Saturday Storytime: Three Voices

I maybe like stories about the creation of art. You know, just maybe. This story from Lisa Bolekaja is enthralling and devastating. It manages that despite a viewpoint character you’re not going to like very much, which is always a challenge.

“Hey, Tye.” He embraced her and she melted into his arms. He felt solid with her, like they were meant to be fused this way. He wiped away her tears and held her face.

“Snot doesn’t look good on you, girl. Doesn’t match your hair color this week.” She laughed and he smiled.

“This fucking song is getting on my nerves,” she said.

“I told you it wouldn’t be easy.”

“I thought I could find my way into this bitch, but now…it feels like I’m trying to climb up a mountain with roller skates on.”

“Let’s quit for the night,” he said. She nodded. He didn’t want to let her go, so he held her a little longer. Pressed her head onto his shoulder and rocked her.

“When we finish this thing, I’m going to compose a song just for you. Something light and easy—”

“And with words, for God’s sake,” she whispered. She sounded better. She pushed away from his arms and sauntered over to one of the theater seats. He sat next to her. She leaned in towards him.

“I spoke to Bethanny. I know why she could never finish Three Voices,” she said.

Andre drew in a deep breath and let it out slow. Tye watched his face with intense scrutiny. When Andre didn’t respond, her eyes narrowed.

“She told me she developed throat polyps after training with you. She never had throat problems ever until she started singing Three Voices. Even after throat surgery, she wasn’t able to sing professionally again—”

“That had nothing to do with the song, Tye. Many singers develop throat nodules when they overuse their voice.”

Tye reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out her cell phone. She opened up an App page and Andre winced when he saw the picture of the woman on the screen.

“What about her? I remember this woman, Andre. I always wondered what happened to her.”

Andre took the cell phone from Tye’s hand. He stared at the picture and the text from a news article from three years prior. The woman, Nelia Cardoso, was a Brazilian singer from Pernambuco who had shot to stardom performing dance club hits, but had been classically trained in Portugal and New York. The article described her bout with throat cancer which ultimately led to having her vocal cords removed. She had been under Andre’s tutelage to bring Three Voices to life in Manhattan prior to developing cancer.

“First Bethanny, and then Nelia. How many others before them, Andre?”

Keep reading.

“Science Debate in 2016!”, Sheril Kirshenbaum on Atheists Talk

We don’t need our presidential candidates to be scientists, although many of us wouldn’t complain too much if it were so. We do need them to have an understanding of how important science must be in forming public policy and informing our leadership in resolving vital issues. ScienceDebate is a drive started by several scientists and science communicators in an attempt to hold at least one debate focusing on science in 2008’s presidential cycle. The demand is growing for a debate in the 2016 cycle, with more than 43,000 signers.

Sheril Kirshenbaum is the Executive Director of Science Debate and will be talking to Greg Laden about progress being made and prospects for finally putting science on the table as a topic for discussion in the election.

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.

The Vox Day Status Principle

Posited: Helping Vox Day get anything he wants cannot improve his status, but it can sure as hell hurt yours.

We’ve seen it before with the Sad Puppy organizers. We’re seeing it again with Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor, and rightly so.

There are two things about Vox Day that make this true:

  1. He really doesn’t offer anything to build his status on. He aspires to be this guy but lacks the skills–and the charisma.
  2. Since what he wants is to get back at a world that rejected him while embracing others, helping him necessarily means shitting on good, talented people who are well-loved.

That isn’t a recipe for accolades. It’s a recipe for being seen as the minion of a wannabe cartoon supervillain. Of course, if that’s what you want, by all means, don’t let me stop you.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Finding an Audience for Longer Work

It seems that even when I write about starting a Patreon, a little screed about the value of women’s writing pops out. Hmm.

I’ve been blogging for more than eight years. For the last four of those years, a lot of my blogging has necessarily been reactive. I don’t regret that work in any way, but it has changed how and what I write.

I used to write more long-form posts, posts which took a step back from the events of the day to examine issues from multiple perspectives. I used to write more about science, divorcing questions from the single studies of news cycles and putting them back into context. I used to do more noodling on culture and the complex relationship it has with our lives. I used to play more with format. [Read more…]

On Nail Polish and Looming Trivialities

This didn’t go in yesterday’s post because I only saw it the once, but while we’re on the topic of the terrible arguments that happen when cis feminists insist on using trans people as their springboard for gender theorizing, let’s talk about this:

Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.

That’s from that horrible New York Times article that I don’t feel like linking again. Instead, have a link to a piece by a trans man who does a good job of bringing many of the assumptions buried in that article to light.

Why is this argument bad? [Read more…]

Let’s Stop Exercising Our Gender Anxieties on the Backs of Trans People

Note: Before thinking I’m talking about any specific person in this post, understand that I made a deliberate choice to read almost entirely commentary by trans or genderqueer people on Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, both before and after the Vanity Fair cover. The exceptions would be this piece by Alex on affirming people’s looks, which I quite enjoyed and tend to agree with, and this mess from this morning that several people were shaking their heads about on Twitter, plus a couple of points I’ve argued on Facebook. While I’m not linking specific examples here, any behavior or argument I talk about I’ve seen from at least two sources. No one is uniquely bad at this.

This is a “we” observation, where “we” are cis feminists, mostly female for reasons that are probably obvious, mostly white for reasons I could only offer unhelpful speculation on. We’re people who see a trans person in the spotlight, usually a trans woman, and discover that we have things we must say right now about gender.

I understand the impulse. We already have a good bit of data and theory on gender. It’s a huge part of our lives. It’s a hobby horse for many of us. Trans people talking about being trans makes gender very salient. A trans person can feel like an amazing data point: how they’re treated, how they express gender, or even how they conceptualize their gender in opposition to all the messages they receive from society.

I get it. I’ve been there. Really, when I say this is a “we” observation, I very much mean myself. Still, as I reread that old post, the most important words it contains are “Then I told myself to shut up.” I’d like to encourage others to join me on that. Here are three big reasons why. [Read more…]

Google Doodle for Raif Badawi

There isn’t one yet, but one atheist activist (who is choosing to keep their name out of things) recently started a push for one. If successful, it would mean both direct PR pressure on Saudi Arabia and encouragement to Google users to talk to their own governments about the problem.

If you’d like to encourage Google yourself, here is the sample email being shared.

Dear Google Doodlers,

On June 17, Raif Badawi–the world-renowned Saudi blogger–will have been in a Saudi prison for 3 years. He was publicly flogged and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” What he really did, though, was to speak up for human rights in Saudi Arabia.

I’m writing to ask you to please create a Google Doodle in honor of Raif Badawi.

June 17th would be an ideal day for it to run, but any day would be good.

Sincerest regards

Send it or your own letter to proposals@google.com. If you want to see more of a call to action from them than a doodle, you can include a link to this information from Amnesty International on how to help.

If a Google doodle feels frivolous to you? That’s fine. We all decide where to put our limited energy. In that case, however, maybe check out the Amnesty International suggestions or figure out whether your local atheist group is doing anything for June 17. Badawi won’t be getting any help from Saudi Arabia without intervention. Their courts just upheld his conviction and sentencing.

Saturday Storytime: Doll Re Mi

I should have posted this last Saturday, but I didn’t post anything. Call it a minute of silence for the loss of one of my favorite writers. This is Tanith Lee in solid sensuous, decadent, menacing form.

Suddenly Folscyvio could not recall what he had said last to the old-young mental deficient. Had he asked a price?

Or—what was it?

When confused or thrown out of his depth, Folscyvio could become unreasonable, unpleasant. Several persons had found this out, over the past eighteen years. His prowess as a virtuoso was such that, generally, excuses were made for him and police bribed, or else clever and well-paid lawyers would subtly usher things away.

He stared at the ridiculous auburn wood and green glass of the fish-tail, at the pegs of brass and ivory adhering to the glaucous tail-fan.

He said, with a slow and velvety emphasis, “I’m not saying I want to buy this piece of crap off you. But I’d better warn you, if I did want, I’d get it. And for a—shall I say—very reasonable price. Sometimes people even give me things, as a present. You see? A diamond the size of my thumb-nail—quite recently, that. Or some genuine gold Roman coins, Circa Tiberio. Just given, as I said. A gift. I have to add, my dear old gentleman, that when people upset me, I myself know certain . . . other people, who really dislike the notion that I’m unhappy. They then, I’m afraid, do these unfortunate things—a broken window—oh, steelglass doesn’t stop them—a little fire somewhere. The occasional, very occasional, broken . . . bone. Just from care of me, you’ll understand. Such kind sympathy. Do you know who I am?

The slightest pause.

“No, Signore.”

“Folscyvio.”

“Yes, Signore?”

“Yes.” Oh, the old dolt was acting, affecting ignorance.

Or maybe he was blind and half-deaf as well as stooped. “So. How fucking much?”

“For the vio-sirenalino?”

“For what fucking else, in this hell-hall of junk?”

Folscyvio was shouting now. It surprised him slightly. Why did he care? Some itch to try, and to conquer, this stupid toy eyesore—Besides, he could afford millions of libra-eura. (Folscyvio did not know he was a miser of sorts; he did not know he was potentially criminally violent, an abusive and trustless, perhaps an evil man. Talent he had, great talent, but it was the flare and flame of a cunning stage magician. He could play instruments both stringed and keyed, with incredible virtuosity—but also utter emotional dryness. His greatest performances lacked all soul—they were fire and lightning, glamour and glitter, sound and fury. Signifying nothing? No, Folscyvio did not know any of that either. Or . . . he thought he did not, for from where, otherwise, the groundless meanness, the lashing out, the rage?)

Unusually, the stooping man did not seem unduly alarmed. “Since the need is so urgent,” he said, “naturally, the vio-sera is yours. At least,” a gentle hesitation, “for now.”

“Forget ‘for now,’shouted Folscyvio. “You won’t get the Thing back. How much?”

“Uno lib’euro.”

Everything settled to a titanic silence.

In the silence Folscyvio took the single and insignificant note from his wallet, and let it flutter down, like a pink-green leaf, into the dust of the floor.

Keep reading.

For the Record

Apropos of this bizarre post, I should let you all know that I…

  • …don’t follow Ben Radford on Twitter.
  • …have not been contacted by Ben Radford with this statement.
  • …have not been contacted by Karen Stollznow with this statement.
  • …do not expect to be contacted by Karen Stollznow about this statement as all she seems to currently have the energy to do is post new baby pics and recover from her C-section.
  • …have not been contacted by anyone else with this statement to suggest I should update readers.
  • …was not contacted by Hemant before he posted this.

[Read more…]

Mock the Movie: Blowing Smoke Edition

Mock the Movie owes its very existence to Asylum Films through their Faith Films division, so at least they’re good for something. Making movies that work as movies is certainly not it, Sharknado not withstanding. So we’re left with watching these painful, ridiculous knock-offs together and mocking the hell out of them. This Wednesday, it’s time for Airplane vs Volcano.

Yes, we’ll be watching a bunch of hapless and probably annoying airplane passengers die as they’re trapped in the air in a ring of erupting volcanoes. Really. No, I’m not sure why either.

This one is available on Netflix.

[Read more…]