Movie Friday: Anthony Griffith

My apologies to those who have missed this series. As much as I’d like to blame it on the fact that I’ve been spending my Thursday evenings with my ladyfriend, she is not to blame for the disruption to my usual writing schedule. I started writing this post literally a month ago, and it sat at 90% completion – I just couldn’t work up the motivation to finish it off. I hope to resume Movie Fridays henceforth and forevermore.

I’d like to think that my suspicion about gender roles started from a very young age. Growing up as I did, spending most of my middle childhood and into adolescence as the child of a single father, I had a good chance to observe up close the abundant reality that men are caring and nurturing. My father was a social worker, meaning that conversations about emotion and the language we use to express it was never hidden from me – I was never exhorted to “be a man” when experiencing sorrow or frustration, I was merely encouraged to talk about it. As a result, the pop culture narratives about men as needing to tough things out or bottle things up never really resonated with me.

Also peculiar to my upbringing was the fact that, for most of my life, I grew up almost entirely surrounded by white people. White folks made up most of my peer groups, my schoolteachers, and the main characters of most of the shows I watched. It has almost always been true that I was more likely to interact with non-black PoCs than I was with fellow black folks, except obviously for family and Caribbean cultural gatherings (and even in the latter case, not always). Similarly, I never really had to grapple with what it meant to “be black”, except insofar as my racial identity was thrust upon me by circumstance. I’ve had few occasions where I felt pressure to “act black” – I just acted like me, and that was my version of black.

However long I have been skeptical of male-typical and afro-typical behaviour memes, I am definitely incredulous when presented with them today. This has made me somewhat insufferable in casual conversation, but I make up for it by having a ready supply of dick jokes. What it also does is make the following story particularly fascinating:   [Read more…]

No podcast this week

Hey all,

Xavier and I had planned to post the 4th episode of our still-unnamed podcast experiment, but illness robbed us of the opportunity at the last minute, so we’ll have to kick the can down the field a bit. My apologies.

By way of partial restitution, please accept this video of my band covering “Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons:

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Episode 3: Where the Sidewalk ends

Xavier and I got together again and recorded another episode of our podcast. This week we talked about sexy sexy teenagers and flat Earthers on the internet. The video is below the fold.

Also below the fold is a plea for help with naming this damn thing. We don’t have a clue what to call it, so we’re throwing it open to the internet.

[Read more…]

Movie Friday: Edwin Hodge defines white supremacy

If you haven’t yet picked up on it, blog contributor Edwin Hodge is a smart fucking guy. I felt privileged, therefore, to be able to see him speak to the British Columbia Humanists Association last Friday night. Unfortunately I had to duck out early to play a gig, but I managed to grab the first few minutes of his talk. In this snippet, Edwin provides an operational definition for white supremacy:

You can see his whole presentation below the fold, as videotaped by the BCHA. If you’re a humanist in BC, consider lending your voice and support to this active and growing group, under the skilled leadership of Ian Bushfield.

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Special Feature: Crommunist does alternative medicine

Many of you will remember that I attended the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC in May of this year. It was my first ever atheist meeting/convention, and I had a really positive experience there. I was asked to me a somewhat last-minute addition to a panel on alternative medicine, based (I imagine) on my background in health sciences, my experience public speaking, and the fact that at least a handful of people would recognize my name.

And so it was that I found myself sitting next to Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell, and Dr. Ian Mitchell (a local physician), talking about the wild and wooly world of alt-med. Long-time readers will know how irritated I am by the term “alternative medicine”:

These “alternative medicines” are not alternative in any way – if they work, then they aren’t alternative, they’re just medicine. The other side of the problem is the ones that are truly “alternative” aren’t medicine! They don’t work any better than voodoo or augury or invoking ancestor’s spirits.

I’m also irritated (clearly, as you will see from the video) by the doggerel: “cancer cure” and the associated conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. I tried my level best to apply my own personal brand of smackdown to this odious and ludicrously nonsensical claim, with all the humour and aplomb that I could muster at 9 am after a night of drinking. I also made reference to a couple of things that the local chapter of CFI had done – debunking Deepak Chopra and staging a homeopathy workshop. Both were examples of skeptical activism, or as we coined it, ‘skeptivism’.

The full video from the event is available below the fold. [Read more…]

Movie Friday: Picking cotton on a racist field trip

On Wednesday my girlfriend and I went to a live comedy show at a place called Falconetti’s in Vancouver. The comedian was talking about babysitting his nephew (who is of Chinese descent) and hearing his wife sing to the toddler the kid’s song “I’ve been working on the railroad“, and expressing his comical shock and dismay at the idea of singing a song about railroad construction to a Chinese child in British Columbia*.

It reminded me of a summer job I had at Toronto’s Wild Water Kingdom where the inside parks (clean-up) staff was almost entirely black. We were working during the pre-season on resurfacing the stage, a job that we were nowhere near properly-trained or equipped to perform, when the park owner decided to try out some new “island” music. One of the songs that came on was “Pick a Bale of Cotton**”. I looked around and realized I was part of an all-black work gang, doing work that usually requires skilled workers, for which we were being paid minimum wage.

I made the owner throw out the CD.

I’m not the only one who’s had this experience:

While the story is funny, it does highlight the fact that racism often happens in an entirely accidental way, borne of lazy thinking and a lack of perspective. Understanding racism therefore requires the engagement of an active and informed mind, much like we hope to do in the skeptical and atheist world. We want people to be thinking about stuff rather than just patting themselves on the back for all the times they happened not to do something racist.

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*Although the joke misses the mark a bit, since “working on the railroad” actually means working as a porter. The song has racist connotations, but for black kids more so than Chinese ones (the Wikipedia article has the original lyrics – bonus points for noticing where it was originally published).

**Interestingly, I recognized this song from singing it in choir as a kid, at my nearly-all-white school. I didn’t understand what it meant then. If I heard it today, I’d throw some shit.

I am a non-Prophet!

So yesterday I had to heroically jump in to save Russell Glasser who was stranded without Non-Prophets Podcast co-hosts. For an hour, I chopped it up with him and a handful of others:

Incidentally, if you want to read my takedown of the Black Atheists of Atlanta, you can read it here. Please be sure to read the follow-up as well.

I will have more thoughts on the Wisconsin temple shooting later today.

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Movie Friday: @Toure and microaggressions

One of the things we discussed in the interview I posted yesterday is the power that the internet has to democratize the flow of information. I used the term ‘anarchic’ intentionally, because when nearly everyone can access the mechanisms of broadcast, the hierarchy of media enterprise is quickly obliterated. All of a sudden, the size of a media organization becomes only as important as whether or not they are able to reliably deliver accurate information and analysis in a timely way (sorry, CNN). Of course, this is based on the assumption that people are critical consumers of information, and there’s certainly plenty of information to suggest that this is not the case.

One of the other advantages to this media explosion, as I summarized with Jamila, is that minority voices will disproportionately benefit. Rather than all voices needing to go through a fixed number of filters that throttle content based on how much ‘general interest’ it will garner (i.e., will white men like it), every person becomes a broadcaster. This not only means that you as a consumer of media are more likely to run across ideas that lie outside the mainstream, but that you can tailor your consumption to a degree that is unprecedented in human history – if all you want to take in is brony slash fiction, I’m confident you’ll find what you’re looking for.

One of the voices that I’ve come across perhaps solely as a result of the anarchic delivery of media is writer, television personality, and host of MSNBC’s new daytime show ‘The Cycle’* Touré. While he’s well-known in general circles, I don’t watch any of the channels he’s on, nor do I read many magazines. I do, however, spend a lot of time on Twitter, where Touré is prolific. It was from his feed that I got today’s video: [Read more…]