The Reading List, 4/30/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Swim Home

I found out last week that Mikael Rudolph, who performed out at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for many years, died in February. It’s not surprising that I didn’t know. I’d drifted away from the bulk of the crowd we shared. Two bouts with cancer enforced some separation on his part as well.

This video gives a good sense of the range of work in his later shows. He called himself Mikael the Mime, but that doesn’t start to get at what he did.

If you’re doing your own act, though, don’t ever pick up that “kiss on the cheek” trick. The person who tried it on me just about got reflexively flattened.

Reading Vox Day

Yesterday, PZ wrote about having read “Opera Vita Aeterna”, the novelette that was nominated for a Hugo Award this year in a bloc voting move. Coincidentally, I was reading some excerpts from Vox Day’s political writing elsewhere and marveling over the (lack of) quality of the prose. I thought that if his fiction were as awful, it might cross the line into unintentionally entertaining to read. And as I personally relate to him mostly as that sad, whiny pest who will be arrested like his father if he ever tries to return to Minnesota, reading his work in which his racism, sexism, and delusions of religious persecution weren’t the main focus wasn’t much of a chore for me.

So I went out and found a free copy. It turned out Day was inviting people to read the work by offering it for free. I’m not going to link his site from here, but it’s not too difficult to find someone who did from a search based on the story’s name.

As it turns out, the story was not entertainingly bad. Don’t let that lead you to think it was good, however. It was dully, prosaically bad, with rookie problems that most critique groups would point out if he gave them the opportunity. Of course, in order for that to be useful, Day would have to be able to respond to criticism with something other than atavistic hostility.

This means I can’t recommend reading his story for the same lulz you’d get from a Steven Seagal movie. I can, however, give you a taste of that experience and spare you any misguided curiosity. [Read more…]

Day of Reason at the MN State Capitol

Every year, religious groups bus people into Saint Paul for the Day of Prayer rally outside the state capitol. Every year, Minnesota Atheists organizes a Day of Reason event inside the capitol rotunda. There’s always a little fun to be had looking at the weather and musing about what it would tell us about the preferences of an interventionist deity if one existed. To be fair, early May in Minnesota tends toward volatile weather, so it’s stacking the deck, but the game is still entertaining. This year, for example, people rallying outside are predicted to have their sixth consecutive day of heavy, drenching rain.

Inside is much more appealing, and not just because of the weather. The theme for this years event is “30 years and growing, with good reason.” The Humanists of Minnesota are joining us this year to co-sponsor a celebration of 30 years of organized atheism in Minnesota. From the Meetup page for the event:

The theme of this year’s Day of Reason will be “30 Years and Growing with Good Reason”. While the Day of Prayer simultaneously occurs on the steps leading to the capitol, we will be in the rotunda celebrating the continuous presence and growth of secular organizations in the State of Minnesota throughout the last 30 years. We will hear from several organizations which have had a positive secular presence in Minnesota, and hopefully we will also hear from a few representatives on how they view the benefits of separating government and religion.

This is a family friendly event. Children might find speeches boring, but educating them on the importance of standing up for your rights and making change in the world is invaluable! This is a great way to do that. You may also call ahead to schedule a tour of the capital building for your visit.

Let’s represent secular society by filling up the rotunda, letting ourselves be heard, and celebrating reason in Minnesota!

We’ve confirmed that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will welcome us to the capitol for the event. If you can make it to the capitol over lunch on a Thursday, come on down and join us!

The Reading List, 4/27/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Saturday Storytime: Glory Awaits

Did you know that Adam Lee has published two science fiction novels? Dark Heart and Broken Ring follow the life of Myrren Kahliana, a young woman in a world in which gods are real but can still be opposed. Now he’s also published two stories set in the same world, stories which set the stage for the novels. You can check them out to get a taste for Adam’s writing.

Soldiers all around Warde were starting to their feet, shouting in alarm, grasping for shields and weapons. But the enemy had already brought their bows to bear. A hundred, a thousand bowstrings snapped back, and a black storm of arrows hurtled toward the unprepared army.

The arrows fell with deadly accuracy, falling into Vraxor’s ranks like a flock of black birds descending on ripe wheat. And the officers, most of whom were mounted on horses and wearing bright dress uniforms, were the easiest targets.

“Fall back, men!” shouted Warde’s lieutenant, mounted and beckoning the men of his company. “Regroup! Gather around me and prepare to charge!”

Suddenly, there was a hissing whir and a sharp sound, and the long black shaft of an arrow stood out from the lieutenant’s throat. He looked startled, reached up to touch the shaft transfixing him, then opened his mouth as if to speak. Instead, blood gurgled out and he toppled from his horse.

Many officers, not just the lieutenant, had fallen in that first barrage. Warde saw a colonel’s horse, riderless and milling about among the crush of confused and frightened men. The battle was already becoming a rout, as the companies that had been preparing to charge the enemy had stalled in the face of Lahar’s deadly bowmen, and the entire force wavered on the edge of breaking up in panic.

One of the men in Warde’s squad, wide-eyed and frightened, seized him by the arm. “Sergeant! What do we do?”

While arrows flew and men screamed and died all around them, Warde thought furiously. The enemy held the high ground, and their officers had been decimated by the surprise assault. The proper response would be to fall back and regroup, to wait for orders.

But Arvis’ words were ringing in his ears. Glory awaits

“We will charge!” Warde shouted, pouring all his voice into a bellow to be heard over the screams of dying men. He drew his sword and held it up high, letting the polished blade catch the light and blaze like a banner. “Follow the river course uphill! Break their flank. For Vraxor and glory!”

Keep reading (pdf).

“Mission Creep”: Easier Than It Sounds

Greta Christina has been writing a great series taking apart the argument that atheist groups working on social justice causes is “mission creep”. I suggest reading the whole series:

If you don’t want to read them all, you should at least take this message away:

I don’t know how much more clearly to say this: IT IS BROKEN. It is badly broken. Many marginalized people already feel very alienated from organized atheism because their/our issues get ignored, dismissed, trivialized, and worse. As I’ve said more than once in these conversations: The status quo is not neutral. Doing nothing is doing something. Doing things the way we’ve always done them is not a neutral act – it is contributing to the problem.

This needs to be understood and emphasized. When you raise objections to including social justice in the activities (and operations) of your group, this is what you need to weigh those objections against. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about this idea that it’s hard to bring social justice activities into an established community group, and I want to talk about it from my perspective as the associate president of one of the largest atheist community groups in the U.S.

This isn’t as hard as you think it is. [Read more…]

“Coming Out Atheist”, Greta Christina on Atheists Talk

Coming out atheist can make your life better.
Coming out helps other atheists.
Coming out cultivates other atheists.
And coming out creates a better world.

This is the refrain of Greta Christina’s new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why. As the title says, this is a how-to book, brimming with Christina’s trademark forthrightness, compassion, and thoughtfulness. It recognizes that each of us who are out atheists have to come out many times over in many different situations, and it tackles the challenges of each while never losing sight of the fact that there is joy in being known for who we really are.

Join us this Sunday when we talk to Greta Christina about the book and how we can make the world a better place to be out as an atheist.

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.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

The Reading List, 4/23/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

What Courage Looks Like

Our narratives around courage are lopsided. We recognize derring do, rushing into bad situations. Even when it’s poorly thought out or downright suicidal, we reward that kind of behavior by calling it bravery.

We’re not nearly as good at recognizing the courage required to hold our ground. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because we want to be able to intimidate people with our strength rather than having to use it. Whatever the reason, it’s wrong to forget or discount this kind of courage. It takes real bravery to face opposition with the power to hurt you–physically, emotionally, or through damage to your social standing–and persevere.

So I got a little emotional when I saw this today.

Screen cap of pic from Melody Hensley. Text in the post.

I will relapse. I will be retraumatized. I will come back. One day I hope to conquer this disorder and feel in control every day.

She shared a pic of one of her dogs with David Futrelle, too, after he wrote a very supportive post over at Man Boobz. It’s not business as usual, but it is claiming her Twitter account as something harassment can’t take from her. That’s brave as hell, especially given that the abuse goes on.

If you’d like to reward Melody’s bravery, you can send her a supportive message, either on Twitter or here (where the comments are screened for her), or you can donate to a campaign she set up to raise money earmarked for PTSD research. Even if you don’t do that, though, at the very least you should recognize it for the courage it is.