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Live Show w/Hunter Hooligan at The Mint – Jan 12, 2016

Los Angeles friends: I will be playing keyboards for Hunter Hooligan at The Mint on January 12, 2016. Hunter is a very talented singer, songwriter, and musician from the East Coast and I’m excited to be performing with him.

Hunter Hooligan at The Mint Jan 12, 2016 - Los Angeles
Early show. Set time 7:30pm. Tickets $8.
6010 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90035
More info: http://themintla.com/event.cfm?id=223897

Check out Hunter Hooligan on SoundCloud, YouTube, and Facebook.



Hole “Live Through This” 21st Anniversary

April 12, 1994 – 21 years ago – the album that changed my life, Hole “Live Through This,” was released.

Hole "Live Through This"

Hole “Live Through This”

It’s the album that made me say, “I’m going to be in a rock band” and I did it. They are the songs that made me start learning guitar. I eventually went to keyboards, since I was already a classically trained pianist and that was a more logical choice, but the switch from solo classical pianist to rock band member was because of “Live Through This”. It’s the record that later got me buying riot grrrl albums. Even though Love mostly ridiculed the Pacific Northwest feminists, I learned of their existence from the lyrics in the record. I started buying CDs and vinyl records from bands in that area because of her. I fantasized about moving to Olympia or Portland and starting a socially conscious band.

As silly as it sounds, much of what happened in my life in my teens and 20s might not have been the same – if they even happened at all – if not for “Live Through This”. I may not have met a good chunk of the friends in my life, if not for this record. Hole was my “gateway band” – the band that got me interested in much of the other music I fell in love with. And I still love the songs on “Live Through This” to this day. It’s likely that I eventually would’ve wanted to be in a rock band, but it may not have happened the same way or as young as I was.

It wasn’t easy being a Hole fan in the ‘90s. I would be walking around in my Hole shirt, minding my own business, when some conspiracy buff decided to badger me because he felt that Courtney killed Kurt, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Any time Courtney ended up in the tabloids, people would feel the need to update me in a “See, I told you Hole is awful” way, as if that would void the music the band created. But I was never apologetic for my fandom.

The first single was released in March 1994. “Miss World“:

“Doll Parts” was released in November:

In January 1995, there was “Violet”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH_rfGBwamc

“Softer, Softest” was technically a single, but an official video was never filmed. The version from MTV Unplugged was used, though it didn’t get much airplay.

And it’s not just the singles that are great. For many other CDs, the singles are the strongest songs, but I love all of “Live Through This”. Songs like Asking For It, Plump, and Jennifer’s Body are fantastic, but probably a bit too dark to be released as singles (though Asking For It did chart on Billboard).

Thank you, Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson, Kristen Pfaff (R.I.P.), Patty Schemel, Melissa Auf der Maur (live), and producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie.



New Writer for Skeptic Ink Network

I’m happy to announce that I’m the newest writer for the Skeptic Ink Network with my Very Cherry blog. My first post explains a little bit about me, including how I became a skeptic.

Skeptic Ink Network is on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also add my feed or subscribe to email updates here.

Thanks and have a pleasant 2015!



Phil Plait Changes His Mind on Promoting Mayim Bialik

Last week, Phil Plait wrote a piece on Slate defending his promotion of Mayim Bialik. I wrote a blog post disagreeing with it.

Phil Plait Follow-Up

I’m pleasantly surprised that Phil Plait changed his mind and now understands that endorsing her as a science figure is harmful. When I started writing my blog post about it last week, Skeptical OB (Dr. Amy Tuteur) and The Neurologica Blog (Steven Novella) hadn’t yet posted their thoughts about it on their blogs. I mostly saw agreement at the time on social media, and I thought I’d get a lot more strong disagreement on this.

But because I know what it’s like to be an alt medder (formerly) and I remember why I believed in false things, along with having many friends who still are alt medders, I felt it important to share what I thought. Those outweighed the possibility of being unpopular or ridiculed for my former beliefs. It turns out that many felt similarly.

When I shared the link on social media, I said I respectfully disagreed. This is because I could see where Phil was coming from and that I knew he’d been a skeptic longer than I have – which is a good thing and something I hope he’s proud of – but can sometimes mean not fully seeing things from the views of alt medders and woo fence sitters.

I respect that Phil has publicly changed his mind on this. It’s not because I think everyone should have my exact same views. His former opinion wasn’t anything to make me like him any less or cancel out the good work he’s done. The reason I’m pleased is because he seems to have thought it through and taken others’ viewpoints and thought processes into consideration.

“I’ll admit I hadn’t considered that her credentials could be used by anti-vaxxers and the like to promote their incorrect (and dangerous) beliefs, and that gave me pause. Thinking that through, I have to say that does sway me; if she were promoting something like astrology, I’d probably just roll my eyes a bit and carry on. But these medical health issues are serious, and I’ve been very vocal for a very long time about vaccines and homeopathy.

Because of that, I’ll be clear: I’ve changed my mind; given the opportunity again, I’d say using her as a science role model is not a net benefit. I’d have left her off the picture.”

Thank you, Phil. And thanks to those of varying opinions who weighed in on this. As silly as it may seem on the surface, it’s an important conversation to have.

(Note: Links have been provided for reference and are not necessarily endorsements.)



Mayim Bialik Shouldn’t Get a Special Pass

This image was widely shared from the I Fucking Love Science twitter and facebook pages. It was posted in March, but Mayim Bialik is regularly praised by many skeptics as a great role model for young people or an entertainer who is something more.

IFLS Actresses with a Passion for Science

When some people brought up the fact that Mayim Bialik promotes pseudoscience, many said that she still deserved to be on the image because none of us are perfect and we’re all wrong about certain things. Phil Plait just posted a Slate piece stating that it wasn’t so black-and-white and mentioned the pros of including her, even though he pointed out that she does promote harmful ideas.

But why is this a grey area, even with some of my fellow skeptics? Many of us regularly criticize Dr. Oz. He’s profited from promoting quackery. He also has a background in Cardiothoracic Surgery and has done good work helping others. Much of the advice he gives on his television show is based on real medicine and helpful, but because he’s done so much harm in introducing pseudoscience to the public, we don’t include him in lists of people who inspire others to get into the medical field. He doesn’t just have a few bad ideas, it’s many. Same with Mayim Bialik. Why do we say the good outweighs the bad with her but not others like Dr. Oz?

I agree that having some disagreeable opinions shouldn’t automatically dismiss the good work someone does. Most of us are wrong on some things and we have our weak spots. For example, I have a friend who is a scientist but believes in Astrology. But it’s a mostly private belief she doesn’t promote and doesn’t believe in it to the point of it controlling her life, so I don’t let it affect my high opinion of her. If she were strongly promoting that, I may still promote her but with a disclaimer. But if she had a blog about that plus other harmful ideas, I may still respect the good work she does, but not fully endorse her. I may share an individual act of good work she did, but not include her on any lists of influential scientists. I have another friend in STEM who is the same with Christianity. She’s a liberal Christian, mostly for cultural reasons, doesn’t promote it, and still chooses evidence over dogma for the majority of her beliefs. Not perfect, but not a disqualifier.

But these examples are not Mayim Bialik. She has a website and blog network with plenty of pseudoscience, and is a spokesperson for Holistic Moms, which promotes homeopathy and discourages vaccinating children. If she’s endorsing woo on such an extensive level, why should we endorse her? I do respect her intelligence, talent, and hard work. I was a huge Blossom fan as a kid and it was cool to later find out that an entertainer I liked as a kid went on to pursue science. But I also know what it’s like to not be a skeptic and fully understand critical thinking. As recently as five years ago, I still believed in alt med and other woo. So I know just how harmful promoting Mayim Bialik can be. When I was an alt-medder, I saw people with a science background promoting woo. One of two things happened. Either I thought, “See, this person who has a background in the field believes this. There must be something to it!” or I didn’t even know what they were promoting was considered an “alternative” opinion and thought that it was an evidence-based belief.

I think it may be hard for some skeptics, including Phil Plait, to fully realize that at first. Plait has done a lot of great work and he’s helped me in my understanding of why Astrology is hogwash. Based on his history in the Science and Skepticism fields, he’s likely been a skeptic and had critical thinking skills for many years. I’m sure there are beliefs that he’s examined and questioned throughout his life, but he’s been working in the public understanding of science for a long time. But I have a somewhat recent memory of what it’s like to not understand how to decipher good info from the bad. This is a case for the promotion of critical thinking skills and skepticism in general, but since many people don’t understand this, seeing people like Mayim Bialik endorsed by science pages and skeptics – those who usually criticize people like her – can give the impression that her pseudoscience writings are actually science. Skeptics look at this and know the background behind it. But most of the people who follow IFLS, or who saw the image shared by a friend, do not.

The majority of my friends are not skeptics. Before I became involved in the skeptic community, I was mostly involved in the music scene. I love my artistic friends dearly and since most of them aren’t skeptics, I see how they view the promotion of science. I have several friends who are anti-vaxxers and have mentioned that even Mayim Bialik, who has a PhD in the medical field, does not believe in vaccinating. They then see IFLS promoting her as a shining example of someone to be admired. In their minds, this is further confirmation that she’s right. IFLS didn’t say not to vaccinate children, but they connect those dots. It’s not the fault of IFLS if some people aren’t thinking critically, but it does help people strongly hold onto these harmful beliefs. And it can cause further confusion in people who may be on the fence.

On one hand, I understand that many skeptics have mainly skeptic friends and colleagues. It may be hard for them to see how most people think. But I also don’t understand why they think Mayim Bialik gets a pass and Dr. Oz does not.

But I will say, as Phil Plait mentioned, that this has at least created a dialogue, since many skeptics brought up the hogwash she believes. I just hope that it’s not mostly skeptics seeing that commentary.

Update 12/23/14: Phil Plait has changed his mind and I wrote my thoughts about it.



Pro-Vaccination Campaign by AHF

image

image

Happy to see this new billboard by AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) by the Denny’s on Sunset Blvd and Van Ness Ave in Hollywood, CA.

“On November 24, AIDS Healthcare Foundation will launch ‘AirheadCelebs.com,’ an advocacy campaign targeting the undue and oversized influence of Hollywood celebrities who are anti-childhood vaccinations.”

You can learn more about their campaign at AirheadCelebs.com.



Photos and Video from Hello Kitty Con 2014

Hello Kitty Convention. Friday, October 31, 2014.
The Geffen Contemporary @ MOCA and Japanese American National Museum.
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA. 

Cherry Teresa inside giant vinyl coin purse
The first Hello Kitty product was a vinyl coin purse in 1975. I’m standing inside a giant replica.

Kittypatra - tokidoki/Hello Kitty mashup statue
“Kittypatra” – Ten-foot tall Hello Kitty/tokidoki mashup statue.

Heather Henderson and I
Heather Henderson and I in Little Tokyo.

Hello Kitty Junkie blogger and tokidoki designer, Maria Fleischman
Hello Kitty Junkie blogger and tokidoki designer, Maria Fleischman.

Spray can by Dabs Myla
Spray can by Dabs Myla.

Wendy Hughes and I take a bento lunch break in Little Tokyo (photo by Heather Henderson).
Wendy Hughes and I take a bento lunch break in Little Tokyo.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE…read more



National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day, so I was curious to see some information on how many people come out on October 11. I haven’t been able to find anything so far. But regardless of whether or not NCOD inspires people to come out today, it creates a dialogue about being open about who you are in general. It may help people come out at some point or can inspire conversations that lead to understanding and awareness in others.


NCOD logo by the late Keith Haring

I want to take a moment to let everyone know that gender identity and sexual orientation are not a factor in my opinion of you. I want my friends to know that they don’t need to censor those parts of their lives when speaking with me. If they want to, that’s fine. But know that being open with me in that regard will not result in judgment or loss of friendship. And if you are not open to everyone and reveal yourself to me in secret, I will not betray your trust.

I believe strongly in not forcibly outing people. I respect that people reveal themselves when they are ready, which is at varying stages in life and different ages. Taking away the chance for someone to do it on their own terms is not something I would ever want to be responsible for. The exception to me would be people like Ted Haggard or others whose lies are harming people and who actively fight to oppress LGBT persons. But I’m not friends with people like that.

Same-sex marriage is becoming legal in an increasing number of states in the US. Sexual orientation and gender identity are being added to anti-discrimination laws in parts of the country. Our nation has a long way to go, but just being out and open has an impact on progress. There are people who stop being transphobic, homophobic, biphobic, etc. when they simply meet someone who is out.

Happy National Coming Out Day!



Not all “Facts” sites actually use facts – on JREF Swift

Pages such as UberFacts and OMGFacts are widely popular, but are they trustworthy?

Check out my James Randi Educational Foundation Swift post:
http://web.randi.org/swift/not-all-facts-sites-actually-use-facts



JREF Revenue Claims

It was announced on September 1, 2014 that D.J. Grothe is no longer President of the James Randi Educational Foundation and that the Los Angeles office is closed.

Since then, I’ve seen claims that the revenue of the organization has suffered because of D.J. and then numbers are given comparing the revenue of certain years as supposed proof. But I noticed that all of the various posts I’ve seen with this information start with the year 2011. Since the organization was founded in 1996 and D.J. Grothe started his position in 2010, I wanted to know what the revenue of years prior were.

JREF Finances

Source: National Center for Charitable Statistics

The green line shows total revenue per year, which are usually the numbers I’ve seen given. But when looking at the overall picture, 2011 was their highest year in revenue on this chart, which starts at 2001. The revenue for 2013, which is not shown in this graph, was $887,595. While it’s true that the revenue decreased in 2012 and 2013, a different impression can be given when showing years prior to 2011.

Even if the numbers really were lower only during D.J.’s presidency, it’s important to remember there are multiple factors to consider with revenue. As stated under the NCCS graph:

Important Advisory: A 990 is one snapshot in time. Although Form 990 ratio analysis provided here can be a useful tool, the information can be dated and cannot reflect current conditions of a nonprofit especially in turbulent economic times. It is important to consider current financial statements of any nonprofit for an accurate picture.

As an important side note, I want to thank both D.J. Grothe and Thomas Donnelly for the continuous hard work they had put in for the organization and the greater skeptical community overall. They encouraged me to keep being involved with the skeptical movement and I have learned a lot from them just from conversations.  The workshops they put together at the Hollywood office with Ray Hyman and Sharon Hill and Barbara Drescher were not only fun things to attend but have been informative videos to share with others when talking about critical thinking concepts. And let’s not forget about The Amazing Meeting conferences I attended in 2012 and 2013, which were wonderful experiences I will remember for years to come.

Also, while I’ll most definitely miss D.J. Grothe as President, I encourage those who are unfamiliar with the org to check out the James Randi Educational Foundation. And I highly recommend following D.J. Grothe on facebook and twitter. He was a very prominent figure in skepticism prior to his time at the JREF and I expect that will continue.

Hat Tip to Ed Clint of Skeptic Ink for letting me know about National Center for Charitable Statistics. I’ve seen other sites with information on nonprofits, but this chart made it easier to show the overall picture. Check out his blog and blog network for interesting and informative posts related to science and critical thinking.