It’s Skepticon’s Turn

Wow. You good folks floor me. The Skeptics for Ada fundraiser hit its goal in the first day. That means Valerie Aurora of the Ada Initiative will be coming to Skepticon to run their Ally Skills Workshop. So now that we’ve paid for the Ada Initiative to do their thing, it’s time to help pay for Skepticon itself. With the conference just over a month away, it’s only two-thirds funded. There is still over $13,000 to be raised.

Because Skepticon is a free conference in the south-central U.S., it’s the only conference that many of the attendees can afford. But someone still has to pay for the whole thing. If the attendees can’t, funding Skepticon falls to those of us who think access to these events shouldn’t be limited to those who can pay hundreds of dollars. Are you one of those people?



If you need another reason to donate, keep reading. [Read more…]

TBT: Destroy Ferris

It’s been five years since John Hughes died. Having been a teenager in the 80s, I couldn’t not have an opinion.

So, you know John Hughes just died. Everybody knows that John Hughes just died. Almost everyone my age is talking about how sad it was and talking about the movies it’s made them remember.

I haven’t been doing that. Not because Hughes’ death didn’t bring back memories for me, but because it did. I was a suburban teenager who didn’t fit the mold. I should have been his target audience. I just didn’t like his movies much.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s still too soon to talk about them, but I’m going to do it anyway. [Read more…]

Nick Cave: A Long Wait

It was 2001, September. I had tickets to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the end of the month for my birthday. Then something a little bigger than a concert happened, and air traffic into the U.S. looked (rightly) like a very bad idea. The U.S. tour was postponed.

Those of us with tickets were told we could get a refund then or hold our tickets to be exchanged when the show was rescheduled. I chose to wait, though I had no idea how long it would be. As it turned out, it was a very long time indeed. Oh, it was only another six months before the rescheduled concert, but I was never notified of the new date. Being busy with my job, I didn’t stumble across the information on my own. I found out about it by reading a review in the paper the day after it occurred.

I thought about that recently, when I received the confirmation that I had press credentials to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds June 21, 2014 at the State Theater. It felt like righting an old (if petty) wrong.

I thought about it again when we stopped at the box office last night to pick up our tickets and no one could find them.


I reviewed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the Twin Cities Daily Planet over the weekend. It wasn’t the easiest concert review I’ve written, though not for anything like writer’s block. You can read the review here.

Hidden in the Stairwell

The building I work in is a repurposed warehouse. Two of them, actually, each with their own passenger elevator. The elevator for the side of the building I work on only goes down to the second floor, however. That means that when I enter the building on the first floor, I’m looking at two elevator rides to reach my floor.

Needless to say, one of the first things I did on starting work there was find the stairwell that lets me skip the ride between the first and second floors. Even if I didn’t mind using mechanical means to accomplish something it takes me less time to do under my own power, elevators and I don’t always get along. Too many elevator rides in a short period of time, and I’ll spend a day or two feeling like I’m riding them.

These stairs are…not great otherwise. They’re steep, the treads aren’t very deep, and the height is not entirely even from one step to the next. They were obviously made to be used in a pinch in a warehouse, not to coddle office workers like me.

However, building management did something smart to make the stairwells more appealing. [Read more…]

TBT: Man of the Cloth

This was originally posted in June 2009. We’re now over 25 years. One of the videos has changed. The feelings have not.

I’ve had a major crush on Rowan Atkinson for over 20 years. It took Critter sharing the following video, however, to make me realize something.

[Read more…]

An Easy Escape

Shelley Segal is about to release her new album on Friday (or, if you’re in the U.S. and keep a daytime schedule, while you’re sleeping Thursday night). In order to fund production, she’s been taking preorders:

Hi! Thanks for visiting my Pledge page.

I’m really excited to annouce that my third studio album (as yet unnamed) [Since named An Easy Escape.–SZ]
is recorded. I am going to be releasing it through my independent label, True Music on May 30th 2014.

There is still a lot that needs to be done before the release. We need photos, artwork and we are going to be running print and radio campaigns for the album.

To help fund the release I am running a presale for the album here on Pledge Music and offering some fun and unique rewards.

The first thing you will receive is an acoustic video preview of one of the tracks, exclusively for pledgers.

Thanks so much for the support and for joining me for the release of my new album

Lots of love,
Shelley xx

She’s got some fun packages up for sale too. The album itself is $10 (Aus) downloaded, but there’s also an opportunity to pick up all of Shelley’s work on USB, get posters of the album art or t-shirts, and even to spring for a house party.

As I’ve mentioned previously, the first single from this album is the first studio recording of hers that I’ve heard really capture the energy she has as a live performer. If you’ve seen Shelley perform, you know that means you’re in for a treat.

I’m looking forward to the rest of this album. If you are too, go ahead and preorder. Shelley’s on her own indie label, which means she’s putting up all the money for production until she gets it back through sales. Buying the album now and downloading it on Friday means neither of you will have to wait.

TBT: A Little Too Alive

This post was originally published in May 2009. It still creeps me out.

Rick pointed me at this video, a hand-cranked automaton of the “Don’t tase me, bro” guy. I expected it to be funny. It almost was–the first time. After that, it just got more disturbing. Seeing how the gears work made it even more so.

The artist, Jon Haddock, seems to specialize in rendering violence (including metaphoric violence, like his sculpture of the 107th Congress voting for the Patriot Act) in cartoonish ways. Some of his work actually is cartoons. Some of it just simplified, isolated in time or with pieces missing. Somehow, though, the extra work required to fully understand what you’re seeing just makes it worse.

This video of another automaton, titled Testimony of Sgt. Cortez (This Kind of Monster), is a case in point. It begins with watching a set of noise-makers. You never see what makes the noise. Only the perpetrators of the crime are ever seen. The victims are not. It doesn’t help.

A Very Funny Lady

If you followed the Women in Secularism hashtag this weekend, you saw Leighann Lord being smart and funny. But if you didn’t attend the banquet Saturday night, you missed her standup–and people in tears in the audience. Luckily for you, she’s been doing this for a while and has plenty of clips out there.

There’s plenty more where that came from too. Plus, if you’re in or near NYC, you have plenty more chances to see her for yourself.

TBT: The Tyranny of the Original Idea

This was originally published in May 2009. This idea that we have to present new ideas in order for our writing to be useful and good is something I still see in my blogging friends. Let’s just say I disagree. See also.

Two youngsters fall in love. Their love is forbidden because they belong to two worlds at war with each other. Realizing the futility of the feuds that keep them apart, they decide to flee. Confusion follows and our story ends in death.

Romeo and Juliet, of course. Or is this West Side Story? Sung in Shadow? Or Pyramus and Thisbe? Perhaps even Ha-Buah?

Earlier this week, Mike posted about feeling that his writing wasn’t original enough. Bah. I hate it when I see someone denigrating their own work this way. It’s silly and pointless and keeps people from contributing to the world. And may I point out, I’m hardly the first to say so. [Read more…]

When They Called Me, “Rasta”

Last week, Shelley Segal posted a video from her new album. The song is “Morocco”, and the video was shot in a market. I’m pretty sure I smelled the food when I watched it.

I have a weakness for footage of Mediterranean bazaars. The food, the clothing, the music from happier pieces of my childhood and adolescence without the dust, the din of voices, the crowds that I have a harder time handling now.

Then there was Shelley and the song. I particularly like Shelley as a live performer, and this song captures her energy better than I think her older recordings do. It’s always nice to see the face of someone you’ve gotten to talk to and like too. It made her more of a proxy for me in the Moroccan market, a sense added to by the fact that I would stand out there in some of the same ways she did, though not necessarily the ways featured in the lyrics.

The song itself has come in for some criticism from Moroccans, and Shelley has been attacked, for the fact that the lyrics deal with drug use, poverty, and sexual harassment. In part, I get it. I sympathize. When something is titled “U.S.A.” and covers materialist consumption, contempt for the poor, and bible thumpers, I know it’s giving a skewed version of the reality of my country. Those things are there, but they aren’t everything.

On the other hand, I also know that what someone sees of a country they visit depends on who they are. I’ve received a discount on my lodging, had servers and shopkeepers bring up local art and music events, and had conversations about politics and history when I’ve traveled because I’m not “one of those Americans”. What kind I am, I’m not sure, but people obviously make judgments about what I’ll be interested in based on how I look and carry myself. Sometimes, they’re even right. When they’re wrong, it can make an interesting story.

So when I hear Shelley’s song, I don’t hear someone saying this is what defines Morocco. I hear someone saying, “I went to Morocco with dreadlocks, a guitar, and a lip piercing. Here is what they said when they called me, ‘Rasta’.” That isn’t just not the whole of Morocco. It’s a slice of Morocco that very few people visiting would get to see.

“Morocco” isn’t so much a picture of how one tourist viewed a country as it is a story of how one country viewed a tourist. As a fellow tourist and a person who loves story, that makes the song worthwhile to me, even as I understand that people in that country may object.