Shooting in Shandon

Shandon

Shandon

I’ve had a very strange day.  I have a lot I’m supposed to be working on, but I’ve found myself in the middle of this tragedy playing out in Columbia, SC today.  You hear about shootings and tragedies on the news, maybe you, like me, find them disturbing and fascinating and horrifying.  Sometimes even those distant horrors can seem personal, like Columbine, and people who weren’t even close to being involved have to get through the grief of the event.

I certainly didn’t think I’d ever know someone at the center of something like that.  Why would I?  It seemed like something that happened in other worlds.  Certainly not in Columbia, SC, and definitely not in the whitebread, middle class neighborhood of Shandon.

I woke up early this morning and couldn’t quite go back to sleep, so I checked my Facebook.  One of my FB friends wrote that they’d heard shots outside their house, and they live in Shandon.  My mom lives in Shandon, but all I really thought was, “Now I can get back at her for all the paranoia when I lived in Echo Park.”  And I went back to sleep.

After I got to work, I read a little about it, and the information was sparse: a police officer had been shot in the protective vest, a suspect with an AK-47 had been killed, suicide by cop, and it all happened within sight of my mother’s house.  That was a little bit too freaky, so I texted her to make sure she was OK.  She didn’t reply for a long while, and when she did I was really flummoxed.

“It was Blake Jernigan.”

Blake

Blake

And here was my thought process: Blake Jernigan.  Was the shooter?  That can’t be right.  Does she mean he was the officer who is OK, no, he’s too young, that doesn’t make sense, she must mean he was the shooter.  He did get in trouble a couple years ago for drugs or something, but he’s like 22, he’s a kid!  He went to high school with my little brother!  He used to hang out at our house, he’s friends with my little sister, clearly she’s got something mixed up or is talking about something else…

So I texted my little brother, hoping that he’d say something like “Oh, no, she just meant it was at his house, it wasn’t him, he’s fine.”  He didn’t say that.

Then the news caught up with gossip and reported that the shooter was Blakely Jernigan.  They even found a picture of him from Facebook.  He looks exactly like he did when he was 12.

If you ever know someone involved in some sort of story, don’t read the comments.  Really, do not, it will only make you angry and sad and doubtful of the worthiness of humanity.  I don’t begrudge the cops for shooting him, they did what they had to do and shooting at cops is basically a death wish, but I don’t understand the people crowing about the death of a 22 year old troubled kid.  Calling him names, discussing which more terrifying weapons the police should have used to destroy him, and of course the one guy who says he’d wished it was Obama that got shot instead.

Then my brother FB IMed me, he seemed really freaked out.  No one was surprised that he came to a bad end, but no one thought he’d be at the center of a police shoot out either.  Apparently his personality had drastically changed since going to college, he started doing and selling drugs, and he got a fully automatic AK-47 because people were robbing him.  Not really a story that’s going to have a happy ending.

I dunno, maybe this is one of those bleeding heart liberal things, where I just can’t make anyone into a cardboard cutout bad guy.  I can’t help but see people in these stories, even when I don’t know them.  I just don’t know why anyone is happy at the death of another.  I have no distance from this, so I guess I can’t really say.

I am very glad that the officer is going to be just fine, I only wish the same could be said for the Jernigans.

logan

Logan

My sister on the news

The Polygamist Message from May, 2007

I know you all can’t get enough creepy messages, right?  So here’s the best of my collection, the greatest message I’ve ever gotten from a complete stranger.  Can you handle it?  Bolds are mine!

It’s come to my attention that people (women) often say that one of the most fundamental things they are looking for is honesty in a man but since they’ve more than likely never met an honest man they don’t know what to do when they actually confront one.

That having been said let’s see if you write me (an extremely honest man back. Now this writing back deal will require a certain amount of curiosity and gumption and no small amount of an open mind. If you wonder why no honest men it’s because the world is backwards and most of the the time people not only tell you what you want to hear but know what invariably happens when telling the truth…..let’s see:

You would never find a better more honest friend, lover, husband. How do I know that? Because I have two wives and I’m looking for a third. That’s getting the 500 pound gorilla out of the way up front and being honest isn’t it?

What do you suppose type of man I am? One you should avoid or embrace? Well I’m not a dishrag. I appreciate intelligent physically strong females because they make the best babies and I’m all about family and yes I can afford three wives.

Well you have a choice to ignore or explore. I expect everything and ask for nothing. Consequently I’m unable to place you in an akward position. You might just be curious….if so please feel free to write. I won’t bite and you can always use me for a topic of conversation. “I actually correspond with a polygamist from Florida on a regular basis!!!”

Looking forward to your reply……..C. Smith

Ashley Writes Back:

Well, huh. I mean, it’s simply too weird not to respond to, you know? I’ve got to admit, you’re definitely ballsy. Do you just send these out en masse, or did you actually choose to send it to me for some reason?

I’m not really interested, you being over twice my age, married, with kids, and, I’m guessing, religious. But, kudos for being totally straightforward. I’m sure that someone is looking for you, so good luck with that.

You don’t have to respond, but I do wonder if you’ve seen the show Big Love. And what on earth drives you to be so openly polygamist.

He writes back:

Hi Pumpkin,

Thanks for the reply.

I think on some level it is shocking to be in a position to tell the truth or put another way….in a position to tell society to kiss my ass. But I have structured my life so as not to place myself in a situation where I have to cowtow to others. As an example I can never be excomunicated from the catholic church. I’m not catholic!!! For that reason I’m not a joiner. If you join anything it usually comes with a handbook of rules outlining what they expect from you.

Today’s news is replete with a story about the ex-govenor’s wife and her feelings when he announced to the world that he was gay. (she wrote a book about it) Also there were 70 comments from people explaning their like experiences. I looked at it this way: If he hadn’t lied to her and she hadn’t married the bastard their daughter would never have been born.

I’m an intellectual…we speak five languages between us and number two is half way through her masters in accounting at JU. I wrote you because you have a brain. You’re curious enough to at least write back and you know that any system made by man is for the benefit of man. Women didn’t make the laws against polygamy (we are not religiously driven….just to make that clear, and nothing stops the members of my family from leaving if they want to).

Age means nothing to me (well young girls no – I’m not a pedophile) because if it were important I would think, chronologically, you would be a little young. Yuliya is just turned 27. But I should think it would be more important to know who was in charge of your household (who made the last word final decisions on the important things) your father or your mother. It would be neigh on to impossible no matter how old you are to get along with you if your mother raised you. See that’s more important don’t you think?

Finally to answer your question further about my openess. Nobody really gives ashit what you do unless it impacts them and what I do is a building experience….more family, more intelligent kids, better life style (everybody pools their resources) more fun, more options. Lets say you end up with “Mr. Right” who cheats on you and lies to you and saddles you with obligations that you don’t want. What say do you have because you were following the norm. girl it doesn’t work out for half the people who get married! Be realistic. So why should they care what I’m doing….they don’t. Now they care in Utah because the Mormons (a sect) kicked out the polygamists a hundred years ago in direct opposition to their founder Joseph Smith (who was killed by that time) so they could join the Union. So you could say they sold out and because of that they are so fervently against the other mormons who consider themselves the “real” mormons. I, of course, could care less as I build family.

Perhaps you will write back. Maybe you would like to see what I do in my spare time:

http://www.aerofast.com/photography/index.html

Is their one you like better than the others?

Clayton the Honest

Today in Creepy

Oh, internet, you never fail to bring me something creepy on a regular basis.  A message from a man I've never met:

Wanna go out in the boat on saturday?  really, you seem cool and itd be a great time with lots of people around so you wouldnt have to worry about being murdered.  I look good and im in great shape except for a little tummy fat i cant destroy.  [name redacted] # [non-local phone number redacted] i know this seems crazy but i have a feeling about you like to see where it could go.  no hard feelings if you think im crazy.

Well, I suppose at least there are no hard feelings.  I think I'm going to avoid getting into an inescapable small space with a guy I don't know, even if he says I'm not going to get murdered…  I will somehow survive missing the opportunity to introduce him to the apostrophe.  Maybe some day I'll find you the message from the Floridian polygamist who wanted me to be his third wife.

Derren Brown vs Faith Healing

There are few things more difficult for the skeptic to let go of than their faith in their own intelligence.  After all, recognizing the untruth of something lots of people believe in (gods, psychics, bigfoots) does give one a sense of intellectual superiority.  I've certainly been guilty of a sort of mental vanity that is borderline absurd — not because I'm not smart but because no one is smart enough to overcome the inherent fallibility of the human mind.  Smart people are often just better at tricking themselves into believing whatever it is they wish to be true.

And this is why I so appreciate the work of Derren Brown, a mentalist and magician who captivated me last year when I read his book "Tricks of the Mind".  He reminds me of Stephen Fry — brilliant, funny, atheist, gay and charming — like something from an Oscar Wilde play, not of this time.  Derren's schtick is to do magic tricks while explaining why the mind falls for them — he's sort of like a psychologist of magic.  It's similar to Penn & Teller, but his tricks are less sleight of hand and more sleight of mind.  He has gotten some flak in skeptic circles because he usually has a trick or two he doesn't explain, retaining some of that appeal to mysticism that he's otherwise debunking, but it's all part of the show.

If you share with me a love of the horrifically compelling documentary "Marjoe" or the delightful Steve Martin film "Leap of Faith", or if you just hate swindlers, especially those abusing religion to take advantage of people, then you'll be interested in Derren's latest TV Special, slated to air in the UK on C4 Monday night at 9.  It is called "Miracles for Sale" which is a rather tame title considering the subject matter.

The special will follow Derren's attempt, which one assumes was successful since it's airing, to turn an average Joe from the streets into a faith healer, using only tricks of the mentalist trade.  Basically, he's going to see if people fall for obvious fraud.  Derren claims that this is not about God, but about exposing fraud, though it can't help but paint religion and the entire idea of faith healing in an intensely negative light.

Although I don't hide my own lack of religious belief, my repulsion at this scam comes as much from my days as a Christian as it does from simply being a human being observing ego- and money-driven fraud.

As a former Evangelical, Derren manages to have street cred with Christians, although many others see his de-conversion as some sort of personal insult or, typically, a sign that he was never really a Christian in the first place.  And of course he's already getting the kind of braindead responses you'd expect from the faith healing crowds.  "U say there's no proof of genuine miracle?  Where have u been looking??  I've personally SEEN the blind SEE the Deaf hear and many other miracles…" "Jesus heals people all the time.  It is not faith healing though.  When Jesus speaks to someone they get healed.  Everything he does works."

So much for helping those in need.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-O9aNl2Xrk&feature=related

Releasing the Prop 8 Videos

 

People in an open society do not demand infallibility in their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing - Chief Justice Berger

Former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial, recently used some of the video that was taken during the case as part of a lecture.  The Proponents, aka supporters of Prop 8/opposers of gay marriage, immediately took great offense and sent what was essentially a cease and desist order that demanded the return of all the copies of the tapes, Walker's and anyone else who had them.

 
In response, Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal tour de force trying to lift the gay marriage ban, filed a request that the tapes be unsealed and released to the public.  After all, the trial is a matter of public record and the transcripts are freely available.
 
Originally, the trial was going to be broadcast live, but the Proponents felt like this might scare some of their witnesses away, and so they demanded that it not be broadcast.  Judge Walker taped it, but didn't release the tapes, to the great disappointment of the men and women across the country who wanted to see the greatest trial of the greatest civil rights battle of our time.

No one can really blame the Proponents for not wanting to have video footage of just how appallingly awful their defense of Prop 8 was.  They want to continue to play the victim here — they want to sell the idea that gay marriage is somehow a violation of religious liberty, rather than being completely the other way round.  The video of their disastrous performance would only reveal that they are driven solely by religion and bigotry — and that they aren't even capable of hiding that fact.

Some things that they don't want you to see on television, things that their own anti-equality witnesses did: a witness saying that DADT and DOMA were "Official Discrimination"; that same witness then saying Prop 8 was also discriminatory; Mr. Blankenhorn, their chief witness saying, "I believe that adoption of same sex marriage would be likely to improve the well-being of gay and lesbian households and their children"; Blankenhorn also saying, "We would be more American on the day we legalized gay marriage than the day before".

Well, I mean, no wonder, right?  But that's exactly why these things need to be released.  People need the opportunity to see how feeble the defense was and to really understand how motivated by religion the campaign against equality was.  Not everyone is as nerdy as me and reads trial transcripts because they find them so compelling — video is the medium of our lives, and well do the religious know that since it is the medium through which they sold their hate.

The vast majority of the money and on-the-ground support for the Prop 8 campaign came from the Mormon church, supplemented by the Catholic church.  This isn't even money from California, and it's certainly money that ought to take away their tax exempt status.  People need to be shown the kind of lies they were telling to get people to vote against marriage equality, the emotional manipulation about children and families, things so blatantly false they might be defended with the disclaimer: "not intended to be a factual statement."

Gay marriage doesn't destroy families, it doesn't destroy children, it really doesn't do much except make some people very happy and give them access to rights that the rest of us take for granted.  The trial provided an overwhelming amount of evidence that refusing marriage rights not only hurt gay people, but also hurt the thousands of children of LGBT parents.  It hurts these children irreparably, immeasurably, forever.  This wasn't in question, gay marriage opponents agreed.

These tapes shouldn't just be released, they should be broadcast on every news channel for weeks to expose just how rotten the argument is against gay marriage.  If you've ever questioned why church-state separation is so important, this is why.  If conservative Christians (and I include the LDS) hadn't funded the gay marriage ban, it wouldn't be in place, and even they couldn't create enough money to make credible witnesses or a real argument against gay marriage.  The monstrous unfairness of the church taking over, infiltrating, and outright buying the political process only to then lie to the public to get their way has got to stop.  Not only is it immoral, it is un-American.

Proponents motion for return of videos http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-338
Vaughn Walker's response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/53041973/CA9Doc-339-Letter-from-Vaughn-R-Walker
Olson and Boies request for unsealing of videos: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-340
San Francisco's feisty response: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52945974/CA9Doc-341

 

Interview with Nicholl Fellowship Winner Micah Ranum!

FSU Classmate and winner of the 2010 Nicholl Fellowship Micah Ranum very kindly answered some questions I had for him about winning and what his life has been like since.

From the Nicholl Website

1. What script did you win with, what’s it about, what do you love about it?

My script is entitled “A Good Hunter.” The story is about a reformed hunter living in isolation on a wildlife sanctuary in Northern Minnesota. He becomes involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse when he sets out to save a young girl from a vicious killer in the wilderness.

I have found that in order for me to really become excited about a project, I need to love the characters. As a writer you spend countless hours with your characters and if you don’t find some reason to get to know them well, the script just doesn’t stand a chance. So while I love writing suspenseful moments, those moments mean very little if you don’t find a deeper connection with the characters and the world they inhabit. For me, Rayburn, the protagonist in A Good Hunter, was a guy I liked quickly. The idea of this man, who is a reformed hunter who now takes care of animals on this isolated wildlife sanctuary, spoke to me. You have to get invested in what it is the main character is after, and in order to do that you have to become attached to the hero of the story.

2. What’s your background? Where are you from, how long have you been writing, how many scripts have you written? Do you want to be a writer/director?

I am originally from Minnesota and have been writing screenplays for nearly the past ten years. Some years have been much more prolific than others, but all together I have written ten feature scripts, most of which I would never show to anyone.

Other than writing, I also went to film school at Florida State University where I earned an MFA in film production. While there, I wrote and directed five short films and had the pleasure of working on countless other students films.

I do hope to direct someday, but as of now I really just hope to forge a career in writing and hopefully directing will fall into place as a result.

3. Have you applied to other contests or festivals? With what results?

The 2010 Nicholl competition was the first screenwriting competition I have ever entered and will likely be the last. As a winner of a fellowship, I don’t believe I qualify for most other competitions.

4. Did you get feedback from nicholl on your writing? Once you were a finalist what was the process from there to winner?

I did not receive any feedback from the Nicholl Fellowships, but I did not ask for it either so I’m not sure what their official policy is on sharing feedback.

Once I reached the finalist level in the competition I was asked to submit a brief letter describing my background and my aspirations for the future, as well as a description of a script that I would like to spend my time working on during the fellowship year. Overall the process was simple and painless. The waiting, on the other hand, was a nightmare! But when the call came from the director of the fellowships, Greg Beal, I couldn’t have been more elated. It was such an exciting moment and much needed validation.

5. Did you meet the other winners? Did anything seem to separate them from others?

I met the current fellows and finalists and also had the honor to meet several brilliant past fellows as well. Most writers tend to live such isolated existences that it is hard to discern what separates a professional from an amateur. How do ten scripts rise to the top in a competition like the Nicholl Fellowships? If I knew the answer to that question I would be happy to share, but I am not sure anyone knows that answer.

There are so many ingredients necessary to make a good script great that if just a few are missing, the story just won’t feel quite right. Basically, tell an entertaining story and make sure it is full of conflict with dimensional characters that a reader and an audience can fall in love with. But first and foremost, fall in love with your own story so that you can spend lots of time necessary to rewrite your work.

6. Tacky question: have you gotten the money? Have you bought anything exciting? Did you have a day job and did you get to quit it? Has your life been turned upside down with calls for screenplay deals and agents?

The fellowship money is not given in one lump sum. Instead it is dispersed in five payments over the course of the fellowship year. But after I got my first check, I did purchase a new Macbook Pro. I had been using a touchy nine year-old imac that is well past retirement age.

Before I won the fellowship I was fortunate to be writing fulltime. My wife and I moved to Los Angeles without much of a backup plan. Once we arrived, and I was able to secure a manager we decided that I would spend a few months writing full time while she would support us. A few months extended into over a year, but we kept seeing progress and it just seemed like the struggle would be worth it in the end. The Nicholl is a huge step and the sacrifices that we made have worked for us, but it has not been easy. While I have supplemented our income with small amounts of production work from time to time, I have been lucky enough to really spend my time working on the craft of screenwriting.

My life hasn’t been turned upside down yet, but doors continue to open. The script has garnered a lot of attention and I do expect good things to happen in the coming year. I already had a manager and an agent so I was not looking to sign elsewhere. But from what I gathered, the writers who did not have representation found it quickly.

7. There’s always grumbling about the race, sex, geographic locale, and genre of the majority of Nicholl winners, though the first three line up pretty closely with submissions. Do you have any thoughts on that? How does it feel to have won with a fairly atypical genre?

Personally, I think the competition is about as perfect as one could expect. The blind submission process ensures that everyone gets a fair chance. No script contains information about the age, gender, etc. of the writer. With that said, if a script comes by about a menopausal woman taking a road trip with her 3 dearest friends, I’d wager that it wasn’t written by a 22 year old guy. Nor is a gratuitously violent slasher flick filled with teen sex usually written by a 50 year-old woman. In that regard, the process is a little subjective, but I think good work usually gets recognized. But gender and race issues are a much larger sociological issue that cannot be so easily pinpointed and dissected in a screenwriting competition.

Geographic locale is simple. Most people who take their work seriously, move to the location that best fits their needs. If you want to become a country singer, move to Nashville; if you want to study Chimpanzees in their native habitat, move to Africa; if you want to be involved in the film industry, Los Angeles is where the industry is. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it from somewhere else, it only means that it’s that much easier to surround yourself with like-minded peers.

It was exciting to win with a thriller; however, I do believe that even genre scripts need to have a good dramatic through line. We have to like the characters and we have to root for them to succeed. Every good script needs several layers to really work on an emotional level.

8. You had a manager who sent this script out to the tracking boards about a year ago. Did she help you with the script? Did you make any changes before sending it to nicholl? Did you get any meetings off of it then?

My manager certainly helped develop the script. I think a good manager will do that, but in the end it is still up to the writer to take those notes and execute. But a good manager will point out the weak moments and should push a writer to do their best work.

I did not make any changes to the script before submitting to the Nicholl competition. I was already working on other projects and felt that “A Good Hunter” was in a good place to submit to the Nicholl.

When the script initially went out I think I had around thirty meetings. After winning the Nicholl, I probably had another fifteen or twenty meetings and they still seem to be popping up several months later.

9. Any advice or recommended resources, books or websites on writing or the business? Words of wisdom for people who are older than 22 or don’t live in hollywood but still want to make it?

There are tons of great books on writing including Save the Cat, Story by Robert Mckee, books by Linda Seger and of course Sid Field. But other than reading those books, study the types of movies that you would like to write, read as many scripts as you can, but most importantly write. I’ve had days where I’ll read all the tracking boards and screenwriting blogs, read chapters in a screenwriting book, and then break down a movie or two, but at the end of the day, I hadn’t written a word. All of that busy work is important but you have to write – make a schedule that you can stick to. The only way to improve is to repeat the process over and over.

And most importantly, learn to rewrite your work. First drafts are never very good no matter who you are. Anyone who thinks they can write one draft and be done is delusional. There are many layers that make up a good script and most of those do not show up until rewrites.

10. What’s next? What are you currently working on?

I am currently writing two more spec screenplays. I couldn’t be more excited about both projects. But have found it never seems to get any easier. It takes hard work to write a script and maybe a touch of insanity to do it over and over and over.

Thanks a lot, and again, huge huge congratulations!

Skepticism: Tits or GTFO*?

Originally posted at SheThought.

I hate writing about feminist issues, because every time I do I get accused of being a feminazi or caring more about women than men, or of buying into victim culture, or any number of accusations that come with the territory.  Feminism isn’t generally my main issue, and so I’m always hesitant to distract from all the other things I care about by getting into knock down, drag out fights about why should I care about how women are treated or how they’re portrayed in the media.

Occasionally, of course, I do write something about feminism, because I’m upset enough to ignore the warning lights in my head that say I’m going to have to deal with a lot of BS because of it.  As you might imagine, this post is me ignoring those warning bells.

Skepticism has a woman problem.  It’s been said more than once, it’s been pointed out countless times, and it’s being addressed in a lot of positive ways that should absolutely count in its favor.  I don’t want to dismiss or underplay the fact that there are a lot of men in the movement who care a lot about this issue and are actively working to fix it.

That said, the amount of privilege and harassment I see coming from a number of the powerful men in the movement is really distressing.  The assumption that young women are taking advantage of older men or that men have the automatic right to presume sexual interest and the right to sexually harass young women is a problem, and it’s a problem within this movement, not just outside of it.

This problem came up today, because Lawrence Krauss, a respected scientist and one of the featured speakers at TAM9, defended his buddy Jeffrey Epstein, a man who plead guilty to hiring underage girls, some as young as 13,  to have sex with him.  Krauss is skeptical of the claims because he always thought the girls around Epstein were 19-23 and apparently thinks it’s ok to have sex with a 13 year old so long as you think she’s 18.  He also doesn’t seem to understand that a 13 year old having sex with a powerful, rich man has been coerced into it, no matter what.  Ignorance is no excuse there, it’s rape and it’s taking advantage of a child.

He is also skeptical of the claims made by the prosecution, despite the fact that Epstein plead guilty and they did an 11-month sting operation documenting his activity.  And they have his, apparently horrific, diary.

It gets worse.

DJ Grothe, on the Skepchick article about this, comments , saying basically that he doesn’t know anything about the situation, but he lied about his age when he was under 18 so that he could get laid, so maybe underage prostitution isn’t that bad.  I appreciate that he’s not saying that sex with a 13 year old is OK, he specifically says it isn’t, but since that’s what actually happened, I’m really not sure why he felt the need to defend Krauss.  Nor do I understand how he is also missing the power play aspect of this.  Epstein took underage women who were not prostitutes and coerced them into sexual acts, using money and power.  This is not acceptable behavior, even if you’re OK with prostitution and 16-year-olds having sex.

This isn’t a question of the legality of prostitution or what the age of consent should be.  This is a question about abuse of power, non-consensual sex and sex trafficking of minors.

I wish I could tell you that this blindness to abuse of privilege and power existed only in response to this one issue, but it permeates the skeptic movement.  Many of the men in this movement are guilty of abusing their power to take advantage of the women in the movement or to hurt them when they won’t agree to sex, or turning a blind eye to the behavior or other men who are guilty of similar behavior.

If I could tell you all the horror stories I’ve heard, all the individuals who have been mistreated, insulted, taken advantage of by men in this movement, you’d be shocked.  If I told you the number of men I’ve been told that I need to be careful around because they have a “problem with young women”, you might not believe me.  Unless you’re a woman, and then you’ve probably heard some of it yourself.

I believe these stories because I’ve been at the receiving end of some egregious behavior and I’ve seen a lot of it with my own eyes.  The women in the movement ignore it because it’s less important to us than our desire to be part of a community that matters to us.  Hell, I don’t even feel comfortable talking about it because I know it’s going to make me unpopular, I don’t want to list anyone’s name because I just don’t feel comfortable with the backlash that would come with it.  I can’t bring myself to do it and I feel absolutely ashamed for that.

When a powerful scientist asks a young women who is trying to be taken seriously in the sciences if she’d like to be his next mistress after meeting her once,  that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man implies he’ll help a woman out if he sleeps with her, that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man implies he will blackball a woman if she doesn’t sleep with him, that’s an abuse of power.  When a powerful man dismisses or insults a woman because she doesn’t want to sleep with him, that’s an abuse of power.  There’s a word for coercing women into having sex.

I doubt this will be read by powerful men in the movement, but if it is, I just want to say that you have a responsibility to set an example as to how women should be treated and where their value should come from.  If you think women are only sex objects and you only care about the young, pretty ones who don’t seem too frigid, how on earth are we going to be taken seriously by everyone else?

Why is it that when I go to conferences I have to be hyper-vigilent to the behavior of men whose opinions I respect?

*http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tits+of+gtfo

EDIT: I would like to say a special thanks to the men who have reached out to me, male support on these issues helps make sure we know it’s everyone’s problem, not just a woman problem, and also reminds women that there are a lot of guys who’ve got our backs.

Questions I Need Answers to from Christians

How do you resolve the question of suffering? Why do so many people suffer for no apparent reason? Does anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus go to hell? If it’s “free will”, why are we made so poorly in the first place?

Do you think homosexuals are evil? Is the bible literal? Do you think that committing genocide is OK (the flood)? Do you think evolution is false? How do you reconcile contradictions in the Bible? How do you see revelation, do you think the world is going to end and Jesus is going to come back? Should women be silent and obey men? Is polygamy OK or not?

Why do you believe in a god? Why do you believe specifically in the Christian god? Why is Christianity different than the thousands of other faiths that are incredibly similar?

Do you believe that government should be secular or faith based? How do you feel about capital punishment? Was Peter right or was Paul when it comes to the question of following the old laws? Can you wear cloth of mixed fiber? Is slavery OK, because the bible says that it is?

How can a god who is so constantly described as being jealous and having other human foibles and flaws also be described as perfect? How can he commit genocide and destroy cities and people in wrath and also be all-loving and good?

Where did Cain’s wife come from? Was it incest all the way down the ages? Do you think the earth is 6000 years old, like Bishop Usher said?

Why did Jesus kill the fig tree? Why is Judas condemned for doing the one thing absolutely necessary to lead to Jesus’ resurrection?

Do you agree with the church’s policy of torturing and killing Jews? Do you agree with the church’s support of Hitler? Do you agree with the church’s murder of innocent women accused of witchcraft? Do you believe in witchcraft? How do you think the guy who owned the pigs felt when Jesus infected them with demons and drove them off the cliff?

Why do you think the texts included in the New Testament are true and the ones excluded are not? Have you read the lost gospels, have you read the early gospels, have you done any historical research on the origin of the books in the bible? Why would God send his son to a place with a bunch of illiterate desert people instead of to the Chinese?

Do you think it’s reasonable to kill dozens of children for making fun of a bald guy? Is killing all innocent firstborn in Egypt reasonable? Is rape acceptable? Why does Jesus say he will return in the lifetime of his followers?

How can anyone with one of these horrible, painful, easily broken and incredibly gross human bodies possibly believe in “intelligent” design? Everyone’s body sucks. They get sick, they fail, they get old, they get flabby, with hair in places you don’t want, and often no hair in places you do want, it’s easily poisoned, depressed, scarred, destroyed, and doesn’t last very long. Add to that the millions of common diseases that make people miserable — allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease — and the minor irritations we face almost daily — bad vision, imperfect hearing, imperfect memory, itches, aches, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, sore feet, smelliness, and moodiness — how can anyone believe in a good god?

I have a new crush, and it’s a cobra!

Are you following @BronxZoosCobra?  If you’re unfamiliar with the story, the Bronx Zoo has lost a rather venomous snake*, an Egyptian Cobra, and in the ensuing New York panic, an incredibly clever person created a Twitter account in the name of the snake.  Despite the fact that @BronxZoosCobra is only following one person, their funny tweets have got them nearly 200,000 followers in under a week, myself included.

Despite the fact that there’s almost no chance that the snake has left the reptile house, New Yorkers’ fear of animals created the perfect opportunity to both ridicule and support New Yorkers and the snake has done just that with its posts.  Ranging from jokes about the original Ray’s Pizza (there are probably 60 places that claim to be the original Ray’s) to jokes about sneaking into chimneys and open apartment windows at night, @BronxZooCobra is the perfect mix of NYC insider and comedian.

What I particularly like about this is that it shows that being particularly clever and topical can get you a lot of attention, even though the market is already saturated.  This is good for businesses and self-promoters, if you’re witty and quick on the trigger you can still be really successful.  @BronxZooCobra has already promoted some local businesses, but just imagine how much self-promotion the person behind could do – social media has the power to create significant fame quite literally overnight.

*Although many media reports erroneously say it’s poisonous, it is not.  Poisonous means you can’t eat it, and you can eat cobras just fine, you just don’t want to get bit!

Have some tweets:

Indiana Jones, why'd it have to be Indiana Jones?

Getting my morning coffee at mud tuck. Don't even talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. Seriously don't. I'm venomous.

Dear @CharlieSheen, know what's better than tiger's blood? Cobra venom. #winning #snakeonthetown Also I'm 20 inches long. Just sayin'.

Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious

The Empire State Building: “All the people look like little mice down there. Delicious little mice. #snakeonthetown

Want to clear up a misconception, I'm not poisonous as has been reported. I'm venomous. Super venomous, but not poisonous so don't worry.