Mini-review: The Gift of Fear

GiftofFear-coverI just read The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence, by Gavin de Becker.  It’s been around for a while, first published in 1997; I read the 2010 “Special” Kindle edition, which for what I can tell means a new foreword, some updates in the text, but poor translation to electronic format (sections of paragraphs were occasionally repeated.)

It’s a great book, an excellent primer in sorting through genuine warning signals and manufactured worry, on building and using one’s intuition about danger. I only wish it could be updated to include recent technological developments like the Web and smartphones.

I read it because of a friend who is trying to detach herself from an ex-boyfriend turned stalker, but this book also  discusses many other situations we may encounter: disgruntled employees, abusive family relationships, celebrity stalkers, etc.  Since it focuses on recognizing true warning signs of danger and separating them from hype, it felt awfully topical this week with the news of yet another school shooting and the way the shooter had announced his plans.

I suspect many people could benefit from reading it, but I think all women should.


Responding to my adoring audience

D716IWCLegalAbortion1977My previous post explained why I stand with Planned Parenthood on Pink Out Day, so naturally it had to attract ridiculously offensive comments from people who have never read anything I’ve ever written, including that particular post.  My initial reaction was, of course, to hit the delete button.  But I’m feeling in a pillory mode, so instead I will post the comment in its entirety, unaltered, and then I will respond.  Because sometimes all you can do with a dog that pees on the carpet is roll up a newspaper.


The commenter wishes to be called “Mary” — this is not private information since it would have appeared with the comment if I had approved this submittal. Of course, I believe in calling people what they want to be called (except for Republican politicians who want to be called “President,” right now I’m very much against that.)  But to be honest with you, when I read Mary’s post I see the weird old guy with a bazillion surreal signs, religious tracts, and plastic Virgin statues like lawn gnomes who’s always hanging out in front of the local PP clinic.  Let’s call him “Mary”, shall we?

The author of the comment uses an email associated with a church volunteer in a Midwestern state, itself accompanied by a phone number from Cheyenne, Wyoming; the full name associated with this information is common to 19 white pages listing in the church’s Midwestern state, most of them elderly, and several of them recently dead; and the comment was posted from a mobile IP registered in a different Midwestern state.  So really, this could be a prank, a real person, a pseudonym, an identity theft, etc.

Here is what Mary had to say to me:

Do not trust birth control handed out by a company that makes its money off conception. Do not trust anyone who thinks your baby is better off dead. Do not trust people who will slice your baby into the most valuable cuts and sell them. Do not trust a business that must do a certain # of abortions to provide pay checks to its workers. PP sees us coming and sees $ signs. Factory farming of women and children. Livestock. Planned Parenthood cares about women and children the way farmers care about breeder sows and piglets. Wrap all this gut-sucking and baby mutilation all up in pink to look innocent and good? No- just bloody.

All righty, Mary.  This is going to take some unpacking; there is so much rolled up together.

The Medium is the Message

Let’s break this down in smaller bites so we can fully appreciate it.

Do not trust birth control handed out by a company that makes its money off conception.

Nice start!  You’re saying that Planned Parenthood is doing what, giving fake contraceptives? Is that what you’re saying? Because I can tell you, the stuff comes in the manufacturer’s wrapping, all sealed. You’re so desperate, you won’t even cite a third-hand anecdote to back this up?

Do not trust anyone who thinks your baby is better off dead.

What baby?  The live babies I saw going in there were cared for — all too often for free since the parents are only there because they have no health coverage.  Oh, you mean the small mass of non-viable cells I might decide to have removed from my uterus before it becomes a real baby that I would be unable to care for?  That baby?  Mary, it’s as much a baby at that point as a pinecone is a tree.  Even a really nifty pinecone is not a tree. An egg, even a fertilized egg, is not a chicken.

Do not trust people who will slice your baby into the most valuable cuts and sell them.

You don’t have a whole lot of familiarity with your topic, do you?  What is it you picture, a rosy ham carved spiral-style?  If you mean stem cell culture, we’re talking about getting a few cells from the egg or the pinecone — or in this case, the tiny blob of reddish jelly, to grow them on glorified agar plates. It’s too small to slice, see? Also too small to be a human being, let alone a viable one.

Do not trust a business that must do a certain # of abortions to provide pay checks to its workers. PP sees us coming and sees $ signs.

Oh, you betcha!  That sweet, sweet reproductive health care cash!  All those Benjamins they collect from, uh, giving away medical examinations, classes, laboratory testing, vaccinations (oh wait, that’s evil too, isn’t it?), contraceptives, and referrals to battered women’s shelters.  Boy, they sure are rolling in it, as I can readily see every time I go in there.  That 1970s office furniture — don’t let the looks fool you, you can’t get that stuff for love or money these days!  Priceless antiques!  The jobs at 60% of what the health care workers would be making in private practice?  It’s a cover!  All that money is ferried to the Cayman Islands on steamers entirely powered by the combustion of baby corpses.

Factory farming of women and children. Livestock. Planned Parenthood cares about women and children the way farmers care about breeder sows and piglets.

Unlike, say, religious people who think sex should only be for conception, and women should be at home producing children.  People who think abortion should be outlawed even in cases of pregnancies that put the mother’s life at immediate risk, or force her to carry for weeks a fetus that is non-viable, or even already dead. Totally.

Wrap all this gut-sucking and baby mutilation all up in pink to look innocent and good? No- just bloody.

Ooooh! Was this an attempt at allegory?  Alas, what you gave us was bathos instead.

Reading is Fundamental

I do love how this paragraph, this collection of non sequitur, was thrown like a plateful of noodle (rAmen!) at the wall to see what would stick, but really had nothing to say about my post.  It had to do with the words “Planned Parenthood”, not with anything else I had written.  Mary, if that’s all you get from your readings, I recommend Twitter; it will be less effort for you.  Heck, I’d like to make your life easier, you seem like you can use a break.  Why don’t I just give you some writing prompts for the next writer’s block:

  • Sex education
  • Social justice
  • Wage parity
  • Single-payer health care
  • Marriage equality
  • Free child care and preschools
  • Maternity and paternity leaves
  • Access to contraception
  • STD screenings
  • Recreational sex
  • Teaching consent
  • Secular humanism
  • Living wage

Just pick whatever frightens you most, and write me another essay.

I will leave you with a reading assignment: The Horrifying Reality of Abortion Before It Was Legal in America.

Edit: And here is the follow-up reading assignment: Real stories of late-term abortions.

Credits: Photo by Dorothy Marder, taken at the International Women Year National Conference, Houston, Texas, November 18-21, 1977

Pink Out! I stand with Planned Parenthood

pink-outTomorrow (September 29) it’s Pink Out Day in support of Planned Parenthood.

First, let me tell you why I stand with Planned Parenthood, using two excerpts from my journal, just over three years ago when I had no health insurance and was unemployed and flat broke. The people I described were the ones I saw and spoke to, not conceptual entities.

June 18, 2012

Thank you, Planned Parenthood. You were there for me many years ago when I was a penniless student, and you’re here for me again when I am unemployed and have no insurance. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m glad a regularly donated when I was employed, and I will again when I am employed anew.

Right-wingnuts: fuck off and die. You’re not doing a damn thing to help me, or anyone else who was in that waiting room: the mother with two infants, the menopausal lady worried about her surging cholesterol, the happy, giggling expectant young couple, the two young women there to get their first birth control prescriptions, etc.

June 25, 2012

I went back to Planned Parenthood for my follow-up today. I don’t know if I’m just lucky, but everyone is always incredibly nice and helpful to me in PP clinics (well, the two I’ve ever visited.)

I tend to think that it’s not luck, that it takes a special kind of people to work there with the crazies picketing every day and probably paid less than in private clinics. Many of the people I speak to have worked there forever and a half, so it’s not like they just jump on the first chance to work at a safer, more posh place.

And it nags me, bugs me, burns me to think that these incredibly nice people who help me are placing themselves at risk, that there is a very real possibility of a nutcase harming them for helping me. That’s fucked up.

That’s right: Planned Parenthood charged me nothing for the health services it provided. And yes, as soon as I had a regular income again, I resumed donations so others could benefit.

Now for some tips on showing support (besides the obvious, donating to Planned Parenthood):

5 Ways You Can #PinkOut

I-standOn September 29th to show your support for women’s health and for Planned Parenthood

  1. WEAR PINK on September 29th. Get a #StandwithPP pink t-shirt from the store.
  2. Pink Out your Facebook and/or Twitter profile image
  3. Attend a Pink Out Event near you. Can’t attend or not near a rally city? RSVP to the Facebook event for updates.
  4. Join the #PinkOut Thunderclap
  5. Share a #PinkOut selfie to #StandwithPP on social media

On Abortion

While the vast majority of services provided at Planned Parenthood are not related to abortion, I don’t want to dodge the issue. I’ve seen a lot of outrage about right-wingers who refuse to compromise on abortion even for special cases.  You know what? When they say that they’re against abortion in all cases, even rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother — that works for me, in a weird way. Abortion is legal, there are very good reasons to keep it legal, and I don’t want to see it chipped away by downgrading it to only special cases deserving the protection of the law.

Let’s recognize right now that we need not make apologies: no one is is suggesting that abortion is a fun thing, something every woman should try at least once, or something we should have punch-cards for (“Buy ten, get one free!”) Having to have an abortion sucks enough as it is — heck, having to consider whether to have an abortion sucks enough, that we need not make apologies for having a legal procedure when we, the persons who are having to make the individual decision, find it necessary.

Downgrading abortion from a right to a conditional procedure you have to get special dispensation for only opens the way to have access to contraception restricted in the same way.  We’ve had plenty of evidence recently, from right-wingers’ opposition to sex education in schools, to framing their attempts at restricting contraception through health insurance plans as a religious freedom issue.

And Violence

I mentioned in my old journal posts that the people helping me were putting themselves at risk.  Although I did not see any sign of violence, every time I have been to that clinic I have seen a fanatical picketer, a man bringing his entire collection of signs, religious paraphernalia, threats disguised as predictions, and so forth (and there have been more visits, both before and after the ones that prompted my journal entries).  Imagine being intimidated every day, every time you go in and out of your place of work!

War of Ashes RPG: Diorama…

When Edmund starts painting miniatures for War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus, this results:


From this:


Credits:  Photo © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission; end pages art © ZombieSmith and Evil Hat Productions 2015, used with permission but my photo doesn’t do it justice.

War of Ashes RPG: The Troops

WoA_minis-KuldZombieSmith have supplied us with a bunch of War of Ashes miniatures in addition to the ones we owned, so little metal creatures are now covering the game table. Edmund has been painting up a storm so I can field bad guys in my two War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus games at Big Bad Con.  They’re not finished yet, but they’re coming along nicely!  Shown here: the voracious Kuld, pre-shading and highlights phases.

Credits:  Photos © Edmund Metheny 2015, used with permission.


War of Ashes RPG: It’s Here!

The ThingYes, I’m finally holding a real book in my hands.  That’s my very own stack of books, at EndGame, freshly arrived from Evil Hat Productions’ printer: War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.  Dang, it’s real!  I’m real!

Luscious matte-finish hardcover, full-colour printing on thick glossy paper, glorious end sheets.  It’s so wonderful to be on a project where the whole team excels. I’m awed by:

  • Karen Twelves‘ editing and way, way more: she identified the correct “voices” for various portions of the book, tied this into a coherent text, reorganized it several times as we answered the playtest feedback, hunted for typos and cross-references, selected appropriate images from the pre-existing pictures from ZombieSmith, and wrote extensive art notes for new pieces.  In all this, we worked on multiple sections in parallel and the only time we had a version control problem was my fault.
  • Dale Horstman‘s beautiful layout that brought out the art while conveying mood, his choice of images where we had not provided instructions, his skill at visually distinguishing the different types of text (instruction, narration, examples, fiction, etc.), his extensive work to showcase art pieces in the best way possible, his patience with our edits and changes, and his attention to detail.  He also did “invisible” work, such as making sure all those hyperlinks worked properly in the PDF version, and preparing the layout for a smooth transition to ePub.
  • Edmund Metheny‘s micro-fiction, coming to my rescue when I was too exhausted, mentally and physically, to write it.  His little bits of dialogue are funny and zippy, they are short enough that they don’t interrupt the “gamer” reading, they convey a whole lot of flavour and background info in small bites, and they make the characters come alive.
  • Mike Olson‘s help with the conflict rules, and particularly his ideas on using zones more intensively.  I think the playtesters generally loved this rule sub-set, and it’s completely portable to other Fate games.
  • Sean Nittner and Stephen Bajza‘s excellent project management, unexpected in the world of gaming.
  • Sean also acted as creative director, and he was always there with a good idea when I was stomped. To his particular credit: the cycle of approaches in the Froth rules, and reminding me of the usefulness of invoking aspects for effect.  There were tons of other things, but these two bits right there had important ripples in the book.
  • Plus we had an all-star team with all the specialized tasks: Jessica Banks (proofreading), Krista White (indexing), Carrie Harris (marketing and tie-in fiction), Rob Donohue, Leonard Balsera, and Brian Endgard (internal reviewers), Twyla Campbell (playtest survey consultant), Josh Qualtieri, Anthony Brown and the artists at ZombieSmith (art and concept), and of course the business savvy and long-term vision of Chris Hanrahan and Fred Hicks.  (Also, Fred decided to switch from a softcover to hardcover book, which I think the art and graphic design totally deserved.  Thanks, Fred!)

And it smells good!

Smells good! Pretty pictures It has pages! It's in a real store!

P.S.: Of course, as soon as I opened the book I started thinking “Oh, I could have done better here!” etc.  But when I play it, this is a miniatures-based role-playing game I enjoy. I’m also pretty pleased with the game-master tools I provided in there.  I hope you’ll like the book.