Reconstructing Criticism: Specifics

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

A couple of weeks ago, someone criticized a post of mine, highlighting the problem of women’s sexuality being treated differently than men’s, for not being specific with regards to who was talking about whose sexuality. Now, there was a little problem in that this person was reacting to a repost with all the links (providing the information he was looking for) stripped out, but aside from that, he had a point. If the criticism leveled at me had been accurate (hold that thought; it will come up later), it would have been quite important for me to take note.

Being specific, like so many of the other elements of constructive criticism, serves multiple purposes. [Read more…]

Mock the Movie: Oops, But…Um…Look, Vampires!

Well, we were supposed to do this week’s mocking last week, but a certain some of us (Jason and well, me) entirely lost track of time on vacation. So we’re doing it this week instead, and starting our Wednesday schedule. Hopefully this will have been worth the wait. It did have a big-budget release and all.

This one won’t be free, so plan ahead, but it should be entertaining. Not good, exactly, but entertaining. [Read more…]

Reconstructing Criticism: Praise

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

Praise might seem like an incongruous topic for a discussion about criticism, but for constructive criticism, praise is hugely useful. One of the big differences between constructive and destructive criticism is the idea that the person being criticized is worth building up instead of tearing down. There isn’t a better way to reinforce that idea than to celebrate that person’s contributions. [Read more…]

Mission Critical

So there’s one of these anti-theist groups on Facebook. It doesn’t really matter which one, so I’ve obscured most of the name on the screen cap below. What matters is that they’re not small and that, by their own description, they’re providing a “bullshit-free zone”.

Page banner showing 53,000+ likes and claiming the page to be a "bullshit-free zone".What kinds of things do they provide that are free of bullshit? Much of it is what you’d expect from any atheist page. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Wing

There are a million and one ways to write a love story. Maybe more. Each of them will appeal to someone.

Amal El-Mohtar is a poet, writer of short stories, and editor who is doing her PhD on fairies.

The girl with the book around her neck sits quietly beneath a chestnut tree.

She reads a book with a halved pomegranate on the cover, a wasp stamping its black feet in the juice. She turns every page as if she were lifting a veil, delicately. The sun is bright against the paper, makes the words swim green against her eyes.

Another girl comes by, her hair curly, her step light. She wears a bag over one shoulder, and sits down near the girl with the book around her neck. She smiles. The girl with the book around her neck smiles back. The girl with the bag pulls out a loaf of bread, a wedge of cheese, a small jar of amber honey, and a knife; she begins to slice, to pair, to drizzle honey on the lot.

“What are you reading?” she asks, curious.

Once, reads the girl, only once, for never has this happened since, nor is it likely to, a bird lit down on the head of a young man seated beneath a peach tree. The bird’s plumage was most fine, smooth as linen, bright as the afternoon sun drinking garden petals. The man could not gaze at it, but sat very still, so as not to disturb it; he closed his eyes, for even the barest flash of tail or pinion as it shifted about his scalp was painful to him, was too beautiful for his gaze. The bird whispered in his ear the secret to immortality, which involved the consumption of nectar, the building of a fire, and the bathing of his limbs in a sacred pool. So deep was the young man’s gratitude, so fierce was his love for the beautiful creature perched on his head, that his heart burst in his chest and he died on the spot.

The girl with the bag, who had begun to chew her honeyed cheese and bread, coughs a little as she laughs. She wipes her mouth modestly and offers the girl with the book around her neck a morsel of her own. She accepts it, and they munch together in silence. Then, as they are rubbing their fingers together to clean the honey from them, the girl with the bag asks, “What is written in the book around your neck?”

She blushes. “A secret.”

“Oh,” says the other girl. They spend a few more moments together, before the girl with the bag gathers up her effects, bids the girl with the book around her neck a kind farewell, and goes on her way.

Keep reading.

Reconstructing Criticism: Transparency

I am on a vacation I would like some time to enjoy and, well, this seems timely. A repost of a series.

One of the hallmarks of constructive criticism is that it is presented in such a way that the recipient understands the criticism is about their behavior, that it isn’t personal. However, any group of people brought together by mutual concerns are going to develop personal history. Some things will be personal. [Read more…]

Atheists Talk: John van Wyhe on Darwin’s Notebooks

Dr. John van Wyhe has a passion for spreading the good word from the good books – the writings of Charles Darwin! John van Wyhe is a historian of science who has spent his career studying the work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He has written numerous books, articles and reviews, and has presented over 50 unique lectures on the subjects of evolution, history of science and Charles Darwin across the world.

Join Atheists Talk this Sunday when we interview Dr. John van Wyhe about his project “Darwin Online”, the largest and most widely consulted collection of the writings of Darwin ever published. We’ll ask him about why he challenges whether Darwin kept his theory secret for twenty years, as well as whether The Origin of Species raised as much of an uproar when it was first published as it does today.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Putting the “Post” in PTSD

I’ve written a number of times before about the fact that survivors of sexual assault have much worse outcomes when they face doubt and stigma from friends and family after reporting. This has, needless to say, not been a popular position among the “Women lie about rape!” and “I’m not blaming her but what was she doing there/dressed that way/flirting with him” crowds.

I’m receiving a good bit of criticism elsewhere for saying that it’s an asshole move to focus on and pile on someone who is being harassed and threatened, even if they reacted to the harassment and threats in a way you don’t find acceptable. Despite what I’ve had to say about rape victims, I’m apparently only telling people to act like decent human beings because their target is a friend of mine. Of course, that always seems to be the case, no matter who I’m standing up for in exactly the same way. Greg today. Ophelia last week. Rebecca the week before. Who will it be tomorrow?

Or maybe, just maybe, this is a consistent drum I’ve been beating because it’s important. How important? [Read more…]