Category Archives: Blogger

A martian giraffe drawn by PZ Myers

Atheist Blogger and Writer PZ Myers

Professor PZ Myers in London

PZ Myers (@pzmyers) is a biologist an professor here at the University of Minnesota, Morris, who is best known for his blog Pharyngula and because of it is often ranked on lists of the most influential living atheists. He also has a book coming out in Spring 2012 that some are predicting may make him the Fifth Horseman of New Atheism. Yeah, almost-South-Dakota Minnesota is pretty great.

Unfortunately, though he lives only a few blocks from me I don’t get as many opportunities to talk to him about politics and science as I would wish. In fact, on the few occasions we’re in the same room I tend to sweat nervously and try my damndest to make sure that the buttons on my shirt are in direct vertical alignment with my belt buckle (as every good gentleman knows). The consequence of this is some of the most awkward silence I have ever been a part of. And I’m a fairly awkward guy.

Because the story of how this giraffe was obtained is not really that interesting (the Morris Freethinkers, Jen McCreight and PZ Myers were in a small town bar; he drew a giraffe to humor a kid with a giraffe fetish; I feel ashamed for killing the conversation) I will try my best to compensate by sharing a story that often comes to memory. It’s nothing exciting, I’ll admit, but meh.

In 2009 PZ was named the Humanist of the Year by The Humanist, a magazine about critical inquiry and social concern, and was given a very nice little award that he can carry around to show people that he’s not just a New Atheist but also a Humanist. At least that was the explanation he gave for lugging the award to a public lecture he was giving about the New Atheists. After a lively discussion – and at times, debate – the room cleared out and a few of those interested in continuing the conversation (including PZ) made their way across campus where the Morris Freethinkers (James, Kele and I) and the Morris Philosophy Club had an opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions. All in all, it was an exciting little event made all the more so by the fact that several of the campus’ most opinionated professors were trying to rattling each other’s cages. With the night carrying on a little later than perhaps anticipated for, the spectators (and even the participants) began to dwindle until there were only a few folks left, of which I happened to be one of them.

Getting ready to head out, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that PZ, who was already gone by this point, had forgotten his award. Uncertain as to what the next step would be, we happened to be lucky because one of my friends had his phone number was able to give him a quick ring; he was already across campus, but he was willing to wait for us to catch up. In a rush to head out the door I made the mistake of laying my bare hands upon the statue, which sent my mind into a rush – images of pain, suffering, reason, logic and Carl Sagan flashing and flaring.

Photograph taken by Milek Jakubiec

I awoke on the floor to Kele’s soft hand upon my forehead, asking, “What did you see?”

My lips could not formulate words, only tremble. As my vision began to refocus I caught myself gasping for air, unable now to breathe as a single static image held itself in my mind. Without thinking I turned to the garbage can that had been placed beside me, and lest I be too graphic (or sound too foolish), dear reader, I’ll simply say that unfortunately the great vastness of the English lexicon fails me. I can only imagine in the abstract, with the trouble expected from my mortal frame, such descriptors, but I believe them to be very themes of the Poetry of Cthulhu.

“Don’t worry,” there was nonchalance in Kele’s voice, “it happens to all of us.”

Echoes of screams and A.C. Grayling’s lecture on Darwin, Humanism and Science beat upon my skull with every pulse. There are no words.

“‘Everything has been said, but not everyone has said it yet,’” Kele said.

He could read in my eyes my confusion as I spit out, “what?”

“It’s from the Grayling lecture; again, the Humanist netherworld recycles the same lectures,” James said as he lifted me to a chair, making sure the garbage can was never too far from me. “Oddly enough though, Mark got a chapter from The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Who’s Mark?” I asked.

Their eyes failed to meet mine as they turned to the window, the evening breeze leaking in, the moon wondering how the tides go in and out. “Only the truly damned get Dawkins.”

I have never asked about nor have I ever heard about Mark ever again.

“Bu- But how?”

“Haven’t you caught on?”

The room was spinning. I was descending into the caves of madness, where even a flicker of light sends shadows dancing upon the walls. “It’s a -” I paused, unable (or was I unwilling?) to accept what these shades were whispering, miming, a carnival of specters offering hollow warnings of -

“Horcrux.”

The word rolled off my lips like raindrops upon a great canopy, collecting until the momentary burst when it all falls like a shower upon the life below. “It’s a Horcrux. A Horcrux. Horcrux.”

My answer was greeted only with nods, the room solemn that I had to learn this through experience. James filled the silence, “He’s had it for a while now.”

I was struck, “Is this it?”

“No, there are more – his iPad, his beard, the basilisk cephalopod he keeps in his office – this is but one of many, each containing a little part of the Fifth Horseman.”

Before I could ask any more questions Kele wrapped the award in a small towel, careful not to lay his skin upon it. Life was slowly returning to my legs as I was helped to my feet and led to the doorway, but before we could even close the door a soft, gentle voice greeted us.

“Oh, hello! You were taking a while so I figured I would start walking toward you, but apparently you never left.” A thin smile spread across his face, “Do you have my … award?” His arms shot out to grab it from Kele’s hands before a reply could even be uttered. “I’m sure you know how much this means to me.”

A great chill ran up my spine.

A martian giraffe drawn by PZ Myers

Anyway, here’s a “Martian Giraffe.”

Chris Stedman's Pretty Awful Giraffe

Writer and Blogger Chris Stedman

For as much as I enjoy hyping up the website I must say that this post marks a great turning point in the history of Pretty Awful Giraffes; it marks the first time we have ever actually been contacted by someone who should not be drawing a giraffe. So it was with great joy I was able to find this on the Twitter account a few days ago:

ChrisDStedman:

@AwfulGiraffes Bahaha! I love your website more than I can say. And you’re from Minnesota?! Too awesome for words. Keep it up!

And,

@AwfulGiraffes P.S. I’d be honored to draw a giraffe! Hilariously enough, when I doodle I mostly draw giraffes. Not that they’re good…

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University and the Managing Director of State of Formation, a new initiative at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. A fellow Minnesotan and graduate of Augsburg College, Stedman is also the founder and author of the blog NonProphet Status. In addition to this he writes for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog and The Huffington Post. Lastly, as if all of this was not accomplishment enough, he works to foster positive and productive dialogue between faith communities and the nonreligious and is currently writing a memoir related to this work for Beacon Press.

Frankly, I could go on and on about all of the great things Chris is doing but it would probably just make you feel bad. In fact, you might reach the conclusion that you’re just a twenty-something on the prairie who spends his time on the internet anonymously harassing Gary Snyder and David Silverman because they are unwilling (read: mature) to draw pictures of African animals; being emotionally attached to this project, every criticism you write will only be punctuated with tears. (Hypothetically speaking, of course).

I’ve digressed.

Convening the editorial review board (we never rubber stamp here) there were major reservations about whether or not Chris fit the general requirements of someone who should not be drawing a giraffe (after all he did explicitly state that he frequently draws giraffe). This great mission statement/identity debate went on for almost all of three minutes before we reached a consensus: it only seemed right to give a fellow Minnesotan a chance. Chris Stedman would be the next name to enter the GDBPWSNBDG canon.

Alerting him of this immense honor and privilege (something I’m sure he will now include on his blog’s biography page *cough*), we inferred a tone in his reaction Tweet reminiscent of a child getting the Nerf Super Soaker Hydro Cannon for Christmas.

@AwfulGiraffes Wow, thanks! It’s a deal! What’s the best way for me to do this? DM me if you want my email.

In addition to this he was even kind enough to attach a little note.

I’m not sure if this is cheating but yes, I drew my giraffe in Paint. And yes, I downloaded Paint specifically for this purpose. I drew it on my laptop with the touchpad, which was much harder than I anticipated. 

In case it isn’t clear: this is an image of a baby giraffe hanging out on my lap, and we’re friends (the heart should be a major hint). Because when you spend as much time working in front of the computer as I do, having imaginary cartoon giraffe friends is what you’re reduced to. But as someone who is working to bridge diverse communities, I’m not going to let differences like “one of us doesn’t actually exist” get in the way of our friendship! 

Finally: your website is awesome. Thanks again for inviting me to contribute.

Chris Stedman and A Pretty Awful Giraffe (May 2, 2011)

I’m not going to make any inappropriate jokes about where the giraffe is coming from. None.

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Blogger and Deep Sea Biologist “Southern Fried Scientist”

Late on Thursday (or was it a very early Friday?) I was surprised to find a mention to the @AwfulGiraffes  twitter account (a mention and its context now lost to my ignorance of the site’s functions) from @SFriedScientist from SouthernFriedScience.com, a science blog run by three Carolinian graduate students with an interest in marine biology. Thinking it may be a long shot, I figured I’d extend an invitation to him to contribute to the website. It didn’t take long to get the following reply:

@SFriedScientist: @AwfulGiraffes at the rate @kzelnio and I are drinking, there is real potential for a DNS/SFS collaborative giraffe.”

Shortly thereafter I received this – what I can only perceive to be a threat:

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Offensive. Fucking offensive.

I am sick and tired of people portraying scenes of giraffes being mercilessly slaughtered. No one would like to see a dead giraffe. Even more so, no one wants to see someone eating said dead giraffe. Whether one is T.C. Boyle, a mammoth excavator [giraffe still to come] or a someone who studies “population structure and connectivity of deep-sea hydrothermal vent endemic invertebrates in the Western Pacific,”  it’s still tasteless.

Dear readers, as you may already be well aware, I am not someone one could call a “scientist.” Sure, I know what you’re thinking, my literate internet pal: “But you’re a political scientist and you’re a part time lecturer on theoretical physics!” And you’re absolutely right, friend, but my biologicy background extends as far as reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) and a score of 1 on an high school AP exam. The reason why I am saying all of this is because I would like to believe that I am someone who should not be drawing snarky cartoons regarding esoteric divisions of biology that are way over my head:

"I keep boiling but these fuckers dont die."

Oh, I’m so funny!

Assuming every picture I found on Google (“Hydorthermal Vent Animals” to be an actual hydrothermal vent animal (including the Cyclops Kitten and James Cameron), I can only extend, on behalf of the world, a sincere thanks to SFriedScientist for holding back from the public’s eye the creatures perhaps best confined to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. (But not too much thanks since you totally – to the misfortune of all – failed on the James Cameron front).

Eboo Patels Pretty Awful Giraffe

Writer and Blogger Eboo Patel

[The following story comes from fellow Editorial Board Member Lucas Felts.]

Eboo Patel has been a member of Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Relationships since 2009. He is the founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international non-profit dedicated to the promotion of interfaith cooperation.

Eboo Patel is a truly inspiring man of whom I met one beautiful weekend in Decorah, IA at Luther College for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.  It was Friday night where Eboo was guiding a discussion from former Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.  I, with a twinkle in my eye, looked on as I saw two miraculous things unfolding before me.  First I saw a message being delivered with power and conviction from Shirin Ebadi promoting social justice guided by the calm collected presence of Eboo Patel.  But I also saw something else that fateful day upon that stage.  As I sat there furiously scribing away in my metahipster journal I saw giraffes on that stage.  Not living, breathing, 14-foot tall giraffes, don’t be silly how would Luther College get those in an auditorium? No, I saw the potential for some poorly drawn giraffes on that stage.

Eboo Patel is a Rhodes Scholar and one of today’s foremost experts on religion and interfaith relations.  In my humble opinion I would have to conclude that this man has no business whatsoever drawing a giraffe.  So, when the conversation had come to an end I, like any sane and fully competent person on a mission, decided to disregard the barriers preventing me from going on stage (it is a well known fact that if you act like you know what you are doing people perceive you to know what you are doing and thus don’t question you) and I approached Eboo with all the desirous emotions of a childhood boy on the verge of fulfilling his dream.  He looked me in the eyes, the aura of an important man ever looming about him, and said, “What’s up?”  More noble words may have never been spoken because in that instant I was frozen, the only thing standing between me and immortality by virtue of Giraffes was my own fear.

Nonetheless I was able to muster out, “Eboo, I have a strange request for you.  Would you draw me a giraffe?”  With a confused look on his face he grabbed the notebook from my hand and began to sketch.  He then stopped and looked at me half serious half confused and said, “I don’t know if I should be doing this,” as though there was some moral dilemma in drawing a giraffe.  Or maybe his reservations came from the terror stories floating about the internet of how US Congressman Tim Walz’s inability to draw a giraffe resulted in what may be one of the year’s biggest controversies.  Nonetheless once I assured him there was nothing to fear in contributing to the biggest revolution since the civil rights movement he then resumed, commenting briefly on how his son would love that he is doing this(it’s true, your children will love you much more if you draw a giraffe for us).  After some time spent working on his creation, he realized his giraffe looked more like a camel without humps than it did a giraffe.  Not to be discouraged, however, the final product was finished and handed back to me with a signature and the look of a man who had truly accomplished something. He also wrote giraffe at the top so the viewers of this website dedicated to drawings of giraffes would fully understand that this was, in fact, actually what he was trying to draw.

The following night Eboo gave an incredibly moving speech on interfaith relations, recurring through his speech were examples of important historical figures who promoted the idea that we are better together.  I think I can say with full confidence that when the blank page of my journal said we were better apart, Eboo Patel and his giraffe/camel said we are better together.  You can find Eboo on twitter(@EbooPatel) or you can read his blog at the Washington Post.

But there is only one place you can find his poorly drawn giraffe.  And that is right here my friends.

Eboo Patels Pretty Awful Giraffe

Jen McCreight 3 11

Atheist Blogger and Feminist Jennifer McCreight

Jen McCreight wearing a "Gay? Fine by me." t-shirtJennifer McCreight is an atheist and feminist blogger who writes over at BlagHag.com and  someone I had the pleasure of meeting when she visited the University of Minnesota-Morris on March 23, 2011. As part of a small lecture tour she was doing across the state during her spring spring she came to the campus to speak about “God’s Lady Problem: Breaking Up with Supernatural Beings,” which was both edgy and controversial. And how it could it not be – she equated one’s relationship to God with that of an abusive relationship according to the established and accepted signs of such a relationship? Though the turnout was about 30-40, I counted only about one walkout.

She is perhaps most known as the main organizer behind Boobquake (4/26/10), a “humorous exercise in scientific and skeptical thinking” seeking to disprove the claims of Iranian Islamic scholar Kazem Seddiqi‘s who believes that “women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.” Needless to say the results were pretty straightforward: boobs do not cause earthquakes. Who would have thought?

Also, for someone with both activist/scientific success and a popular blog under her belt she is surprisingly apt at drawing giraffes.