Update on my Knee Situation

Many of you have very kindly been expressing concern about my recent knee injury. I went to an orthopedist on Thursday, and I thought I’d give you an update on how I’m doing.

Diagnosis: They now don’t think it was a dislocation. They now think it’s a torn meniscus. (The meniscus is a disc of cartilage in the knee joint.)

Prognosis: They kind of don’t know. It could be a lot better fairly quickly; it could take a long time to be fully functional, or indeed even close to fully functional. It probably won’t need surgery, but there’s a reasonable chance that it will. They said I should let pain be my guide: activity won’t injure it worse, so I can whatever I feel like I can do, as long as I add activity back in slowly. But I should expect bad days and good days, bad hours and good hours, fairly unpredictably, at least for a little while.

How I feel: It varies a lot from day to day, and indeed from hour to hour. Last night I had a very bad stretch of about an hour, where it hurt almost as badly as the night I injured it. Today, it feels almost close to normal, I can put weight on it and everything, and today I’m on a cane instead of crutches.

Psychologically, I’m still pretty groggy and out of it. Maybe partly left over from the Vicodin (I haven’t taken any today, but I’ve been on it close to around the clock for close to a week). Probably mostly just because, as Nurse Ingrid reminds me, pain and stress and fear are exhausting.

Writing prognosis: I’m going to try to get some writing done today, but it’s a little hard to concentrate, and I have a tendency to ramble, and did I tell you about the weird quasi-dreams I’ve been having with the Vicodin, they’re not like dreams exactly, they’re more like thought processes that gradually shift into dream form, and… yeah. Like that. I may not be blogging very much this coming week — especially since I have a couple of magazine deadlines, and whatever degree of attention and concentration I have will be going into those. But I’ll do what I can. Not being able to write has been one of the most frustrating things about this whole thing, and I’m going to get back into it as soon as I can. In the meantime, I’ll probably put up a bunch of kitten pictures. Thanks again for the kind words, and I’ll be back full-time as soon as I can.

“Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” Now In Print!

UPDATE: A few people are reporting problems ordering the book through the RDF site. If that happens to you, you can also order it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone. They’ll ship it in early August. The tech problems the RDF site was having have now been resolved. Everyone should now be able to order from the RDF store. And they will ship books to all countries.

Why Are You Atheists So Angry? coverMy new book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, is finally out in physical print!

Everyone out there who said you wanted physical copies of the book — for yourselves, or to give to your friends and family — now’s the time! It’s currently available through the Richard Dawkins Foundation bookstore. The print edition is published by Pitchstone Publishing. The price is $14.95.

Important note: The print book will not be available through Amazon, or though most other retailers, until the fall. If you pre-ordered your copy through Amazon, you won’t get it for a couple/few months. If you pre-ordered it through RDF, your copy should be on its way to you now.

Ebook editions are still on sale in several formats: as a Kindle edition at Amazon, a Nook edition at Barnes & Noble, and multiple formats at Smashwords, including iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Kindle (.mobi), Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, any other reader that takes the Epub format, Palm Doc (PDB), PDF, RTF, Online Reading via HTML, and Plain Text for either downloading or viewing. All ebook editions and formats cost just $7.99.

The audiobook will be available in August.

Here is the description, and some wonderfully flattering blurbs. Watch this blog for future announcements! [Read more...]

Is Religion a Rorschach Test?

Religious texts can be interpreted in an almost infinite variety of ways. What do different religious beliefs tell us about the believers?

Talk to a hundred different believers about what God is like, and you’ll get a hundred different answers.

Take, as the most familiar example to most Westerners, Christianity. Ask one Christian about what God is like, and she’ll tell you of a strict, punitive authority figure: a creator and enforcer of rules, with clear ideas of right and wrong, a firm expectation that everybody should follow them — and harsh, intractable punishment for those who don’t toe the line.

Ask another Christian, and you get a different picture entirely: a loving parent, occasionally firm but mostly gentle and supportive, giving you lots of latitude to find your own path, who only wants you to be happy and to be your own best self.

Other Christians — notably deists and theistic evolutionists — see God as a sort of hands-off manager: initially founding the business of the Universe, intervening now and then to make sure things run smoothly, but mostly just sitting back and letting his creation run itself. And still others see God as an impersonal abstraction, an intellectual ideal, the encapsulation in metaphysical form of ideals such as love and morality.

Why do these images of God vary so much?

*

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, Is Religion a Rorschach Test? To find out my thoughts on what different religious beliefs tell us more about the character of the believer — and why it’s better to take responsibility for our own values, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking they come from God — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

History, My Bum Knee, and Some People I Want to Thank

So what does a trip to the emergency room have to do with the history of science and the fight for social justice?

This whole “dislocated knee” thing has sucked, and continues to suck, and will probably suck for a little while longer. (I don’t yet know for how long: I’ll keep you posted.) But I also have to say that it hasn’t sucked nearly as badly as it could have. For most of the time, I’m fairly comfortable, and safe, and well taken care of, and even reasonably well entertained.

There are the obvious people to thank for this. Ingrid being the most important and most obvious of the obvious crowd. There’s also the friends who have been sitting with me, and helping out with practical stuff. There’s the firefighters and paramedics who got me into the ambulance and to the emergency room, with compassion and good humor and patience, and with minimal discomfort on my part. There’s the doctors and nurses and staff at the emergency room, who diagnosed me and took care of me and kept me calm, with an entirely appropriate balance of attentiveness and “Yeah, you’ll be fine, this isn’t really that big a deal” reassurance. There’s the readers who’ve been saying nice supportive things. (For the record: It does help.)

But there are two less obvious groups of people that I also want to thank.

I want to thank everyone in history who has done good, evidence-based research into medical science. I’m getting better medical care for my dislocated knee, with less pain and a faster recovery and a better long-term prognosis, than I would have twenty years ago: better still than it would have been forty years ago, or a hundred. I’m getting care that has been rigorously tested and shown to actually be effective, using careful, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, replicated studies, designed and run by people who give a damn about the truth. I owe these people, and I want to thank them.

And I want to thank everyone who, for the last several decades, has been fighting for LGBT rights and recognition. [Read more...]

Injured list

UPDATE: My appointment with the orthopedist is on Thursday. I’ll hopefully have a better idea then of how long I’m going to be laid up for.

*****

Hi, all. I’ll start this by saying that I’m fine, or rather, that I will be fine eventually, and hopefully soon. I dislocated my knee yesterday. It’s now been relocated (it was under the sofa), but at the moment I’m on crutches, a splint, and Vicodin. I don’t yet know how long I’m going to be on any of these. I’ll be seeing an orthopedist sometime soon, I’m waiting for them to call and set me up with an appointment. Until that appointment, I have no idea how if I’m going to be laid up for days or weeks.

I can write with crutches and a splint, but I’m not stupid enough to think that I can write on Vicodin. So I may be off the blog for a bit. I’ll post updates when I can. And my apologies if this isn’t very coherent or well-written. See above re: Vicodin.

Fashion Friday: Menswear, and Some Thoughts About Gender Roles

So what about teh menz?

I’ve been asked a few times now, by a few different readers, to write about menswear. I wish I had more to say about it: it’s certainly an interesting and fertile topic. But I don’t have a lot of personal experience with this. I’m a woman; my partner of many years is a woman; we both tend to dress on the more feminine side (although I do venture into butch and genderfuck on occasion). Menswear really isn’t in my wheelhouse.

But I do have some general observations on the topic. And the main one is this:

Menswear sucks.

With some exceptions, menswear is so soporifically boring, you shouldn’t wear it while operating heavy machinery. [Read more...]

Hugs, Handshakes, and Codes of Conduct at Conferences

Do codes of conduct at conferences have a chilling effect on ordinary social interaction?

In the discussions about sexual harassment and codes of conduct at atheist and skeptical conferences, there’s been a tendency for the conversations to wander off into a micro-analysis of whether people would have to get explicit verbal consent for handshakes and hugs. The codes requiring people to get consent before touching other people are often being met with a snarky, disbelieving attitude, along the lines of, “You want me to ask permission for a handshake?” or “We have to have a rulebook now on how to hug each other?”

I was at the Secular Student Alliance national conference last weekend. A code of conduct was in place, one that was well-publicized. And the social interaction at the conference was anything but chilly. It was warm, friendly, collegial, affectionate, enthusiastic, and inspired. And yes, there was plenty of both handshaking and hugging going on throughout the weekend. (I assume there was plenty of hooking up going on as well, but I don’t know that for certain.)

It’s hard not to see the cries of “How are we supposed to hug or shake hands now?” as anything but an attempt to derail a conversation about a serious problem into squabbling about minutiae. But in case there are people who are sincerely confused by this handshaking/ hugging issue, I’m going to share my observations: both from the conference, and just from, you know, life.

Here’s how it works. [Read more...]

How to Make a Rape Joke, or, Why Lindy West is a Genius

Trigger warning: Discussion of rape, and of the trivialization of rape.

I was thinking of weighing in on the whole “rape joke” thing. But Lindy West at Jezebel pretty mush said everything I wanted to say, in her piece, How to Make a Rape Joke. I want to quote practically every other word, but I’ll just quote the bits that really jumped out at me.

This:

A comedy club is not some sacred space. It’s a guy with a microphone standing on a stage that’s only one foot above the ground. And the flip-side of that awesome microphone power you have—wow, you can seriously say whatever you want!—is that audiences get to react to your words however we want.

And this:

If people don’t want to be offended, they shouldn’t go to comedy clubs? Maybe. But if you don’t want people to react to your jokes, you shouldn’t get on stage and tell your jokes to people.

And this:

This fetishization of not censoring yourself, of being an “equal-opportunity offender,” is bizarre and bad for comedy. When did “not censoring yourself” become a good thing? We censor ourselves all the time, because we are not entitled, sociopathic fucks. Your girlfriend is censoring herself when she says she’s okay with you playing Xbox all day. In a way, comedy is censoring yourself—comedy is picking the right words to say to make people laugh. A comic who doesn’t censor himself is just a dude yelling.

And this:

And being an “equal opportunity offender”—as in, “It’s okay, because Daniel Tosh makes fun of ALL people: women, men, AIDS victims, dead babies, gay guys, blah blah blah”—falls apart when you remember (as so many of us are forced to all the time) that all people are not in equal positions of power. “Oh, don’t worry—I punch everyone in the face! People, baby ducks, a lion, this Easter Island statue, the ocean…”

And this:

You can be edgy and creepy and offensive and trivial and, yes, you can talk about rape. Doing comedy in front of a silent room is scary, and shocking people is a really easy way to get a reaction. But if you want people to not hate you (and wanting to not be hated is not the same thing as wanting to be liked), you should probably try and do it in a responsible, thoughtful way. Easy shortcut: DO NOT MAKE RAPE VICTIMS THE BUTT OF THE JOKE.

Yes. This. Go read the rest of it.

There’s just one thing I want to add, the thing that’s been burbling in my brain since this whole thing started: [Read more...]

Atheist Film Festival Tickets Now On Sale!

Tickets for the fourth annual Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco are now on sale!

And if you’re not in San Francisco, and you haz a sad because you want to go… I have some good news for you at the end of this post.

The 2012 Atheist Film Festival is being held on Saturday, August 11, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Feature films include “The Invention of Lying,” “The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today,” “No Dinosaurs in Heaven,” “Salvation Boulevard,” “Day Night Day Night,” “Waiting for Armageddon,” “End of the Line,” and “In God We Teach.” There’s also a short film program, and a clip show on atheism in the News. The program will be running on alternate tracks both the Big Roxie and the Small Roxie screen, so you’ll have more chances to see the movies you particularly want to.

What’s more, the festival will have five different visiting directors, doing Q&A after their films! Guests who want to schmooze with them can attend the Directors’ Reception on Friday, August 10th, by becoming a Planetary Supporter ($65) or a Stellar Supporter ($100.)

You can get individual tickets for $10 in advance ($12 at the door) — or you can get an all-day pass for $45 in advance ($50 at the door).

Here’s the gorgeous trailer for the festival, created by Casimir Fornalski (known to many of my readers as the cover designer for my book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?):

And here’s the official press release from Atheist Film Festival Director and Co-Founder David Fitzgerald:

A Film Festival about Nothing?

A few years back, I remember seeing a Christian blogger making a wisecrack—what was there to show at an atheist film festival? He thought he was being clever, but his question backfired on him: the comment thread was full of suggestions. These weren’t films about nothing—they were films that actually had something real to say for a change.

As an atheist and a voracious film buff, I always appreciated it when a film turned up that had the courage to challenge not only religious notions, but to buck Hollywood tropes like muzzy, patronizing spirituality and the stereotype of the skeptic killjoy. So when film festival maven Hank Hyena approached the San Francisco Atheists in 2009 about putting on a film festival especially for heretics like us, I was not only overjoyed, but had a lineup ready to go!

Now in its fourth year, the Atheist Film Festival continues to grow and draw an audience eager to see a secular worldview presented on the big screen. This year’s festival boasts a stellar lineup of feature films, fascinating documentaries, and exciting shorts from around the world, and more directors in attendance than ever before. See you there!

The Atheist Film Festival: A Film Festival You Can Believe In.

And if you’re not in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you’re having a sad about wanting an atheist film festival in your area?

Start one of your own!

Atheist Film Festival staff are working on a guide to help others start similar festivals where they live. If you’re interested in hearing about it when it’s ready, send an email to [email protected]

If you’re in the Bay Area — check it out! I’ve been to every one of these, and they’ve all been an awesomely good time. And if you’re not in the Bay Area — make one yourself!

Street Art: Columbus, Ohio Dreamscape

When I was in Columbus, Ohio for the Secular Student Alliance conference, I saw this street art mural off of High Street, in or near the Short North (I’m still not sure where exactly the Short North begins). I was really struck by it: I like the cartoony dream-logic of it, and the tone that’s both malevolent and friendly. My favorite bits are the meditative rabbit, the angry stomping flowerpot, the watering can with the “this is for your own good” facial expression, and the irritated eleven-armed squid.

The first image is the best full shot of the mural I could get. Details, with more close-up views of each section, are below the jump.

[Read more...]