Cross-Country Connections: Downtown

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Downtown.

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Downtown Minneapolis from the beautiful Martin Olav Sabo bike bridge in south Minneapolis.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

Ah, the power of neon lights to make any surroundings look much more exciting and busy than they ever actually are. Bellingham Herald building in downtown Bellingham.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

For Bellingham and Minneapolis when one says downtown, a picture immediately comes to the resident.  Downtown is not usually associated with The City of Carbondale, especially when one looks to the OED for a proper definition:  in or towards the centre of a city, especially its main business area.  That said, in this block of “The Strip”  one can find a (albeit struggling) entertainment venue, the “hub” of mass transportation (3 trains daily!) 2 bike shops and a dive bar.  And since the next block holds City Hall – I guess we have us a downtown.

Kids Know What’s Up

Twice yesterday I was blown away by the insight of young ladies who have an incredible grasp of the world around them.

13-year old schools you on slut shaming.

This is fantastic. I am awed that this incredible teenage girl not only grasps the problem of slut shaming, but that she so thoroughly and eloquently explains it in under four minutes.

Seen on Feministe

Boy-Girl Bear

My friend’s four-year old daughter has this to tell you about her bear:

Text reads: E’s bear’s name is Isabelle and he is “both a boy and a girl and he’s ok with you calling him he or she.” We are changing the world people! It’s so simple for kids to get why is it so hard for adults?!

Most. Depressing. Birthday. Evar.

This is why the Hubby usually doesn’t get to plan our outings.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was Hubby’s 38th birthday. Hehehe – my old man! Last week I asked what he was thinking about doing for his birthday, and I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that he was toying with the idea of going to an indoor paintball range or an indoor waterpark. I LOVE that kind of stuff, but he’s usually not into the running around and being goofy like I am. But it’s January so maybe there’s some cabin fever going on.

I should have known it was too good to be true. On Monday he changed his mind and told me he wanted to see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo over at the West End Icon Theater VIP Lounge. Normally this would have been cool, ‘cuz I like movies and swanky, overpriced movie theaters, but I had no desire to see TGWTDT. I had heard that while it was very good, it was also very dark, that there was a graphic rape scene and that it was a pretty depressing movie all around. I tend to skip movies like this because I don’t like the way they make me feel. My take on most horror and a certain subsection of suspense/thrillers is that I know there’s heinous, offensive, horrifying shit out here in the world; I don’t need to watch it for entertainment. That’s just me, and I don’t begrudge or think less of people who enjoy dark movies. But my $10, my three hours…this isn’t how I usually want to spend them.

But it was the hubby’s birthday, so I put on a smile and went along. Please know it wasn’t traumatizing for me to watch the movie, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. *sighs* And I was right. I was in a funky, depressed mood afterwards. Here’s my facebook writeup:

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve been introduced by media to the concepts of evil, cruelty, revenge, abuse of power, rape, incest, familial battery, serial murder, sadism, mafia business dealings, corporate greed (to name a few of the story’s highlights) but I was angered, offended, depressed, horrified, revolted, saddened and wearied during and slightly after the movie. It was a well-made dark movie that evokes dark emotions.

But…it was Hubby’s birthday, so I shook it off.

Afterward we went to Pizza Luce for dinner, which was ridiculous because we were stuffed on salty, buttery popcorn and Raisinets. We had a rousing discussion on politics, including a comparison of  liberal and conservative philosophies. That meandered its way to a discussion of the corporation city of Shenzhen, China, which he posed as an example of what no-government rule over corporate interests looks like. Which got us talking about corporate greed, consumer responsibility, and a shared disbelief that companies would so callously act like…ya know, companies…all of which ended up being horribly depressing.

I finally put the kibosh on the whole depressing trend by jokingly telling the Hubby that this was the most depressing birthday party I had ever attended, what with the cat killing and unsolvable problem of slave working conditions in China. I was going for “Hahaha – what a night, amiright?”, but some of my down mood must have really come across, which made the Hubby depressed and upset because he was having a good time and didn’t know that I was depressed. Plus, by the time we were done with popcorn-raisinets-gallons of soda-pizza there was simply no room for ice cream, which usually makes things all better.

But you know what did make things better? Presents. I got the Hubby a couple of things he had been wanting (tattoo magazines, a gift certificate for range time at Bill’s Gun Shop in Robbinsdale), but at the last minute I had also picked up this silly gorilla holding a cheesy red heart, which I had debated throwing in for the very nature of its intense cheesiness.

And would you know it – that silly damned gorilla broke the mood. Who can think depressing thoughts with this guy around?

But seriously…next year I have veto power on the Hubby’s birthday. No I don’t. Dammit!

Cross-Country Connections: Mess

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Mess.

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

My garage is even messier than it looks. I was planning on going out to Bellingham for a long weekend but now I’m wondering if I should just spend the money and bring Erin out here to help clean vist with me.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

It snowed about 5 inches out here on the west coast on Monday. Since it snows about once a year, the city of Bellingham doesn’t have real snow plows but just 4 plow attachments to hook up to a regular pickup truck. Plus, we’re environmentally safe so they also don’t use any salt. I live on hill with a 20% grade, so that was fun. Thankfully, it warmed up to 40 degrees and rained all day and night Friday, so our mess is all washed away. That’s about enough winter for us out here!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Slush: What happens when pristine, white, downy snow gets muddy and half-melted into yuck. Although for this time of year and this part of the country, this is not nearly as messy as it could be!

Creepy Purity Bear is Creepy

Wait – first read the YouTube description of this video:

This is a student made video saying that the best way to stay sexually pure is to wait until marriage. Having one partner is the God-approved way to enjoy sex.

God must have forgotten to tell that to Newt. Bah dah dum! Okay, heeeeeere’s Purity Bear:

Did anyone else pick up on the fact that Eve tempted Adam, and not the other way around? And that good, chaste Adam turned away the seductress Eve (gently, kindly, but with manly firmness and moral conviction that she’s lacking. Heh…”manly firmness”).

The video’s description contains a promotion for the Liberty Counsel’s Day of Purity. DOP’s website “offers those who strive for sexual purity an opportunity to stand together in opposition to a culture of moral decline.” The website urges young people to “be a part of the ‘counter-coulture’ – - be politically incorrect.” Do it! Or, wait…don’t do it! Or purity bear will come and judge you while sadly watching you have immoral, out-of-wedlock sex.

This (the video, purity bear and the DOP)  is hilarious, infuriating and sad. Yes, waiting to have sex (however you define that) until you are in a committed marriage (whatever that means to you and your partner) is a great way to to stay “sexually pure” (whatever that means). It’s also not very realistic. This video is an example of how religious indoctrination makes teens feel guilty about their normal, biological, sexual urges. And it’s an example of how religion seems to have trouble speaking frankly about sex to children and teens. I mean, who takes sex advice from a teddy bear? What do they know about sex? Well, unless they’re zoo-bound grizzly bears; they have promiscuous sex all year round to fend off the boredom. Hey! Nice role model you chose there, Liberty Counsel!

But, whatever. All I know is I want Purity Bear. He does look cuddly. Plus, I could put him on my bedside table so he can watch when I have sex. Poor bear could probably use some good ol’ voyeurism after this stint.

Seen over at Joe.My.God

How successful were the SOPA and PIPA Blackouts?

Welcome back to the internet, everyone! Did you miss it? I missed it, but there were a couple of amusing highlights:

1) @herpderpedia – User @qrush made this Twitter account, which acted as a repository for all of the tweets from people freaking out about Wikipedia going dark. The F*bomb was dropped quite a bit, many users mourned the “death” of Wikipedia with RIPs, and there were  frantic queries from students about how they were supposed to finish reports. If you suffer from an overflow of hope for the human race, this will bring you back down with a healthy shot of cynicism.

WTF, Wikipedia!? How am I supposed to graduate now? Thanks for nothing! Image source

2) #FactsWithoutWikipedia was a  hilarious timesuck. People created stories, lies, satire and other “facts” about life, the universe and everything. And of course, a quick Wikipedia search was unable to dispel any of these during the blackout.

3) After a full day of laughing at those afflicted with #herpderpedia, I went to put together my write-up for this weekend’s interview with Sean Faircloth on Atheists Talk radio, and I had a moment of panic when I clicked on the bookmark of his wikipedia page and was denied.

Image source

Okay, it was a very quick moment of panic, because there were very simple work-arounds for getting to Wikipedia yesterday (after all the point was to raise consciousness about SOPA and PIPA, not to deny people access to the site). But, I decided to get my information the “old-fashioned” by going to the electronic sources of the information that Wikipedia articles mine to get their information. You know, the number two and three results that come up when you Google a subject.

Wikipedia has a page up now with their estimates of the success of the blackout. From Wikipedia:

Was the blackout successful?

The English Wikipedia joined thousands of other web sites in protesting SOPA and PIPA by blacking out its content for 24 hours. The purpose of the blackout was twofold: to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to share their views with their elected representatives.

During the blackout:

The page also reiterates some of the basic information about the bills, what we can to do keep up-to-date on SOPA and PIPA as they progress through Congress, and next steps that we can take in working to defeat SOPA/PIPA.

Wikipedia wasn’t the only site that went dark in protest of SOPA/PIPA. How was you day affected by yesterday’s blackouts?

SOPA and PIPA Blackouts

Yeah, so…I guess there’s no Wikipedia tomorrow.

Image Source

I started hearing about the SOPA/PIPA Blackouts today on Twitter. I am an internet junkie – I love blogs and social media. I love instant access to news, maps, updates from friends and family. I am a content-generator and sharer – I blog at two websites and read about 40-60 new blog entries every day. Okay, some of those get more browsed than read, but you get the picture.

However, I am not all that internet savvy. I’m a biology major who went to college when computer science courses were for nerds who had a much better understanding of math than I did. To be fair, that’s probably still true. So, I don’t know how the internet works. I know how to navigate some of the more popular areas of the internet, and that’s about as deep as I get.

But it caught my attention when I learned that Wikipedia and WordPress – the website that hosts this Biodork blog – are “going dark” tomorrow, Wednesday January 18th, 2012, to protest these two bills moving through Congress. I decided that I needed to learn more about SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) and to try to find out for myself if they are as offensive and dangerous as some groups and people are saying.

I found this blog post at ABC News. It seems like a easy, non-technical introduction to the SOPA/PIPA controversy. It briefly explains the SOPA and PIPA bills, the ideas behind them, the objections to the bills, and the protest movement that has arisen in response to the bills. It also has current updates on the state of SOPA and PIPA in the Senate and House.

Over at AmericanCensorship.org, there is a simple infographic that lists the implications of SOPA/PIPA becoming law.

Then I searched WordPress to find out why my particular blogging site is participating in the protests. I found this article entitled Help Stop SOPA/PIPA published last week (01/10/12). The post isn’t very good at explaining the details of SOPA and PIPA, instead leaving that job to a Vimeo video called “Protect IP / SOPA Act Breaks the Internet” on a site called fightforthefuture/PIPA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

The video says that PIPA will “give the right to censor the internet to the entertainment industry”.

It explains that “Private corporations want the ability to shut down unauthorized sites where people download movies, TV shows and music.” And that because most of these sites exist outside the US and US jurisdiction, corporations will focus their efforts on shutting down and blocking funding of the infringing sites  by going after US-based search engines, directories, blogs, forums, advertisers and payment services.

It highlights some problems with the bills – that it won’t stop downloading, but will encourage less secure work-arounds by hackers, that it would allow corporations to sue companies that they feel aren’t doing a thorough enough job to try to stop copyright violations on their websites, that other countries may follow in our footsteps, leading to “different internets in different countries” and giving unscrupulous governments powerful tools to hinder free expression, and it points out that corporations already have legislation in place to fight piracy.

The video ends with this:

Now the government and corporations could block any site, foreign or domestic, just for one infringing link. Sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook would have to censor their users or get shut down since they become liable for everything users post. And ordinary users could go to jail for five years for posting any copyrighted work – even just singing a pop song.

That’s a freaking scary idea, isn’t it?

In other circumstances I’d like to learn more, to speak with people who I think have a better grasp on the implications of SOPA and PIPA than I do. But tomorrow is a country-wide day of protest against these bills, and if they really are as big of a danger as they appear to be in my limited research, then I want to add my voice with other protestors.

So tomorrow I will take a chance of erring in support of those who say that SOPA and PIPA pose a threat to our security, our free speech, our ability to freely share content and exchange ideas with most of the world, and our access to some of our most cherished and important social and media-sharing websites. These freedoms are too precious to not stand up and ask for those in Congress to proceed with caution.

I am not going to “black out” my site. I want to leave this post up here and visible tomorrow. But I will add the ribbon, I will contact my Senators and Representatives with my concerns, and I will try to keep up with the SOPA and PIPA bills as they move through Congress. I will also limit my online activity tomorrow, including this blog.

Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Can you clarify any of the points that I mentioned above? I’d love your input in the comments below. I’ll read them and respond to them…on Thursday.

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

Cross-Country Connections: Sharp

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Sharp.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

I risked life, limb and yarn for this one. Kill the yarn!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Nooooo!!!

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

Two Sharp Cookies – Erin and Brianne