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Digital Shadows

Ghost_In_The_Machine_coverNote: what I’m writing is not intended to be a eulogy or memorial for anyone.  These are my thoughts inspired by the passing of a peripheral friend.  My friend Melissa Kaercher wrote a terrific memorial. I suggest you read it.

Over the weekend, news came that a peripheral friend was severely ill and would soon pass away.  Within 24 hours, we learned that she was gone.

I’m not going to pretend that I knew Holly very well.  Sadly, I didn’t know her very well at all.

I’m a performer so it could be assumed that I’m an extrovert.  And sometimes I am.

When I find myself in large group situations, however, I tend to gravitate towards people I know well.  It takes me a long time to open up to new people.  That isn’t their fault.  It’s mine.

I knew Holly because she attended Butt-Numb-a-Thon – a gigantic, weird film festival I also attend every year.  I talked to her for a few minutes here and there.  But I didn’t really know her.  She was one of dozens of people with whom I have a glancing relationship for one weekend every year.

She’s gone now and what I see online is an outpouring of love on her Facebook wall.  Yet that wall isn’t her.  It is a digital shadow of her.

I don’t believe in an afterlife so I don’t believe she will ever see any of the kind words that were written about her.  They are there, perhaps, for her family or loved ones but more, I think, for the person who left the post.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that.  We all have to process grief in the way that feels right for us.  Grief is not for the dead, it is for the living.

I’m more amazed at how there is a shadow Holly out there on the internet who will be there for some indeterminate length of time and who acts as a surrogate for the person who is no longer there.  The posts will cease after a while but she will still be there in some strange sense.

There’s an idea for a horror movie in there…

Looking at the outpouring of love for someone who is no longer with us, I have made a decision.

Kind words spoken to a ghost in the machine aren’t enough for me.  I think I need to say kind words to those who are still alive.

So yesterday, I decided to honor the memory of Holly (and so many other friends who have passed) by telling people I appreciate them while they are still around to read it.

If you get a personal message from me tomorrow or next week or next year, that’s why.  One message a day.  Give or take.

Life is short.  You never know when someone will exit your life forever.  I’d like everyone to know how important they are to me while they are still around to appreciate it.

 

 

Shit that Pissed me off – 9/19

Almost Everything About the Adrian Peterson Story

First, I’m upset that this entire story is turning into a question of what parents are “allowed” to do to discipline their child.

Look, it doesn’t matter.  Peterson hit a four year old with a switch until the kid bled.  That is beyond discipline.

Also, the kid is four.  Cognitively he doesn’t have the ability to fully connect the beating with the behavior that caused it. He may understand that he is being punished for something but he doesn’t know what caused the punishment.  So he wasn’t “disciplined,” he was just “punished.”  And in his mind the punishment was basically for the simple act of existing.

Then you have people like this guy writing articles about how spanking their kid is A-OK and, in fact, common sense (it isn’t).  This is not a case of simple spanking.  I don’t agree with him in any case (and my friend Levi Weinhagen makes good arguments as to why) but it isn’t the same thing so why even write the article?

Peterson’s mom says that the discipline used on Peterson must have been OK because look how he turned out.

Look!  He's smiling!  If being beaten by a switch as a child had any harmful effect, he wouldn't be able to smile!  Ever!

Look! He’s smiling! If being beaten by a switch as a child had any harmful effect, he wouldn’t be able to smile! Ever!

Yeah, he turned out to be a great running back.  Who has fathered several children by several different mothers and allegedly beat the crap out of (at least) one of those kids.  If you think your discipline choices didn’t have a negative impact on your son, lady, you might need a better idea of what “negative impact” means.

And of course you have the NFL and the Vikings, who only suspended Peterson when he became more of a PR liability than he had previously been a benefit.

They shouldn’t be waiting to see how the public will react.  They should be anticipating that reaction.  In the wake of the Ray Rice video, it shouldn’t have been too difficult to figure out what was going to happen.

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Shit that Pissed me off – 9/5

The Whole Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Thing

The problem is that there is a dialogue focused on whether or not Lawrence (and other celebrities) are to blame for the theft of their personal pictures.

Well let’s stop and think about this for a mom…NO!

I am writing this blog post on a laptop computer that is valuable.  Now you, the reader, know I have a laptop computer you could sell for money.  If you came over to my house, broke in and stole my computer would it be my fault because I made you aware that I owned it?

It looks a little bit like this

It looks a little bit like this

NO! That’s what we call theft!  There are all sorts of laws about that shit.

It is not my fault for owning a computer any more that it is Lawrence’s fault that she owned nude photographs of herself (if indeed those are photographs of her – which she denies).

Theft is a crime.  Owning things people want to steal is not.

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Shit that Pissed me Off – 8/15

We Lost Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall in One Week

I’m very sad to think that both these amazing artists are gone.

I’m just wondering why anyone would use this opportunity to abuse Williams’ daughter online.  I mean, what the fuck is wrong with you?

In the meantime, others are using Williams’ death to call attention to depression or addiction or to say that suicide is selfish and look, I don’ t know.  I’ve never been depressed so I have no idea what kind of despair would lead to making that choice.  I can’t imagine ever making it myself.

Robin Williams

Thing is, I didn’t live inside his head.  I don’t know what brought him to that incredibly dark place where the only conceivable decision was to end it all.

But so what? He’s gone.

And that sucks.

So let’s leave it be and say goodbye.  You were awesome, Robin.  I’m sorry whatever demons haunted you finally won.

Losing Bacall in the same week just pours salt on the wound.

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Shit that Pissed Me off – 7/25

Syrians are Destroying Sculptures Because Allah

Dear everyone in the world:  Just because your particular strain of god does not approve of something is no reason to take that thing away from the rest of us.

When you destroy a sculpture that is thousands of years old, you can’t just make a new one.

This has existed for thousands of years and Allah has done nothing about it.  Therefore we must!

This has existed for thousands of years and Allah has done nothing about it. Therefore we must!

Unfortunately, this sculpture ended up in one of those places where the prevailing belief system says that historical significance is not a good enough reason to keep something around if there is a face on it.

So thanks, religious extremists, for taking something away from the rest of the world because you believe it will lead to eternal damnation! You guys are the best!

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Friend a Day – Stephanie Zvan

ZVAN-copy

CONvergence week continues here at Friend a day headquarters!

I met Stephanie when we were in the same play in college.  I was nearly killed by a piece of scenery on opening night.  That’s a different story.

After that show, I hardly saw her for years.  It was only through the Skepchick/FreethoughtBlog events at CONvergence that we re-connected.

Stephanie is devoted to supporting social justice issues through her Almost Diamonds blog.  She has become a target for a lot of internet hatred because she’s not willing to back away from an important fight.  She’s openly critical of well known members of the atheist community like Richard Dawkins.

I can’t imagine how exhausting the abuse can become and yet Stephanie faces it with a sense of humor and, I think, the conviction that she is right.

When there is an issue that has me upset, I find that Stephanie frequently is commenting on exactly the thing that has me frustrated.  Her thoughts are well researched and detailed.  Certainly you can disagree with her but you can’t disagree with the effort she put into presenting a cogent argument.

She was a guest on Geeks Without God our first weekend and was one of the people who helped set the tone.  We’ve had her back since to play the horrible Left Behind Board game.  You have to have a little extra helping of respect for anyone who endured that game.

I remember working with Stephanie on that show all those years ago and even back then she had a ton of confidence you knew would get her through a lot.  It is that strong sense of self that helps her keep saying things that make her a target for a lot of petty stupidity.

And that is something I don’t think the petty, stupid people have figured out.  Being an asshole on the internet is easy.  Fighting against the assholes is a lot harder.

I’m really proud to know someone who is fighting the assholes.

 

Shit That Pissed Me Off – 6/13

George Will Is Unsurprisingly Tone Deaf When It Comes To Rape

Nobody expected anything less from Mr. Will, right?  When he writes about rape on college campuses, he’s not going to come off as particularly sympathetic to the victims, right?

Well, he sure doesn’t.  He gives an example of a rape story he thinks is a false accusation and when I read it, I see an example of a young woman being raped.

I know, I know. I say “tomato” and George Will says “tomato.”  I say “rape” and George Will says “Sexual Misunderstanding.”

Why is rape insensitivity primarily a conservative trait?  Is it just that conservatives are dumb enough to say it out loud?  They always seem to be trying to find some way to ignore rape statistics.  Will doesn’t believe the numbers so he goes through an analysis of one set of numbers to prove that they all must be wrong.

He’s a smart guy, right?  He knows that the single set of numbers he’s using don’t actually constitute and kind of proof, right?

I don’t think he cares.  He was looking to torpedo the Obama administration because he’s a conservative columnist and that’s what he’s paid to do.  What he managed to do was tell every rape victim on college campuses that what happened to them isn’t so bad.

BTW, I don’t think most conservatives are rape apologists. They need to be telling the conservatives stepping up to the microphone to stop because I don’t think George Will is going to listen to me.

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