Mock the Movie: Farewell Edition

Roddy Piper had a knack for being appealing in some very terrible movies. Watch Hell Comes to Frogtown if you want to know what I’m talking about. (Don’t watch Hell Comes to Frogtown. Just don’t.) To commemorate his work on the occasion of his recent death, we’re going to watch one of those movies this Wednesday: Tough and Deadly. Then we’re going to mock the hell out of it, because that’s what we do.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Shape of My Name

Time travel stories are hard to do well. They’re even harder when they don’t hide where they’re going, when the map of time is laid out on the table so the story is all about the travel. This story by Nino Cipri manages that and more. Thank you to all the readers at Lady Business who recommended it.

I had two childhoods.

One happened between Dad’s ten-day hitches in the White County oil fields. That childhood smells like his tobacco, wool coats, wet grass. It sounds like the opening theme songs to all our favorite TV shows. It tastes like the peanut-butter sandwiches that you’d pack for us on our walks, which we’d eat down by the pond, the same one I can just barely see from my window here. In the summer, we’d sit at the edge of the water, dipping our toes into the mud. Sometimes, Dad told me stories, or asked me to fill him in on the episodes of Gunsmoke and Science Fiction Theatre he’d missed, and we’d chat while watching for birds. The herons have always been my favorite. They moved so slow, it always felt like a treat to spot one as it stepped cautiously through the shallow water. Sometimes, we’d catch sight of one flying overhead, its wide wings fighting against gravity.

And then there was the childhood with you, and with Dara, the childhood that happened when Dad was away. I remember the first morning I came downstairs and she was eating pancakes off of your fancy china, the plates that were decorated with delicate paintings of evening primrose.

“Hi there. I’m Dara,” she said.

When I looked at you, shy and unsure, you told me, “She’s a cousin. She’ll be dropping in when your father is working. Just to keep us company.”

Dara didn’t really look much like you, I thought; not the way that Dad’s cousins and uncles all resembled one another. But I could see a few similarities between the two of you; hazel eyes, long fingers, and something I didn’t have the words to describe for a long time: a certain discomfort, the sense that you held yourselves slightly apart from the rest of us. It had made you a figure of gossip in town, though I didn’t know that until high school, when the same was said of me.

“What should I call you?” Dara asked me.

You jumped in and told her to call me by my name, the one you’d chosen for me, after the week of indecision following my birth. How can I ever make you understand how much I disliked that name? It felt like it belonged to a sister whom I was constantly being compared to, whose legacy I could never fulfill or surpass or even forget. Dara must have caught the face that I made, because later, when you were out in the garden, she asked me, “Do you have another name? That you want me to call you instead?”

When I shrugged, she said, “It doesn’t have to be a forever name. Just one for the day. You can pick a new one tomorrow, if you like. You can introduce yourself differently every time you see me.”

And so every morning when I woke up and saw Dara sitting at the table, I gave her a different name: Doc, Buck, George, Charlie. Names that my heroes had, from television and comics and the matinees in town. They weren’t my name, but they were better than the one I had. I liked the way they sounded, the shape of them rolling around my mouth.

You just looked on, lips pursed in a frown, and told Dara you wished she’d quit indulging my silly little games.

Keep reading.

“Legal Battles Loom for LGBT,” Annie Laurie Gaylor on Atheists Talk

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, in a historic vote, moved our nation one step closer to finding equality under the law by legalizing same sex marriage nationally.  There are many in the religious right, however, unwilling to allow their fellow citizens participate fully in society.  Unfortunately, in far too many cases, those in the religious right are also in positions of power, or have the authority to exercise control over the freedoms of their fellow Americans.

On this episode, we welcome Annie Laurie Gaylor, cofounder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, editor for Freethought Today, the nation’s only freethought newspaper.  In addition to her editorial and leadership roles within the FFRF, Annie also has found time to author the books Woe to Women: The Bible Tells Me So, Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children, and Women Without Superstition: No Gods – No Masters.  Annie is here to discuss, and help us understand what obligations are there for people in the religious right have when it comes to executing the duties government. We’ll also discuss areas of continued, state-sanctioned discrimination where people across the entire LGBTQIAA spectrum still face hurdles on a daily basis.

We welcome Annie Laurie Gaylor to the show to bring her expertise and experience on legal issues concerning this new tactic to punch a hole in the wall between church and state.

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 radio@mnatheists.org 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.

Saturday Storytime: When Your Child Strays From God

Sometimes a bad review will lead you to a story you’ll like. In the case of this story from Sam J. Miller, it was the reviewer’s distaste for the name “Carolina Bugtuttle”. Combine that with the religious themes, and I knew that the protagonist inhabited a world that would be at home in an alternate Green Gables universe. And though the comparison feels very strange given the trappings of the story, I was right.

Understand: Timmy was not a bad boy. There was a sweet curious creative little nugget inside that lanky angular body he’d metamorphosed into. Love and kindness, buried under all the hate and anger. He acted like everyone in the world hated him, and preemptively acted to hate them harder. Every single day, it seemed, he made my husband so mad he spit nails.

This, of course, was my fault. Everything a child does is his mother’s fault.

We venture now into territory that could potentially be the subject of another e-bulletin: Confronting the Whore Your Son Is Dating. I have lots to say on the subject, not all of it germane to the subject at hand, although my husband Pastor Jerome would say that’s never stopped me before, since The Deacon’s Wife routinely goes On and On about Unnecessary Details No One Cares About, but I say what the heck. That’s what the internet is for.

A brachiosaurus raced me most of the way to Susan’s house, every heavy footfall shaking my teeth, some of them an arm’s length from my soccer-mom SUV, and I wondered what would happen if one of them came down squarely on top of it.

Webslingers have a lot of theories about the things they see in the webworld, none of it backed up by science but all of it rooted strongly in This Happened To a Friend of a Friend of Mine. Some visions were real things, transformed, like how Marge became Pug-Marge. The brachiosaurus could have been a tractor, or a bug. Some visions were total figments of the imagination—though whose imagination exactly, and what they meant, was the subject of endless webhead debate. Some slingers said the visions couldn’t hurt you—So and So got stabbed like a dozen times by Bettie Crocker and that teapot from Beauty and the Beast one time and she bled until she passed out and when she woke up she was stone cold sober and unharmed—and some said web-world wounds would follow you, Freddie-Kruger-style, into the real world. Drugs are maddeningly resistant to methodical study, or even rational scrutiny.

To be honest, though, all the dinosaurs were a good sign. Timmy used to love dinosaurs. When he was little. The fact that his webworld was packed full of them meant maybe he was in a peaceful happy childlike state of mind.

I passed a skate park. Teenagers moved through the little hills and curves, on rollerblades and skateboards, enjoying the sudden snap of early-spring warmth. What did it mean, I wondered, that every one of them had a horse head? That they were dumb animals, or that they were strong and noble? Being on drugs was a lot of work. I’d only been under for a half hour and already I was exhausted.

You may imagine, fellow congregant, that risking death or imprisonment by venturing out into the world Under the Influence was the most frightening part of my ordeal. Not so! For I realized, as the horses watched me pass with hostile looks on their faces, that the law and bodily harm were the least of my worries. The real terror came from two warring forces that threatened to crack me open. The first was love: that tether that tied me down, a choking liquid swamp I floundered in, thick and warm as phlegm, floodwaters that had started rising the second I took a hit of webbing, the only thing I couldn’t vanquish with a Good Attitude. Love for Timmy, helpless maternal love that overpowered my anger at everything he’d put us through.

The second was fear.

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“AtheistVoter”, Amanda Knief on Atheists Talk

In May, American Atheists underwent a reorganization to better help them focus on shaping public policy. As part of that focus, they created a new role of National Legal and Public Policy Director in Washington, DC. This role is filled by former Executive Director Amanda Knief, whose background is in law and politics. This past week, she took American Atheists’ AtheistVoter initiative to the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa to ask conservative Christian politicians what they had to offer the growing demographic of nonbeliever voters and to join Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers’ protest of the event.

This Sunday, Amanda returns to Atheists Talk to discuss the aims of the AtheistVoter program and tell us what else she looks to accomplish in her new role.

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 radio@mnatheists.org 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.

Saturday Storytime: Midnight Hour

I usually try to find a new writer for these stories each week. It’s easy to do. F&SF has no shortage of talented short story writers at the moment. Quite the opposite in fact. So it tells you something about how this story from Mary Robinette Kowal hit me that I know it’s not going to leave me alone until I share it, even though I’ve shared another of her stories before.

The Nameless Queen sipped her port, rolling the blood–dark liquid in her mouth. The night’s rain pattered against the tall leaded glass windows of her sitting room in a gentle susurration. On the mantel, the clock ticked four minutes until midnight.

The door burst open, bouncing against the paneled wall. “… must be planted in winter so that they can grow snow. You see? Grow snow. It is so delightfully simple that I am not certain why no one has thought of it. Grow snow! Then we shall have relief in the heat of the summer.” Her husband strode into the room with his hands tucked behind his back and his brow knit in concentration. Beneath his dark green robe, King Lennart of Stromhold’s broad shoulders presented the picture of a man of action, so long as one did not listen to the irrationality of his words. “Who is next, well? We have not got all day. Unless we stop the clocks, then we would of course, but meals would never come and one should get frightfully hungry. Yes? Who is next?”

One of the ministers who trailed him leaped forward. “What should we do about the ambassador from Itodia? Prince Volis has brought favorable trade terms for the everwood but wants to meet with you directly. We have not given the details of your situation, of course, but he has heard the rumors.”

The queen drew her feet up into the chair and pressed into the high winged back, praying that the king would not notice her until the clock struck twelve.

He tugged at his sandy beard. “Bugger him. Bugger, bugger, bugger. We shall not sell him any everwood at all. Shall we? No. Sell him the wood from the snow trees and then his ships shall freeze and they can skate upon the seas. That will be enough advantage. Who is next? Well? Who is next?”

She closed her eyes. It was bad enough to be with him when his hour of lucidity ended, but she rarely had to face his full raving energy.  Another minister slid into place. “We have narrowed the architectural candidates to three and I have their portfolios for you to look at. The first is the one I recommend.”

“Let us see, let us see—” Pages rustled, and then fluttered to the floor. “No, no. There are no ponies here. I distinctly asked for ponies. How shall we have the miniature jousts if there are no—” His voice caught on the word.

Lennart coughed, gagging on the torrent of speech. The next breath was ragged, but the words that followed were clear and lucid. “Your clock is slow.”

As if in response, the clock on the mantel chimed, counting the twelve strikes of midnight. The queen put her feet on the floor and rose to face her husband. “I will have it fixed.”

Keep reading.

Rules of Disengagement

This is the most recent essay I delivered to my patrons. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

Sometimes the conflicts between people working toward the same goals are important and in need of serious hashing out. If you’re battling inequality, it’s important to make sure that you’re not perpetuating other inequalities in your fight. That’s not something about which you can simply agree to disagree.

Don’t take my word on the subject. Here’s Greta Christina talking about how not fixing these problems early creates more problems.

The early LGBT movement was very much dominated by gay white men. And the gay white male leaders of that movement had some seriously bad race and sex stuff going on: treating gay men of color as fetishistic Others, objects of sexual desire rather than members of the community… and treating lesbians as alien Others, inscrutable and trivial.

And we are paying for it today. Relations between lesbians and gay men, between white queers and queers of color, are often strained at best. Conversations in our movement about race and gender take place in a decades-old context of rancor and bitterness, and they can be a minefield, in which nothing anybody says is right. We still have a decided tendency to treat gay men of color as fetish objects, and lesbians as sexless aliens. And we still, after decades, have a decided tendency to put gay white men front and center as the most visible, most iconic representatives of our community.

That makes it hard on everybody in the LGBT movement. It creates rifts that make our community weaker. And it has a seriously bad impact on our ability to make effective social change.

There are disagreements we have to come to terms with and settle. However, that doesn’t mean that every dispute needs to be viewed this way. Not every disagreement has a right side and a wrong side. This is particularly true when we get into the area of priorities and processes. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Bearing Fruit

I’m catching up on some writers I really shouldn’t have missed over the last several years. Based on this story, Nikki Alfar is very much one of those writers.

Despite the general, dismaying, though not unsurprising atmosphere of disbelief, it is hard for even the most determined of pundits to gainsay the unorthodox rapidity of your gestation; and so no one argues very much, really, when you announce that you are departing on a quest to uncover the unknown father of your unborn child. Your parents, you suspect, are not-so-secretly relieved—in fact, even before your departure, the very same male cousins who were once tasked with safeguarding your purity have been redirected to the construction of a new shelter for the family carabao. The shifting valuation of commodities is not lost on you, but even you are forced to admit that everyone has a use for milk, which therefore gives worth to the carabao. Whereas mangoes, it has become clear, are not to all people’s taste.

Accompanied, therefore, only by Dideng and Aguing, you set off, following the river along its meandering path upstream. Your triumvirate is armed with one sharp bolo, one stout stick, and your own sharp tongue and stout wits, which you hope will suffice since not one of the three of you knows how to wield either of the first two anyway. Fortunately, it seems that bandits, beasts, and all other living hazards of the wild—which is not all that wild, being mostly composed of field, sparse forest, and riverbank—are leery of women impregnated by supernatural means, for you are left unmolested, or at least no more so than you have already been.

When you are slightly more pregnant than you were—it is difficult to estimate, since the actual passage of time and the tumescence of your belly steadfastly refuse to coordinate—you come upon a mango tree some distance from but within sight of the river, with a young boy several years younger than you diligently loosening the soil about its roots. You are mortified at the very notion that this spratling might be the father of your child, and are perfectly prepared to give up, turn tail, and go back the way you came, except that Aguing has already hailed the little fellow with a wave of her stick, so that there is nothing to be done except to try and discern what you came to learn.

“Is this your mango tree?” you ask, critically eyeing the boy’s scrawny frame and filthy fingernails. This, of course, is highly unjust and judgmental of you, given that you live among farmlands and farming is a good and noble occupation for an honest man; so why not, for an honest boy? But you are some—days? Weeks? Months?—pregnant, after all, and might therefore be forgiven a modicum of irrationality.

“Oh, no,” says the boy, “this tree belongs to the wealthy widow in the valley below. I tend it for her, and she lets me keep any fruit in excess of what she needs.”

“And might you have dropped some of this excess into the river,” you say, “where the offending fruit might have floated downstream, severely inconveniencing, not to mention impregnating, any innocent young maidens hapless enough to have encountered it?” You have been rehearsing several versions of this little speech in your mind for some time, though of course you had anticipated delivering it to someone more able to appreciate your exquisite sarcasm.

“What? What!?” yelps the boy, nearly severing his toes when he drops his trowel—well, who would not be shocked, after all, following an oratory like that? “No,” he says, shaking his head with mildly alarming vigor. “No, no! Can mangoes do that?! No!”

Keep reading.

“Fortney Road”, Jeff Stevenson on Atheists Talk

So, what really happened at Fortney Road?  In the late 1960’s and during the 1970’s, Christianity was adding a large new movement of former hippies and drug users and other young adults.  They referred to themselves as “Jesus Freaks.”  It was a movement of communes and music, of revolutionary ideas that brought The Word to people who were bored with and couldn’t relate to conventional evangelical Christianity.  Larry Hill was the charismatic preacher and leader of one such church based from a farm on Fortney Road.

Our guest, Jeff Stevenson, spent seven years researching the goings on of a cult whose members were run through an ordeal that few can understand.  They lived through sleep deprivation, corporal punishment and sexual abuse at the hands of Hill.  Things looked great from the outside, and sounded great, too.  The church sponsored a musical group that has produced some of the most unusual blues/rock Christian music ever heard and featured the talented guitarist Glenn Schwartz, who had come through The James Gang and Pacific Gas And Electric before joining Hill’s church and helping to form the All Saved Freak Band.

Freethought House has published Stevenson’s book and we welcome the author to the show.

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 radio@mnatheists.org 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.

Mock the Movie: Misandry Edition

To be fair, we try to sneak a little misandry in every Mock the Movie. In this one, however, we have a full 50 feet of it, or as close as they manage to get in any individual shot. That’s right, we’re doing the Darryl Hannah television remake of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman. We’ll have to see how much Daniel Baldwin causes the rest of us to Hulk out by the end.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]