Diversity Daze

My last post for October was going to be my super awesome interview with Peggy Levitt, but it looks like she will be kicking off November instead. What could cause me to bump one of the interviews I’m most proud to have done? The spat of concerned emails sent to me about Pinkerton Academy’s Diversity Week. Weird, yes? If you agree, you’ll be clicking in right about now.

On Friday October 24, 2008 the Union Leader’s website ran an article called “The Truth about Witches”. Kimberley Pietz’s article outlined the saga of 17 year-old Pinkerton senior Jerica Haynes. As on out of the broom closet Wiccan, with a practicing mother and grandmother by the by, Haynes was asked to put together a presentation on Wicca for the school’s Diversity Week. After a month she had put together a presentation that was “as factual and historically accurate as possible” and “did not contain obscenities or violence”.

Obviously you can imagine her surprise, when after having been asked to give the presentation she was told she would be unable to deliver it due to complaints the school had received from concerned parents.

According to the article, parents called the school to complain that the presentation was inappropriate. Although Robin Perrin, Director of Relations Management at the school, went on to explain that the issue for parents was that whole classes sign up for some Diversity Week presentations, and there was a fear that the Wicca presentation would be mandatory for students whose class signed up to attend the presentation.

There are talks of Haynes giving the presentation to the diversity committee and if they deem it okay, she may be able to give her presentation after school with attendance being voluntary.

Okay, let’s all take a step back and break this one down. First, how awesome is it that their school does a Diversity Week where there are presentations given on different religions, cultures, and countries? My school didn’t do anything like that, neither did Jim’s. Did yours? So let’s give credit where credit is due, big thumbs up to Pinkerton Academy for even putting on a Diversity Week.

Although I’d like to personally give a big thumbs down to all the parents who were concerned their children would be forced to watch a presentation about Wicca. I can’t even imagine. Are they afraid of recruitment? Are they afraid Haynes will bewitch them? I mean, I get the whole, you can’t force my kid thing, I really do understand concerned parents. At the same time, what’s the deal? It’s a presentation that even Haynes’ mother confirmed in the article “was not trying to recruit anyone to the religion”. As one of the fastest growing religions, perhaps your kid having a clue as to what Wicca is about wouldn’t be a horrible plan.

Before I just ramble on about how annoying I find those parents I should point something out. Many people who emailed me expressed frustration that a Rabbi gave a presentation called “A Rabbi’s Life” yet Haynes’ presentation on Wicca got cancelled. A careful second reading of the article shows that he “spoke about what it means to be Jewish to an audience that attended on a voluntary basis.” As we recall, parents were concerned attendance to the Wicca presentation would not be voluntary. Now perhaps there were some mandatory presentations given on other religions, but all I have is this article to go by.

Here’s a question I wish Pietz had asked, “Did everyone have to give their presentations to the diversity committee before being allowed to give it, even if attendance was voluntary?” I get where the school is going with their whole after school voluntary attendance solution. I don’t like it, but I get it. What I want to know is, Haynes has to prove her voluntarily attended and now after school presentation is okay, did everyone who gave mandatory presentations have to do the same? If Haynes was singled out, even after getting bumped to after school and after Diversity Week is over, that would be most suckful.

To make a long post short, don’t offer me a Diversity Week unless you mean it Pinkerton Academy.

Movember is Nearly Here!

Just the other day I received an entertaining, and intriguing, email from friend, artist, Buffet supporter, and dude that does our art, Will Hobbs.

Hi All,

During Movember (the month formerly known as November) my coworkers and I are growing Moustaches. That’s right, we’re bringing the Mo back because I’m passionate about tackling men’s health issues and being proactive in the fight against prostate cancer. “But, Will…” you may say, “You already have a full beard!!!” That’s right. But, imagine how ridiculous I’ll look when I shave it into a sweet and trashy Mo. So, help me help the cause, and I’ll send the top donor the clippings, suitable for framing! That’s right! My beard goes to the top donor*.

*Not for use in witchcraft, please.

This made me ask, what the heck is Movember? Well, according to the Movember website:

Movember (the month formerly known as November) is a charity event held during November each year.

At the start of Movember guys register with a clean shaven face. The Movember participants, known as Mo Bros, then have the remainder of the month to grow and groom their Mo (Australian slang for moustache), raising money and awareness along the way for men’s health and the fight against prostate cancer.

Movember culminates at the end of the month at the Gala Partés. These glamorous and groomed events will see Tom Selleck, Hulk Hogan and Borat look-a-likes battle it out for their chance to take home the prestigious Man of Movember title.

While growing a Mo is left to the guys, Mo Sistas (women who support their guys or just love Mo’s!) form an important part of Movember by recruiting Mo Bros, helping to raise funds and attending the highly anticipated Gala Partés.

But it’s not all fun and games, so why the extreme behavior?

Whichever way we look at it, men are far less healthy than women. The average life expectancy for men is many years less than that of women; seven years less for African American men and five years less for Caucasian men.

The obvious question is why?

Men lack awareness about the very real health issues they face. Many feel they have to be tough – “a real man” – and are reluctant to see a doctor about an illness or to go for regular medical check ups. The aim of Movember is to change these attitudes and make men’s health fun by putting the Mo back on the face of American men while raising some serious funds for the number one men’s health issue, prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in the US with one in six American men developing the disease and more than 28,000 men dying of the disease every year.

Movember is very proud to be teaming with the Prostate Cancer Foundation in the US. All donations made will go directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which will use the funds for high-impact research to find better treatments and a cure for prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

I think this is a fun way to raise awareness and cash! Want to learn more, visit their website! To help our friend Will Hobbs be the most bad ass Mo Bro alive, you can click here to donate to his Mo (remember, top donor will receive Will’s beard, if that is a good thing). Or, you can opt to cut a check (made out to Prostate Cancer Foundation) and mail it to:

Prostate Cancer Foundation
Attn: Movember
1250 Fourth Street
Santa Monica, CA, 90401
(Be sure to reference Will’s registration number 1456991 on the check)

Will even provided us with a pre-Movember photo (to be followed by a post-Movember photo)!

The Universal Vanessa-Palin Tarot Card

Ever notice how the faithful seem to see the Virgin Mary everywhere? Trees, food, etc. I’ve found that despite my lack of faith, I seem to see Sarah Palin everywhere. I just want to buy my copy of The Advocate and bam, I see Sarah Palin all over the magazine section. I turn on the television to get all the news in thirty minutes, and bam, all I see is Sarah Palin. I go shopping for new frames for my glasses, and every frame I touch seems to say, buy me, you’ll look like Sarah Palin (which politics aside, physically, she’s a hottie, so perhaps not so bad). In the end I bought round wire rimmed frames. To further prove my point, a clever friend of mine emailed me this…
The Vanessa Tarot, which this card is from, was published over two years ago. Yet, I’m just looking for some fun divination, and bam, you guessed it, Sarah Palin.

For those of you that are curious, “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” by Arthur Edward Waite has this to say about The Hierophant.

“He wears the triple crown and is seated between two pillars, but they are not those of the Temple which is guarded by the High Priestess. In his left hand he holds a scepter terminating in the triple cross, and with his right hand he gives the well-know ecclesiastical sign which is called that of esotericism, distinguishing between the manifest and concealed part of the doctrine. It is noticeable in the connexion that the High Priestess makes no sign. At his feet are the crossed keys, and two priestly ministers in albs kneel before him. He has been usually called the Pope, which is a particular application of the more general office that he symbolizes. He is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power. The proper meanings of this card have suffered woeful admixture from nearly all hands. Grand Orient says truly that the Hierophant is the power of the keys, exoteric orthodox doctrine, and the outer side of the life which leads to the doctrine: but he is certainly not the prince of occult doctrine, as another commentator has suggested.

He is rather the summa totius theologiae, when it has passed into the utmost rigidity of expression; but he symbolizes also all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side. As such, he is the channel of grace belonging to the world of institution as distinct from that of Nature, and he is the leader of salvation for the human race at large. He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order; but it may so happen that the pontiff forgets the significance of this his symbolic state and acts as if he contained within his proper measures all that his sign signifies or his symbol seeks to shew forth. He is not, as it has been thought, philosophy-except on the theological side; he is not inspiration; and he is not religion, although he is a mode of its expression.”

After all of that, the “Sarah Palin” tarot card is a naughty Sunday school teacher? Again, the American political machine dumbs down another conversation.

NNYPRS Post Investigation Report

Here it is, another actual final report from a real paranormal investigation group! This one is particularly fun because it’s from the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society’s investigation of the Plattsburgh, NY Air Force Base gymnasium. That’s right folks, the same investigation I went with them on, the same one I wrote about just the other day. I thought you guys might enjoy a little compare and contrast, so refresh your memories by reading my write up about the investigation. Then continue on to the NNYPRS final report.

Northern New York Paranormal Research Society
(518) 651-4315

Post-Investigative Report

Client: Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Old Gym, Plattsburgh, NY
Date: 10/11/08
Referred by: Erin Connors, WPTZ Channel 5 News

History: The Gym was built in 1933 and opened in 1934. At the time it was the largest building in all of Plattsburgh. It had two sections, the main gym and a theater. The gym had bleachers and a basketball court upstairs with changing rooms, a weight room and a bowling alley in the basement. The theater section, although attached, technically had a separate entrance. Under the stage, was a holding area for actors and actresses that would get to the stage by a spiral staircase in the back corner of stage left. Sometime in the 1950’s, 2 handball courts were put in where the theater seats were. Then, it is believed that in the 70’s or 80’s 2 more racquetball courts were installed in the rest of the theater’s seating area.

Reported Activity: People claim that the area under the stage was a morgue for mangled body parts at one time. People have claimed to hear banging and screaming coming from this area. Workers have reported hearing many sounds throughout the building when they believed they were alone. Sounds include whistling, conversations, banging, weights clanging, and footsteps. There are two reported visual phenomenon. The first was a report of seeing what was believed to be a soldier walking on the indoor track on the second floor. The other visual report happened in the weight room. A former employee that we spoke to claimed to see a man walk past the weight room in the hallway. He saw this in a mirror. He said later it happened again, the opposite way.

Members Present:
Merrill, Dave, Randy, Sarah, Brian Le., Todd J., Rebecca, Jim, Sean
Others Present: Steve the City of Plattsburgh Rec. Director, Erin Connors, and Jamie, the WPTZ Cameraman

Equipment Used:
Video: CCTV DVR with 4 IR capable cameras, 2 Sony HandyCam Hi8 camcorders,
Photo: Multiple Digital Cameras, one 35 MM camera
Audio: 4 Digital Voice Recorders (3 Olympus, 1 RCA)
EMF: 1 Extech EMF Detector, 1 Natural Tri-field Meter, 1 CellSensor, 1 generic CellSensor, 1 Magnetic Shield Corp ef-401
Temp.: 2 Raytek Mini-temp Non-contact IR Surface Thermometers, 1 Fluke Non-contact IR Therm., 1 Temp/Humidity Data Logger, 1 Ambient Temp. Thermometer
Other: Laptop Computer, notebooks and pens, 2-way radios

Time Started:
6:10 PM: Initial Walkthrough
6:45 PM: Equipment Setup (Base EMF, Surface Temps., Ambient Temps. taken at this time as well)
7:30 PM: Split into three teams to initiate investigation
10:45 PM: Equipment pack up begun
11:15 PM: Left Gym, Begun brief investigation of the Base Cemetery
11:45 PM: De-briefing
12:00 AM: On-site investigation completed

Personal Experiences:
Brian heard what sounded like voices coming through a door, from an office that was unoccupied. However, with the acoustics and other various factors, it is very possible it was not paranormal. Other than this, no other personal experiences occurred.

This building never housed a morgue of any type. We were able to debunk almost every audible report. The acoustics of the building were incredible. Someone can be outside whistling, talking in a normal voice, and it could be heard clearly up on the track and on the basketball court, even with all windows closed. Also, the sounds of voices, heating duct “bangs”, lockers closing, weights slamming from downstairs would all carry extremely well to the main floor area, as well as in the main office. The number of reflective surfaces in the areas where apparitions have been spotted could very easily create an image that, in an old, supposedly haunted building would appear to be ghosts. In the weight room area, the report of looking at the mirror and seeing someone pass in the hallway could very easily be explained by the distortion of the particular mirror, the witness admitting there were people in the room across the hallway, and reflections of other mirrors in that general vicinity.

Initial Conclusion: It is the general consensus of NNYPRS that all stories surrounding this property are of an “urban legend” variety, or the result of the minds ability to perceive a sound to be paranormal when in a large, “spooky”, supposedly haunted building when you are relatively alone. No data was acquired that could be considered paranormal in nature. Only one reliable source could be found that had claimed to experience a paranormal event. NNYPRS was able to find natural explanations to all of his reports. Any other report of activity is of the “friend of a friend” variety, and not able to be substantiated.

Hey folks, if you enjoyed their report, come out to P3 and meet the team! P3 is on Sunday October 26, 2008 from 1-6 p.m. in Plattsburgh, NY. It’s free to attend.

Ball of Whacks

This is the coolest thing I’ve ever touched,” I said. My husband responds with, “I think I may be insulted.” “No, see?” I ask as I toss him Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks. After a moment with the Ball, he agreed with me.

What is the Ball of Whacks? At its most impressive and enlightened, it’s a tool to help inspire creative thinking. For a knucklehead like me, it is the greatest fidgety widget of all time. That’s right, better than a Slinky. It’s comprised of 30 magnetic blocks that can be arranged into many different shapes.

It comes with a 96-page booklet that is loaded with different exercises you can do with the Ball of Whacks. Like most creativity inspiring exercises, the ones in the book seem silly and I will readily admit I did not try or use a single one of them. Who has time for that anyway when you’re busy fidgeting that Ball obsessively? Yes, my husband and I have already battled for control of the Ball of Whacks. Since I’m the one writing this article, you know who won.

Now, I had several of my friends play with the Ball of Whacks, and despite the fact that my husband and I are certain it’s the greatest fidget of all time, they remained unconvinced. So it begs the question, what is your favorite thing to fidget with? You know my answer, what’s yours? And keep it G Rated…yeah, I’m talking to you, yes you. You know who you are.

Rebecca’s First Paranormal Investigation…

…or How I Spent My Saturday Night.

After a long, hard week Jim and I hit the road north. Our destination was Plattsburgh, NY. We were heading north for our first paranormal investigation, thanks to the invite we received from our friend Merrill, President of the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society. That evening we would all be checking out the Plattsburgh Air Force Base gymnasium…but first, Ponderosa and some planning.

There were nine of us going on the investigation. All of them were NNYPRS team members except for Jim and me. As usual with the NNYPRS, we first had to eat, drink (non alcoholic beverages), and be merry, before we could settle in for some shoptalk.

Merrill gave us the haunting low down on the gym we were heading to after dinner. Primarily people reported hearing noises while alone in the building. Some reported voices, some heard knocking or banging, and others whistling. A source confided to Merrill that while lifting weights, with his back to the door and facing the mirror, he saw a man walk by the door in each direction. Both times the source went out to find the man, but could not locate him. In addition, there was a brief bit found on line about a man seeing a soldier on the basketball court. While eating dessert, we discussed all the basic, non-paranormal things that could cause many of these things, including old heating systems, water pipes, etc.

When we arrived at the Air Force Base gymnasium, we got to meet Erin Connors of WPTZ Channel 5 News and her cameraman. Yes, we had a television crew there with us. Of course we had known about this before hand, what Jim and I had not realized was that they were there for everything. Jim and I assumed they would talk to Merrill and Dave, the President and Vice President of NNYPRS respectively and not particularly care about the rest of us. Um, we were wrong. And if you catch the segment, there is a good chance you’ll get to see me, in sweat pants and a sweatshirt with my crappy who cares ponytail. Lovely.

Now to work. First, we got a tour of the facility. This place was a maze of rooms! Right away we all noticed lots of old pipes, etc. that could easily cause knocking sounds. Also, we all seemed certain this place was designed to echo and carry sound, another possibility for hearing voices. While in the weight room, a cluster of us took some time to study the weight bench that had the door behind it. This would be where the person who saw the man walk by would have been. Thanks to ample mirrors (which for the record, make you look fat!) and some windows, we could imagine picking up something from outside to perhaps explain the man. Some of the NNYPRS went about setting up home base, which involved putting up some stationary cameras that fed into a recorder that also allowed us to view the four camera views at the same time. While that was being done, two groups of three people each went around to get base readings of all the rooms we would be going in. I got to be EMF girl, with my very own electromagnetic field reader. I was with Jim, who got to be room temperature guy, and Dave, the Vice President, also known as EMF guy and guy who makes sure Jim and I do what we’re supposed to guy. None of us noted anything unusual about the rooms we examined. Temperatures were constant, EMF readings were consistent, and my readings matched Dave’s.

After all of the set up work was done and we completed our initial readings and notes on the location, two groups of three went off in search of the paranormal. Jim and I got the best job, along with NNYPRS team member Sarah, the three of us got to watch the monitor at home base. After all the hiking around of the tour and taking base readings, sitting around and watching others work seemed like the best plan. None of us noted anything unusual and when the teams reported in, they had not found anything either.

However, we all noticed that sounds and voices carried a long distance in the building. Voices could be heard through walls, down hallways, and on different floors of the building. Later, three of us went outside the building and walked all the way around talking, whistling, and making assorted sounds. Everyone inside could hear us, often times clearly. In addition, people threw balls in the racket ball and handball courts, and opened and closed lockers. All of those noises could be heard throughout the building quite clearly. At this point, we decided mundane things could easily explain any report of noise.

We did not see or hear anything that appeared to be paranormal. One NNYPRS team member thought he had heard some voices coming from behind a closed door to an empty room, but although he couldn’t explain for certain where the sounds came from, he didn’t feel they were necessarily paranormal in origin. The only thing we could not explain was the soldier sighting, but since the rumor was light on details, I for one, am not overly concerned about a haunted gymnasium.

Around 11p.m. Jim and I hopped in the car and started our two and a half hour drive home. At 1:30, I collapsed into bed and essentially slept my Sunday away.

My work was done, but for the NNYPRS, there are still hours of video and audio tape to review, along with dozens of photos to be examined before they can call it case closed. For me, not burdened by having to review notes, etc. I feel I can quote my boys at Mythbusters when I say, Plattsburgh Air Force Base Gymnasium haunting? Busted.

10 Questions with Steve Kenson

1. In case some of my readers aren’t sure of what we’re talking about, when we say RPG, or role-playing games, what are we talking about? What is a role-playing game?
Well, when I say it, a roleplaying game is something where you and some friends get together, create characters in an imaginary world, and play out their adventures using dice (or some other randomizers) and a set of game rules to determine the outcomes, building the story (and, to a degree, the characters) as you go along. I’ve run into a lot of folks to whom “RPG” now means online games, so I guess that makes me an “old school” gamer, since to me it means tabletop, face-to-face games.

2. How old were you when you played your first role-playing game and what game was it?
I was 12 and it was the first edition of Gamma World from TSR. My school friends and I quickly moved on to the D&D Basic Set and other games as well.

3. What do you feel are some of the benefits of having role-playing games as a hobby?
I think there are many benefits, not the least of which are stimulating the imagination, teaching English, math, and research skills, social time with friends, and providing a fun creative outlet.

4. What would you like to say to parents who may be concerned about their child’s interest in role-playing games?
Try actually playing an RPG with your child to get an understanding of what it’s like from the inside. Talk to your kids about their RPG experiences and why they’re interested in them, rather than relying on outsiders with an agenda (including me!). Get informed and form you own opinions.

5. When did you realize that perhaps you could go from a player of, to a creator of role-playing games?
Probably when I was helping play test the second edition of Shadowrun. I submitted a number of ideas for new spells, powers, and so forth, and the developer liked almost all of them, leading me to realize, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this!”

6. You have a huge list of RPG credits these days. Am I the first person to say, “Kudos on doing some work for ‘Hong Kong Action Theater’?”
Wow. The first one I can recall. That’s definitely one of my more obscure projects… Back in my full-time freelance days, you took work where you could get it.

7. Now, I don’t want to ask Dad to pick a favorite, so what are a few of your role-playing publishing achievements you are most proud of?
Well, Mutants & Masterminds because it’s the most robust and long-lasting game line that I’ve had the most direct hand in, as both designer and developer. In particular, Freedom City is my baby and I’ve loved watching the setting grow and develop as other creators get to play there.

I’m proud of my contributions to Shadowrun and I have a deep fondness for the game and its world. I’m also quite pleased to have contributed to Earthdawn, which is probably my favorite fantasy RPG.

8. All right, you have this question to expound on the virtues of the “Mutants and Masterminds” role-playing game.
Well, the goal with M&M was to create an RPG that plays like a comic book, and I think mechanics like the Toughness saving throw for damage and the acquisition and spending of hero points help to make it so. There’s a give-and-take to the action, and players are rewarded for doing things in a superheroic fashion.

Plus, M&M benefits from having top-notch production values and artwork, which is a credit to our Art Director, Hal Mangold, who does an awesome job making the books look good, and to Sean Glenn, who did the initial graphic design for the “look” of M&M.

9. Okay, huge swaths of my readers adore your partner Christopher Penczak, so please take a moment to share something amusing about him. I’m all for public embarrassment, but if you prefer, it can be something nice and not humiliating.
It’s funny how, in a different world, Christopher might well have been a big-time gamer: he had some experience with D&D as a kid, but the group he played with wasn’t very good, so he didn’t have much fun and gave up on the idea of RPGs. I think, if he’d played with a better group, there’s a good possibility he would have ended up as an RPG author or designer, he’s certainly got all the right talents for it!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Something I’ve considered recently: how does (or did) your experience as a gamer inform your spiritual life, and vice versa? Is it true what the hysterics of the 1980s claimed: did D&D (or RPGs in general) “lead you into the occult”? What’s the overlap between the gaming hobby and the neo-pagan spiritual path, and what (if anything) does it mean?

That is an interesting question. I didn’t actually start gaming until late high school, which makes me a late bloomer compared to most gamers I know. By that point, I already had a fascination with other faiths and magical practices. Perhaps because I was the only Jewish student in my school, perhaps just because?

I feel gaming and various spiritualities can overlap. Anyone who has cracked open an old school GURPS source book on Greece or Egypt has been given a crash course in mythology. Dungeons and Dragons, back when there were alignments and clerics to deities, forced players to consider issues of faith and the inner struggle of good versus evil. Personally, my first game ever was Vampire Second Edition from White Wolf. Our game master never let us forget the price you pay for immortality. At its finest, gaming gives you a safe environment to explore and challenge different ideas and societal conceptions. This does serve as an entry point to consider the idea of other faiths and modes of spirituality.

Obviously, this isn’t universally true. I have met gamers who to put it kindly, are narrow-minded. And of course, being of a faith outside of the norm of your community doesn’t automatically mean you’ll enjoy the hobby of gaming. Gaming, like any hobby is something that some will enjoy and some will find boring, lame, and/or a waste of time.

Extra Bonus Geek Question!
I polled several of my gaming buddies, and this question I feel best asserts my posse’s geek cred.

11. In the “Song of Ice and Fire” RPG, will players be able to recreate fights like the one between Gregor Clegane and Prince Oberyn without using dumb tactics for either one or requiring ridiculously implausible rolls?
We certainly hope so! SIFRP (as we call it for short) has a lot of optional detail for systems like combat, but one of my favorite aspects of it is how the player chooses the consequences of damage suffered by the character; all “damage” in combat builds towards “defeat,” at which point the victor gets to decide what happens to the loser: death, unconsciousness, severe embarrassment, or what have you. The defender, however, can choose to mitigate such losses by accepting injuries and wounds (long-term setbacks) to stave off defeat, or even to yield (offering up their own terms of defeat) rather than letting their opponent dictate the terms. There are a lot of options in there for making a good story out of a fight.

About Steve Kenson:
Steve Kenson began freelancing in the RPG industry in 1993. By 1995, he was working full-time as a freelance author and designer on RPGs such as Shadowrun and Earthdawn. He has written for a wide variety of game-lines and published ten novels: seven for the Shadowrun line, two for Crimson Skies, and one for MechWarrior.

In 2002, Steve designed the Mutants & Masterminds Superhero RPG for Green Ronin Publishing under the Open Game License. Two years later, he became a line developer with Green Ronin, overseeing the development of the Second Edition of M&M, along with games such as Blue Rose, True20 Adventure Roleplaying, and A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. He remains an avid gamer with his weekly game group.

Steve maintains a website at www.stevekenson.com and a LiveJournal at xomec.livejournal.com. He lives in southern New Hampshire with New Age and pagan author Christopher Penczak and residential counselor and part-time tooth fairy Adam Sartwell.

Think Before You Pink!

It’s that time of the year again, where the stores are filled to the brim with pink colored items, when we’re all reminded that we still have no cure for cancer and that many organizations need money to continue with research and assistance. If you’re like me you wonder, does buying a pink can opener really help? Does purchasing a pink ribbon magnet to go on my car do anything besides tell people, “Hey, I bought a pink ribbon for my car?” That said, you can understand why I was thrilled to become acquainted with Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign.

(text taken from the Think Before You Pink website)

Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

Think Before You Pink also highlights “pinkwashers”—companies that purport to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon campaign, but manufacture products that studies indicate are linked to the disease.

The list of pink ribbon products grows every year. From candy to clothing to automobiles, thousands of companies are pinning pink ribbons on their products in an attempt to boost their image and their profits by connecting themselves to a good cause.

Before you impulsively buy one of these products in the belief that your money is going to do good, Breast Cancer Action urges you to “think before you pink”—and ask these critical questions:

How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

Some companies, like Tribeca, offer a pink version of their product but don’t specify how much of your purchase will be donated. Tribeca is selling a pink USB flash drive and the package says that a donation from the sale of the drive will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. What you can’t tell just by looking at the package is how much “part of the proceeds” is.

When the package does state the amount of the donation, is that amount enough? Fox Home Entertainment, for example, is selling “DVDs for the Cure” for $14.95 and donating 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Is this a significant contribution, or a piddly amount? You decide. If you can’t tell how much money is being donated, or if you don’t think it’s enough, give directly to the organization instead.

What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

Many companies place a cap on the amount of money that will be donated. For example, Give Hope Jeans, sold by White House Black Market for $88, will donate “net proceeds” from the sale to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer. But they’ve capped their contributions at $200,000. This means that once they’ve reached the $200,000 limit they will stop contributing, no matter how many pairs of jeans are bought.

In some cases, that cap is a generous amount. In some cases it’s not. But you should know that, whenever there is a cap, your individual purchase may not contribute anything to the cause, depending on when you shop and whether the cap has already been met.

How are the funds being raised?

Does making the purchase ensure a contribution to the cause? Or do you, the shopper, have to jump through hoops to make sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go? Lean Cuisine, for example, has a pink ribbon on its boxes of frozen meals, but if you read closely, you’ll find out that the purchase of the meal does not result in any donation to a breast cancer organization. Instead, consumers must visit the Lean Cuisine web site and buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote. Then, $5 of that purchase will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

Does the product’s package tell you where the money goes and what will be done with it? For example, Penn is selling pink tennis balls and the package says that 15 cents of your purchase will go to “a Breast Cancer Research Organization.” It doesn’t tell you which organization or what kind of research will be done. Will the money go to fund the same studies that have been ongoing for decades (which already get enormous financial support)? Or will it go to under funded, innovative research into the causes of breast cancer?

If the donation is going to breast cancer services, is it reaching the people most in need, in the most effective way? The Breast Cancer Site store, for example, donates money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which helps pay for mammograms for women who cannot afford them. But mammograms are already covered for low-income women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Although this screening program does have limitations, what is most needed is the funding to get low-income women treatment if breast cancer is found.

What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies that raise funds for breast cancer also make products that are linked to the disease. BCA calls these companies “pinkwashers.” BMW, for example, gives $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each time you test-drive one of their cars, even though pollutants found in car exhaust are linked to breast cancer. Many cosmetics companies whose products contain chemicals linked to breast cancer also sell their items for the cause. Pinkwashers would make a much more valuable contribution to women’s lives if they made safer products, instead of wrapping themselves in the pink ribbon.

Contribute to a Cause, Not Cause-Marketers

Some of these answers will be easy to find, some won’t be. But you’re entitled to know, and the companies marketing these products should provide this information.

You might not always be able to make an informed decision while you’re standing in the store. Make the best choice you can with the information you have. If you have trouble getting answers or if you feel that a promotion is questionable, write to the company responsible, consider buying a different product, and tell your friends about Think Before You Pink.

To learn more visit Breast Cancer Action and Think Before You Pink.

October is Here!

It looks like October is a busy month for everyone! All of my friends involved with the paranormal are reaping the benefits of the one time of the year when everyone wants to hear about what they do. All of my Wiccan/Pagan friends are getting geared up to celebrate Samhain, and enjoy the opportunity to use the holiday to educate others about their faith. Of course for everyone else there is Halloween. Now is the time to start marking your calendars for all the stuff happening this month.

My October is hectic. Here are just a few of the awesome things going on this month that I’m going to partaking of:

October 24, 2008 – Richard Thompson, live in concert at The Egg! The man is a legend and with good reason. Click here to see why, and then envy me if you can’t attend.

October 26, 2008 – P3 in Plattsburgh, NY. My good friends, the NNYPRS, are hosting their first paranormal event. Not only is it free, but I will be a member of their panel discussion! If you’re anywhere remotely close, it’s going to be worth the drive to check it out. Click here for details.

October 31, 2008 – Henry Rollins, The Recountdown Tour. While everyone else is getting their paranormal, Samhain, and/or Halloween groove on I will be enjoying an engaging evening of a Rollins spoken word show. Funny, smart, and edgy, if you ever have the chance to check out one of these shows, don’t pass it up! Click here if you’re in the Albany, NY area and want details. Click here for more tour dates.

Of course as hard as it is to imagine, it’s not all about me and what I’m doing. There are loads of other things going on in October. For starters, there is Salem, MA. I’ve yet to experience the Witchcraft overload of October in Salem, but it is on the to do list! Click here for just a taste of what “Witch City” has to offer! A few other things worth noting:

October 25, 2008 – Trinity Temple’s Witches Ball. These guys know how to have a good time! Click here for info.

October 26, 2008 – A Witches Tea at The Crystal Tea Room. This sounds like so much fun it makes me wish I lived in Indiana! Click here for details.

October 26, 2008 – Albany Comic Con. A convention for comic geeks in the capital of New York state! Click here for info.

October 31, 2008 – A special Halloween séance at the Holistic Studies Institute. I attended last year and trust me, show up early. The place was packed, and with good reason…it was a great time! Click here for details.

This is just a tiny glimpse of all the awesome and varied events going on in October. Take some time to poke around on line and I’m sure you’ll find stuff going on where you live. And hey, got an event you think is cool and want to let people know about? Why not post the details in the comment section of this post? Be sure to list date, time, and location.

Sketch Please!

Under the category of just delightfully clever, I want to just tell all you guys about this awesome website called Sketch Please.

Just what is Sketch Please? Take two artists (John Conger and Jason Adam) looking for a way to motivate and challenge each other, then add in allowing everyone in cyberspace to look in on the experiment and you have the origins of Sketch Please. From their site, “Sketch Please started in 2005 as a bet between two artists and friends as a way to help motivate each other to continue drawing — no matter what. Do one drawing per week on a specific theme, or forfeit one of your comics. You have until Sunday at midnight to email out your sketch or else you fail.”

Their rooster has now grown to a core group of four: John Conger, Jason Adam, Lizzy Lane, and Will Hobbs (you know, the guy who creates almost every lick of art for The Magical Buffet, including the awesome banner). Things may be getting more crowded as the site looks towards making it open to the public.

I love the creativity and challenge of the site. Every week a new topic, every week new art. And it’s out there, on the internet, to be viewed and commented on. I would not have the guts to do that!

I think it’s an intriguing format. I’m trying to convince my husband to start a site called “Campaign Please” with a similar concept except replace original art with original seed stories for roleplaying campaigns (although I refuse to have anyone lose comic books…those are marital property now!). Maybe with a theme each week, maybe not. You heard about it here first! As did my husband.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a website like nothing else you’ve seen before, head on over to Sketch Please.