and watch the Internet for their upcoming events and eat and drink with its members in pubs—that was the Centre for Inquiry. It was the Centre for Inquiry that seemed to hit on that magic combination of activism, public events, and community that could and did engross me. I put effort
into this organization. I wrote web site content
and provided public presentations. Ania put far more, aggressively promoting CFI-Ottawa’s biggest venture ever
despite being effectively sabotaged by CFI-Canada’s then-executive director and known MRA Justin Trottier
. We sought sponsors, cultivated relationships with other organizations, promoted other events, attended protests, designed media, and handed out flyers at Gay Pride.
We stuck around through the protracted process of getting Justin Trottier removed from his management role in the national organization, and then his de facto replacement Michael Payton, both for what seemed to veer madly from sheer incompetence to active antipathy toward CFI-Ottawa and its events. We stuck around through the growing pains of an organization still finding its voice and its priorities. Like so many other corners of the atheosphere, the Centre for Inquiry still had to decide whether it would be an inclusive and welcoming space for people marginalized elsewhere for reasons other than their atheism, or whether it would perpetuate the same inequalities and claim reason and science as their justification. It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be an enthusiastic CFI-Ottawa executive body against a complacent membership and a complacent-at-best national organization, and that was a battle we could win.
That’s when I began noticing cracks.
Continue reading “Priorities, CFI-Ottawa, and How the Atheist Movement Failed Me”
Earlier this year, after more than a year of anticipation, the people of Scotland held a vote to determine whether their country would become independent from the United Kingdom. That vote was unambiguously in favor of remaining part of Britain, with pro-union majorities in nearly every county, but it revealed deep divisions within Scottish society and between Scotland and its hegemonic neighbor, England. Indeed, the histories of the various parts of the island group best known as the British Isles are surprisingly different, leading to persistent divisions that, in the past and into the future, define nations.
Continue reading “Shifty Lines: The British Isles”
This eschaton is a bit different than the previous ones, in that it has more in common with the recent anti-vaccine malarkey than it does with the religious apocalypse scenarios I’ve explored previously.
In the late 1800s, astronomers performing spectral analysis on comet tails revealed that the tail of Haley’s comet contains hydrogen cyanide
. Since the Earth periodically passes through the tail of Haley’s comet, and would next do so in 1910, newspapers did the responsible thing and claimed that the world would soon be drenched in deadly cyanide gas. The story soon grew into a full-on end-of-the-world panic, with a run on anti-cyanide pills (often fraudulent) that Carl Sagan famously took on his show “Cosmos.”
Since then, a few things have happened.
Continue reading “Apocalypse of the Week 5: Death by Comet Farts”
I am a long, long way from Florida right now, and I quite expect to remain so long-term. I’m in a field where half of the positions are unambiguously terrible and the other half assume that one can migrate thousands of miles every few years for the privilege of working in them. The luxury my parents enjoyed of being able to pick a place based on such prosaic concerns as “family” or “weather” has been systematically denied to young academics in general and my generation in particular, and that means that, even if I wanted to live in a place with Florida’s farce of a political scene, I will likely never have that privilege. If South Florida is even still above ground by then.
Continue reading “I Am an Atheist and I Voted”