New draft; Weblebrities

Not a totally new draft, just a tweaked one.  I have a hard time doing rewrites immediately, I need time for things to gestate.  I think I’m different from most writers in that I’d rather spend a lot of time thinking and write in a mad dash than to write a little each day.  I think a little most days, and then write 10-20 pages a day for a week.  I think this is absolutely not the way they recommend doing it.

I think about 30% of it is a procrastination thing*, it’s hard to write without deadlines, but most of it is about the fact that in the rewrite stage I need to get away from the previous draft enough that changing it doesn’t feel like I’m betraying the truth of the story.  Because when you write something down it becomes sort of solid; while it’s floating around in your head, changes are easy, but once it’s on the page it’s just a little bit harder to change.

*Writing is tough when you’re at work 50hrs/wk and you have other stuff you’ve got to do.  And there’s the internet.

In other, unrelated news, I met Mr. Deity on Friday!  So in one week, I’ve met Michael Shermer, PZ Myers, and Mr. Deity.  Only slightly related, UPS was supposed to have delivered my new business cards on Thursday, but even though I left them the signed thing saying they could just leave it, they didn’t.  So I don’t have them and I am frustrated because I spent hours (maybe like an hour) designing new ones and I could have had those on me at the time.  Oh well.

In other other news, I spent all of Saturday (14 hours) ACing on a spinoff series of Gold.  They’re shooting for four days, but 28 hour weekends is a lot when you’re not getting money or an above the line credit, so I did yesterday and probably will help out a little next weekend.  It was an interesting day, they’ve got different directors working on the project, but two different people were directing different bits, so it was interesting to see how differently it went with the two of them.

And, we were shooting in the garage, and the garage door fell off.  And I thought that was hysterical, which I think is allowed because they fixed it.

So, go watch Mr. Deity or Gold

On the wtf is up with Damon Linker?

This is the article: http://www.tnr.com/blog/damon-linker/another-kind-atheism

A) I’m not sure why one wouldn’t conflate truth and goodness

B) Atheism is a neutral, it’s morality that is positive or negative, and atheism doesn’t create a set of moral values

C) I still haven’t heard a cogent definition for what a “New Atheist” is as compared to a plain old normal atheist

D) What exactly is there to be sad about not being religious, what do you lose that you’d want to keep?

E) I’m not sure why someone needs to deeply try to understand Christianity in order to reject it outright.  I don’t need to understand Greek mythology all that well to ignore it

F) Why is it the atheist’s job to disprove a religion and not their job to prove it?

G) There are many examples of the struggle to get out of their faith by so-called new atheists.  They all address how difficult it is to leave, they just all think it is better to not be religious

H) Do they think that someone born and raised atheist feels a profound lack in their life?

I) There is a difference between allowing people to be free and allowing people to take advantage of, abuse, mislead, lie and steal from people.  Simply exposing ideas for what they are and providing information isn’t illiberal it’s common decency

5 random things I’ve been thinking about

1. Toilet seat sheets.  If you’re too grossed out to sit on the toilet, is a sheet really going to make it better?

The show I’m working on, these two women who were otherwise not like high maintenance said they would never use a toilet that wasn’t their own without a toilet sheet.  What?  Seriously?  Was I raised by weirdos because they never said don’t put your butt on the toilet?

2. Ableism and online dating.  Particularly in the mental health department, but also in general.

Now I appreciate that online dating attracts a somewhat skewed group that has the semi-anonymity of the internet to make unusual demands, but I have seen so so many guys profiles where they say they don’t want to date “anyone who’s ever been on anti-depressants” or “I don’t want to date anyone who has had any health problems”.  These are not necessarily guys who, in my opinion, have girls knocking down their door and they’re just trying to filter out some people by being picky.  And I realize we’ve all got things where we aren’t able to have a nuanced viewpoint, but here are guys lumping in people with asthma with people with cancer, or people with well-treated depression with untreated schizophrenics.  I get how taking on a significant other with terminal cancer or an untreated illness might be difficult, but are we going to scratch out every one with a health quirk?

At first I thought, oh it’s just this one guy who had a bad experience, but I’ve seen it so many times I just don’t know what to think.  Is it really that awful to date someone who at some point in their life was depressed or has some other chronic illness that’s well under control?

3. Also related to online dating, why do guys who are super Christian message me advertising their good Christian morals when I state that I am an atheist?  I mean, I know why, they don’t read, but I mean really.

4. Equating religion with race.  There’s a super long thread over at Pharyngula where people are accusing PZ of being a Nazi for posting a picture that a cartoonist drew of Muhammed because there are people in Europe who are racist against Muslim immigrants.  I’m just not sure “racist” is the right word.  “Religionist” maybe?  Anyway, critiquing a religion isn’t a violent act, no matter how crudely done, and I don’t understand how blasphemy is racist.

5. How difficult or impossible it is for the religious to understand that there is value and meaning to life regardless of whether there is an afterlife.

Useful Links:

Dirty Toilets

PZ

Sully on Tragic Atheism

The most horrifying thing ever:

(((:~{> Muhammad approves this message

OCFA Conference 2010; Where I met PZ

I’ll give you all the links up front, and all the pictures at the end.

All the pictures are here.

9:20 Phil Zuckerman
10:00 Edward Tabash
10:40 Brian Dunning
11:20 William Lobdell
Lunch 12-1 with ‘Tabletalk’ table discussions
1:00 Michael Shermer
1:45 PZ Myers
2:30 Dan Barker
3:15 Stephanie Campbell
4:00 John Shook
4:45 Joe Nickell
5:30-7:15 Dinner

—–

The conference was in Costa Mesa, and I’m in Glendale, feel free to map it, suffice to say it takes about an hour fifteen to do that drive.  I decided I wasn’t going to kill myself and try to get there at 9 since I didn’t really know any of the morning speakers and I didn’t want to get up at 6AM on a Saturday.  So I got there around 10:45 and got through the whole check in thing to catch the second half of Brian Dunning’s talk.  He was talking about the Virgin of Guadalupe and I confess my interest was not sparked by the topic.  Which is just as well as it gave me time to get my bearings.

The conference was held in a community center adjacent to a local public library.  It was a smallish venue, and everything was contained within one large room.  This was a little awkward because the vendors and speakers were in the same room, so if you wanted to go look at stuff you had to do it either as quietly and unobtrusively as possible or in short bursts between speakers.

After Dunning was finished, I met up with a guy I met on Meetup.com who had said he was also going and sat up front with him.  So the first talk I sat through entirely was William Lobdell.  Lobdell is a very dynamic speaker, and I really preferred the speakers who focused on sort of broader strokes and the whys and what we can do about it, not just simple facts.  And I am always drawn to stories of how people lost their faith.

Then, it was lunch time, and I walked across the street to Quizno’s because I’m a picky eater and I doubted they were serving a sandwich I would eat.  There was a very strange homeless guy who sort of followed me and I bought him a sandwich.  Don’t tell my mother, she gets freaked out by those things.  Ran into an interesting guy, I want to say from Riverside, who was also at the conference and eating at Quizno’s.  Apparently Riverside has the biggest Atheist community like ever.

I took my sandwich back across the street and there was a seat open next to meetup guy who was sitting with PZ, but first I wanted to say hello to my twin.  There was a guy there wearing the same shirt as me, and interestingly enough he and the guy he was sitting with, lime green Alaskan, would end up being the people I sat with at dinner.  Anyway I said hello and they graciously offered me a seat but I wanted to go sit with PZ.

So I sat with PZ during lunch, which was really half over by the time I got back with my sandwich.  But it was an interesting group.  Talked about why we call evolution a theory and why changing the name to something like “law” is letting the terrorists win.  Here’s where my former math major instincts made me probably a bit too ferocious about the fact laws involve math equations and there’s no mathematical way of predicting evolution.

Post lunch and it’s Michael Shermer, the aforementioned Jonathan Pryce doppelganger with the arrogant swagger, and I can’t for the life of me remember what he talked about except that it pissed some people off.  If anyone was there and remembers, tell me?

Then it was PZ and he went out of his normal field and talked about astronomy and William Herschel.  And posed the simple answer to the days topic “Can science and religion coexist?  Yes.”  And made many many jokes about stepping all over Dan Barker’s time.  And then he talked about neanderthals and people having sex.  What I like about PZ when he speaks is that he seems like he’s going to be a stuffy non-offensive professor, but he’s someone who’s genuinely at ease with both himself and the realities of human nature.  In other words, he likes to talk about sex with neanderthals.

Dan Barker spoke and, again, his was a story of de-conversion so I found it pretty interesting.  His book has been recommended to my by Amazon but it didn’t strike me as interesting til I saw he talk.  He spoke mostly towards lawsuits, particularly the one against the National Day of Prayer.  As someone who finds the intricacies of constitutional law interesting (nerd!) I thought this was interesting.

I did not find Stephanie Campbell that interesting, not because she’s a bad speaker, but because her talk was so focused on the facts of the case of Texas Education and not about anything broader reaching.  The entire thing ended with a Vote for your School Board plea that I guess was somewhat universal, but it felt very much like a lecture.  And this is a topic, education and the south, that I find generally interesting, but I guess it was just that it was all about Texas and not about why it was happening, or the players involved, or how it impacted people.  Just the facts, ma’am.  I was also sad that there was only one woman speaker.  Where are all the ladies at?  Clearly I need a book deal so I can be invited to conferences to be snarky about religion.

John Shook surprised me and was, I thought, the most interesting and compelling speaker of the entire event.  He was so interesting that I briefly entertained the idea of sitting with him at the speakers dinner instead of PZ.  He’s a philosopher and is of the opinion that philosophy, not science, is the natural opposition to religion.  And he used a term “a-theology” as that which is most directly opposed to theology.  He recognized that the more insidious religious ideas are those that are constantly moving the goal posts, because they accept science and then turn it into religion.  Anyway, if they end up selling DVDs of this or it ends up on youtube, I’ll link to it.

The day ended with Joe Nickell who talked about the Shroud of Turin.  PZ had just talked about it, so I was up to date on the facts.  He’s an interesting guy.  After he spoke, I talked to him when we walked over to dinner and he’s one of those guys who is determinedly open minded.  In a way where you worry that they’re too open  minded, but he’s dedicated enough to the scientific method that he seems all right.  But he doesn’t judge things as a whole, only specific incidents.  Like if a woman is possessed, he would go and look at her specifically rather than looking at possessions as a whole.  He doesn’t consider himself a debunker, but rather an investigator of supernatural claims.  It’s a fine distinction, and I’m guessing it wins him points with the people he’s investigating, but I found it interesting that he is so committed to not being dismissive of people’s bizarre claims.

And then was dinner, which I’ve already talked about, and after dinner I went home because it was a long drive and I didn’t want to spend another 50 bucks to stay for the rest of the program and not get home til one in the morning.

Phil Zuckerman asks the tough questions of other speakers

Brian Dunning on The Virgin of Guadalupe

William Lobdell on becoming atheist

This guy was super friendly

Michael Shermer

Very Angry at Michael Shermer

Alex Uzdavines introduces PZ

PZ doing something interesting with his hand

Dan Barker seems like the most impossibly nice fellow

Stephanie Campbell wishes to mess with Texas

As a survivor of Southern Public Education, I ask Stephanie a question

John Shook being very compelling

Joe Nickell knows how to say JAHYsus

Joe Nickell's reproduction of the Shroud of Turin was scary as fuck

The shot of the whole table at dinner

Me and PZ and Lime Green Alaskan and my twin and in the distance you can see Phil and Cute Blonde in Glasses

Didn't stay for this, but does it look a little Last Supper to you too?

My Dinner Date with PZ Myers

I have no camera, but I do have an iMac.  Apologies for any legibility issues, it says, “Notice: No Squid!  This is Bullshit!  PZ Myers.”

That’s the Gideon Bible what I stole and kept because it was green.  I stole it because that’s generally my MO in hotels, but I didn’t throw it away because it was green and I didn’t have a Bible to desecrate reference.  I got it signed because I had the brilliant idea at midnight when talking to a friend who was super jealous he couldn’t go.

I’ll probably do a separate post about the whole conference thing, but the dinner was really neat.  Firstly, there was someone else wearing the Squid vs. Noah shirt, and there was a very cool and interesting guy from Anchorage/Irvine/England who was wearing lime green.  I have forgotten his name.  There was also Phil Zuckerman and a cute blonde guy in glasses, who were sitting a bit down the table but occasionally joined in.

But dinner was really cool because it was basically just hanging out with some really interesting smart people who enjoyed snark.  And I learned new things about PZ.  We hit a broad range of topics but I’ll give the highlights.

We talked about his experiments with zebrafish.  Apparently fish in captivity are really dumb, and fish in the wild are really clever.  I’m not sure how much to talk about because apparently some jerkface stole something about the zebrafish experiments from PZ’s blog and published it so I don’t want to spoil anything.  Suffice to say we spent a long time talking about zebrafish and it was pretty interesting.

We talked about Neanderthals.  I asked how do we decide that Neanderthals are a different species from us since we could interbreed, to which PZ gave the witty reply that they are all dead, that’s how.  I’m fond of Neanderthals because they had red hair.

We talked about the Uncanny Valley and the creepy proportions of the Shroud of Turin.  And how the fingers look like they’re made of rubber.  Funny Alaskan said they were tentacles, and I made a jab about Onanism with tentacles for fingers and PZ drifted into a reverie for a moment or two.

I got to be directly catty about the comments in favor of the genital nicking on the part of pediatrics.  I feel often that my comments are fairly ignored over there, which isn’t that big of a deal, comments seem mostly about hearing yourself talk anyway, but it was nice to feel heard on the issue.

I found out PZ’s opinion on Andrew Sullivan (nuanced), Episcopalians (relatively OK with), men hijacking any thread about women to make it all about them and their issues (aware of), Dr. Who (for), Macs (for), Linux (against!), PZed (against!), Australians (arrogant bastards insist on saying PZed), and steak (medium).

I also got to see the cover of his upcoming book which apparently needs to be written.  I give the cover a B+.  It has tentacles, an elephant and a great deal of purple, but it doesn’t have PZ and there’s something weird about the color scheme in general.  I suggested he get a quote from Trophy Wife TM and if that happens I’m just going to go ahead and claim credit right now.

I never quite figured out what he was vaguely irritated with Michael Shermer for.  Michael Shermer, by the way, looks eerily like Jonathan Pryce and has a weird arrogant swagger to him that is both compelling and a bit unsettling.  He was super nice when I talked to him and I got his newest book, so nothing personal there, just an observation.

I also saw PZ at lunch where he said he knew what his grandmother’s face looked like when she orgasmed, made fun of Utah and Mormons, and laughed heartily at my True Stories About Atheism.  I made my mother’s friend cry when I told her I was an atheist.  Hysterically she asked, “Don’t you want to get married and have a family?!”  I told my ex-Catholic mother when she was taking me to college that I was atheist and she said, “I’m so disappointed you don’t believe you’re going to Hell.  Wait, that came out wrong.”

There was lots more and I don’t remember it right now, but if I think of it, I promise I’ll add it.  It was totally worth the money.  And not just for PZ but for the other interesting people who also wanted to have dinner with PZ.  It was all very snarky and civilized.

I forgot to ask him if he’ll do a bit appearance in Bible Con, my script making fun of Christians and atheists, if it actually gets made.

EDIT: The rest of the story: http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/ocfa-conference-2010-where-i-met-pz/

Weird and unrelated to anything

On huffpo there’s a picture of a billboard in Tallahassee, FL of a plastic surgeon there who I may or may not have consulted when I was in my earlier quest for a breast reduction.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/06/above-average-plastic-sur_n_566692.html

It gets better.  It gets oh so much better.  He has a book available on Amazon called “The Good, the Bad, and the Homily.”  And his cat has posted a review.  Seriously.  For real.  I think it’s just someone having a go really and not him, but it’s almost exactly what his wife said in her review a decade ago.  Real people are so weird.

This review is “biased” because I am the cat of the author. You will have to forgive me accordingly, but sitting on the lap of one of my slaves I have to say, fascinated as we all are with “plastic surgery” and human beings, this volume is a pleasant read. Its perspective, and I can guarantee it from having lived with the surgeon for 8 years, is altogether a different one from what is presented in slick magazines and talk- shows. With what I am going to call “happy good humor” my slave wanders all over the cosmos using his experience of the practice of plastic surgery (in a small, football town) as the focus of his slightly eccentric ruminations. But I am most proud that this book demonstrates that even in such a “glitzy”, thought-to-be-glamorous surgical specialty as his he demonstrates that care and respect for people and their needs are alive and well in the practice of medicine. The book is, I think, really fun; and even if you do not want to read it there are some pleasant pictures of this and that. I am very proud of him. I hope you will buy his book, since he is very eager that the publisher, whom he much respects, makes back what it cost to print!

Also, please admonish my slave to buy the Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula instead of that cheap dry stuff he always gets, I’ve had diarrhea for the past two weeks from eating that awful stuff. If he needs a little encouragement, then please inform him that I will be defecating in hidden places throughout the house until I get what I want.

It’s Called MUTILATION for a Reason; Cutting off the Clitoris of Young Girl is Evil

I am so angry.  I am so angry I don’t even know how to put it in words.  But I’ll make the attempt.  The American, AMERICAN, Academy of Pediatrics in the United States of America, in the year 2010, is asking the pediatric Doctors, you know the kind with Medical Licenses, to perform female GENITAL MUTILATION.

FGM is a harmful traditional practice with serious health risks that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is acknowledged internationally as a human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. This practice involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the U.S. have either been, or are at risk of being, subjected to FGM.

Unsurprisingly the people behind this nonsense are men, but my god, I mean, even men have to accept that this is a horrific practice.  This is from the pdf they released:

I sent the following letter, the contact information for these unbelievable idiots is at the bottom.

Dear Sirs,

How dare you? How dare you, in the name of “cultural sensitivity”, be so insensitive to the fact that millions of women have lost their lives, their ability to reproduce, and their ability to feel pleasure because of a barbaric tradition that you are now supporting. You are endorsing this behavior! Have you completely lost your mind? Obviously you’ve lost any perspective or moral guideposts.

In America, you are supporting the ritualistic abuse of children who aren’t old enough to decide what is right for them because their parents want to cut off their clitoris to prevent them from feeling pleasure. That is the goal of this behavior. It is disgusting, absolutely disgusting that you feel the need to be so accommodationist that you refuse to take a moral stance here. Cutting off women’s genitals is wrong. You know that.

First do no harm, do you not remember this oath? Tell me how you are doing no harm. Are you not harming psychologically all the poor girls, even if you’ve invented some sort of half-mutilation with no long term physical effects. Guess what, you’re saying that the medical community endorses the idea that women should not feel pleasure. This is the 21st century in America and you’re asking that doctors endorse behavior that wasn’t even appropriate 500 years ago. Will you next be endorsing leeches? Castration for good singers?

Do you not have daughters? I can’t help but notice you are all men. I hope you know that this decision isn’t just wrong, it isn’t just bad, it is evil.

Shame on you. I want a retraction. And an apology. And an individual apology to every girl who’s ever been wounded by this evil practice against their will. You should go door to door.

Ashley F. Miller

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Phone: +1 847 434 7500
Fax: +1 847 434 8385
Email: ealden@aap.org

Please send copies of your letters to the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Board of Pediatrics at the addresses listed below:

Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH
President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties
222 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: +1 312 436 2600
Fax: +1 312 436 2700
Email: kweiss@abms.org

Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics
111 Silver Cedar Court
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Phone: +1 919 929 0461
Fax: +1 919 913 2070
Email: abpeds@abpeds.org

Advice for 2010 Grads Coming to LA; 15 things

The Bitter Script Reader posted some advice about how to survive to move to LA.  I tried to comment over there and it won’t let me, but this is what I said.

1) Get settled so that you’re as comfortable as possible — living out of boxes makes everything seem transient. Have roommates or whatever, but make sure that you’ve got a space, however small, that is yours. Spend some time driving around the city and getting to know places. Find the studios. (Have a car!)

2) I really love Glendale, it’s safe and cheapish. Frogtown is super cheap. North Hollywood is becoming a lot safer, the parts closer to the 134 are totally fine for a single girl to live in.

2) I would say you probably need at least 7k in the bank before coming out here and at least two finished scripts and some outlines for more. Basically, you need enough money that you can go several months without making much money at all and enough written that if you’re too discombobulated to write, you’ve got something to work with. I applied for internships and jobs for 6 months before I moved out and it still took me 3 months to land a part time paid gig, though I did have an internship lined up.

3) Apply to every job you can find, do things for free, take an internship in the industry if you can afford it and then work at whatever you can in the rest of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s an industry job, making contacts of all sorts is important, life experience, all that jazz. I’m not super social and I don’t like to drink, but working on other people’s projects is a great way to meet people and learn useful skills.

4) Find something else you can do in the industry besides writing. Can you edit? Can you gaff? Find a way to make yourself useful. Pursue every avenue. Learn to script supe, that’s easy and low impact.  Find something you like to do that isn’t writing.

5) A lot of people would say find a writing group. I personally am not in one, but I have a large group of friends who I can get advice from. Writing groups are pretty useful if you don’t have that.

6) Apply selectively to contests, but do apply. I’ve definitely gotten contacts from agents and managers and earned some street cred by placing in contests people had heard of.

7) Mandy.com, realitystaff.com, and craigslist are your new friends. I personally don’t really like the UTA job list, but it’s out there too.

8) Figure out a way to make your commute worthwhile. A voice recorder is great if you can think outloud for writing purposes. I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

9) Do things that have nothing to do with film because people who only talk about film are boring. Read books, magazines, go do stuff that’s got seriously zero to do with film and then you’ll have something interesting to talk about. The reason Hollywood loves young blood is because they have experience outside of the Hollywood system and they haven’t quite yet been turned into normal LA people who can only talk about themselves and movies.

10) Write genre scripts that can be produced cheaply if you’re really out to make a sell.

11) Don’t ever be a douchebag. Don’t have a temper. If you talk shit online, don’t use names.  (Unless revealing scam artists!)

12) Conversely, if you’re working for free, you have the right to be treated well and to learn something from the experience. Don’t be afraid of anyone. And don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, just don’t be aggressive. Along these lines, know how much you should be getting paid, even if you’re not being paid that. This is useful info.

13) Be on the look out for scams. Not all competitions are worthwhile. Not all agents are legit. If someone asks you for money upfront to be your agent, that guy is a scam artist. (google Eddie Kritzer)

14) If you’re a lady writer with a girly name, I’d recommend using your initials. That sounds terrible, but there’s genuine gender bias out here and I’m super lucky that all the other Ashleys out here are guys. This is especially true if you’re replying to internet ad, because internet people are super creepy.

15) Give yourself deadlines so that you’re not constantly second guessing yourself and make sure they’re reasonable. I, for example, haven’t always been totally sure LA is the place for me, but I’m only allowed to seriously think about moving during the month of August. So I don’t dwell on it in general.

(I never had a problem with the tap water, don’t know what people are talking about)