Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Reached My Fundraising Goal - THANK YOU!

"Zombi", the print for "Z" entry in the first book that
will be published by my small press, Cats A-Z. Seems
that at least for me, black cats are good luck!
So much for Friday the 13th being bad luck; I just achieved my Indiegogo campaign fundraising goal - in only 28 hours! Woo hoo!

Thank you to everyone who has contributed and shared information about this campaign!


While I've cleared the first hurtle, I still need to raise additional funds to enact my business plan. I've applied for an interest-free, crowd-sourced small business loan and am currently waiting for approval to launch that campaign. Any funds I raise through Indiegogo that exceed $2000 go to reduce the amount I have to borrow to make this small press a reality. And that increases my press's chances for long-term success!

The Indiegogo campaign runs through April 24th. Help me keep spreading the word. Also, check in on my art blog Words On Woodcuts where I'll be posting eight original woodcut art cards as thank-you gifts for all the funders.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Help Me Launch A Press, It's Friggatriskaidekatastic!

Etymology: An English variant of Old Norse Frigg, (the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named) + Ancient Greek τρεῖς (treîsthree) + Ancient Greek καί (kaí,and) + Ancient Greek δέκα (dékaten) + -phobia.
The fear of Friday 13th. 

Friday the 13th ain't scary. Starting a small
press to publish art books, now that's scary. 
Lots of people still get the heebie jeebies about silly, old superstitions like Friday the 13th. But in the secular humanist community, where skepticism is a core value, it's more of a fun holiday.

For years, atheist activist Margaret Downey has hosted anti-superstition parties - hilariously themed as Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Centers on Friday the 13th, and offered a party kit to encourage other freethought groups to host similar parties. 

A couple of secular humanist friends of mine got married on Friday the 13th just because that's awesome. 

So here's the deal. I'm launching a small press to publish beautifully produced books featuring my fine art woodcuts. And while that is already incredibly awesome, I'm making it a tiny bit more awesome by launching the fundraising campaign on Friday the 13th. The campaign will last 42 days (ending April 24th) because, as we all know, that's the true answer to life, the universe, and everything. 

So why am I bringing this up on my Humanist Mom blog? What the heck does starting a small, artsy press have to do with secular humanism? 
Just a cover concept. Need a graphic designer to do it right. 

The first book to be published will be Cats A-Z, a cat-themed alphabet book for adults, illustrated with black and white woodcuts. Yeah, I know that sounds gimmicky and cutesy. But it's not. 

This book is completely reflective of secular humanist values, from expressing concern over the Iriomote Cat that has been driven to critical endangerment by human encroachment on its habitat, to giving a light-handed reminder of the successes of vaccinations. The book would please stalwart skeptics because while it celebrates the stories of cats who have inspired humanity, such as "Unsinkable Sam" of WWII fame, it also manages to tactfully question the literal truth of such myths. 

This book dispatches no grand statement. Rather, it is a series of vignettes where the artwork and prose raise questions and ideas that provide a jumping off point for quiet introspection. To me, someone who believes not in gods, karma or cosmic justice, an afterlife or eternal soul, a great deal of personal meaning can be found during such ruminations, which are usually inspired by nature or art. 

In addition to the book reflecting secular humanist values and hopefully providing a meaningful experience for readers, I like to think I've earned some street cred in the freethought community. I've devoted a significant portion of my entire adult life to freethought activism and communities. My involvement started in college with Students For Freethought at Ohio State University. I've been a camp counselor with Camp Quest and was one of the founding Board Members of the Secular Student Alliance. After college I serves as VP of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, and since moving to Philly over a decade ago, I've served as everything from webmaster to VP, President, and now Secretary of the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. I've even been a humanist celebrant certified by the Humanist Society, and I officiated funerals, baby namings, and weddings (including that one that took place on Friday the 13th.) I have many friends among the leadership in this movement. I've watched it grow and flourish so much over the past 15 years. 

Eesh, as I read over the last paragraph, it sounds like I'm trying to cash in on my years and countless hours of volunteer work. Seeing the freethought movement grow and flourish and having been a part of that should be it's own reward. And it is! Nonetheless, I am totally trying to cash in on my years and countless hours of volunteer work. 

All you Humanists and Atheists and Skeptics out there are "my people" so I'm asking for your assistance. This is my appeal to all of you in this community with whom I identify - check out my Indiegogo campaign and my website, and if you like what I'm trying to do and have a few bucks to spare, it would be tremendously appreciated. 

If you don't have any money to spare, just help me spread the word.

And if you don't even want to do that, it's cool. Unlike Mona Lisa from Parks and Recreation, I won't break your stuff if you say no. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

Charlie Hebdo, Understanding, and Forgiveness

Today we found out that the first cover of Charlie Hebdo appearing after the violent decimation of its staff features a caricature of the prophet Muhammed, a tear down his cheek, holding up a "Je Suis Charlie" sign. Above the caricature appear the words "tout est pardonné" (Everything is forgiven.) 

I feel tremendously moved by this cover choice, as I think it so poignantly addresses both of the serious issues staring us in the face in the aftermath of these killings. First, the issue of free speech (which just about everyone, even hypocrites, seem to acknowledge and claim to defend at the moment.) And second, the connection between racial and ethnic disadvantage of non-Westerners in the Western world and Islamic radicalization (a highly complicated and sensitive topic that most people seem to either horribly oversimplify or avoid entirely.)  

Guilaine Kinourani thoughtfully addresses this second issue through her personal experiences as a French woman of African descent in her article "Hatred breeds hatred": Charlie Hebdo, marginalization, and terrorism. She writes: 

"Is it not possible to hold both the position that the Charlie Hebdo killings were absolutely abhorrent and unjustifiable acts, whilst also calling for increased attention to be paid to the marginalisation of entire generations of citizens and its complex link to Islamic radicalisation and fundamentalism in France and elsewhere?"

Racism and ethnic bias are pervasive and breed resentment (or at least defensiveness) from many who suffer (and watch their loved-ones suffer) the consequences. Mass shootings are frequently perpetrated by white shooters, but those are regarded as lone nutjobs, not representatives of an entire religious or ethnic group. We don't see attacks on white men and white-owned businesses after such events, but anti-Arabism is real, and it becomes worse after events such as the Charlie Hebdo shooting, just as Muslim Americans (as well as Sikhs and anyone else who might of been perceived as Muslim) suffered increased discrimination and attacks after 9-11. Even in the small, suburban Quaker school I worked at in 2008, I heard a child in 7th grade casually declare that the United States should "Bomb Iraq and Iran until they are all dead" to solve the problem of Islamist terrorism. 

Howard Dean caught flack for insisting that we stop referring to violent Islamists as "Muslim terrorists", saying: 

"I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else's life, that's not what the Koran says." 

I agree with the general sentiment and applaud Dean for speaking out in defense of the vast majority of Muslims who are just as peace-loving as anyone else. 

Finding the most appropriate language, that is accurate yet not racially-charged is difficult. Dean is using "radicals", which I don't like because it's so vague it sounds euphemistic, and also not all people with "radical" views are violent. I try to stick to using the term "Islamist" which has been designated to specifically refer to those who use or support the use of violence to establish their own interpretation of Islam and sharia law.  

In 2011, Charlie Hebdo's editor Stephane Charbonnier or Charb (who was killed in this month's shooting) expressed a similar sentiment to Dean. He responded to a  fire-bombing of Charlie Hebdo by Islamists in retribution over another cover depicting Muhammad, calling the perpetrators "stupid people who don't know what Islam is"  and "idiots who betray their own religion". These statements defend Islam the religion by asserting that a truer adherence to that faith would not result in a violent attack on an anti-racist, left-wing satirical newspaper. 

I see many parallels between Islamist and Christian fundamentalists (and I'm not the only one), including the targeting of liberal secularists, who might superficially look like the enemy because our worldview and values seem so counter to a socially conservative religious perspective. But liberal secularists are not the enemy, because as much as our ilk might mock and satirize conservative religiosity, all mockery and criticism is done with the assumption that pluralism and freedom will always remain part of the equation. 

Meanwhile, the real causes of suffering-that-breeds-extremism goes unacknowledged. For example, divorce rates are highest in the Bible belt. This is most likely the result of growing economic instability, especially in more rural communities, leaving so many would-be-bread-winning men under-employed and demoralized, and so many women with children dependent on welfare and charity. And yet frequently feminism and marriage equality activism is blamed for the "decline of marriage." These are serious socio-economic problems and real human suffering. Alas, the blame is misplaced. 

It is so appropriate that this week's cover of Charlie Hebdo will depict a Muhammed who weeps for and stands with the slain journalists, under a statement of forgiveness. The editors offer a hand in the spirit of brotherly and sisterly love, but in a way they know will be taken as offensive by some, because it is the only way to do so in a manner that is also true to themselves. 

There is a French proverb that I have accepted as truth since the first time I heard it, years ago. It says, Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner (If all were understood, all would be forgiven.) 

Or in the words of the Dresden Dolls: