I’ve been meaning to get this on the blog since the performance, but life gets in the way of blogging. So here it is – my first Stand Up Comedy performance. Next show is end of August…
I’ve been meaning to get this on the blog since the performance, but life gets in the way of blogging. So here it is – my first Stand Up Comedy performance. Next show is end of August…
First, a little backstory.
Many months ago, I was interviewed by Aja Romano for what ultimately became this article. I really should have known better. Aja’s name has shown up on the various wank sites more often than I have. I should have known it wasn’t the best idea, but I didn’t research her history. I thought, given her previous tumblr post warning people about Andy and her previous article about the cult I was in, that she would write an article that would…well, that wouldn’t glorify Andy’s cult-building.
Clearly, I was very mistaken.
Aja blamed her editors at the daily dot and immediately sent me a copy of the draft article that was supposedly very different from the published piece (spoiler alert – it wasn’t)
After the fact, she said she was going to release the various interviews she did with former cult members. I made it clear that I would release the draft she sent me (without any specifications that it be kept private, despite the disclaimers both on this blog and my tumblr) if she failed to release them by the date she chose – March 31.
Below is my correspondence with the Daily Dot editor.
“I am the Managing Editor at The Daily Dot, which owns and operates the Kernel. I am writing to you about the recent article about Andrew Blake written by one of our staff writers, Aja Romano.
Thank you for corresponding so extensively with Ms. Romano in connection with the story. I know that opening up about your personal experiences was emotional and time consuming, and we sincerely appreciate your time and candor.
I understand that you are dissatisfied with the version of the story that we ultimately published and feel that the published version did not reflect what you thought it would (or should). I wanted to explain our editorial decisions and address some important issues surrounding the story.
As you know, the Daily Dot and the Kernel are leading online newspapers. As news organizations, we take pride in — and hold ourselves to — strict journalistic standards of honesty, integrity, objectivity, and transparency. As with most first drafts of our stories, the original version of this story did not meet our rigorous standards and needed a significant amount of editing. The piece was too long, too one-sided, and not sourced well enough to be published. Accordingly, our editors, as they do with all our stories, reviewed, fact-checked, and revised the piece.
The published version of the story was the product of our standard operating procedures and reflected our journalistic standards. We are proud of the story.
We are unhappy, however, with some of Ms. Romano’s interactions with you, including certain promises she made. Specifically, Ms. Romano, as an employee of the Daily Dot, is not — and was never — authorized to share earlier drafts of the story with you or any other source. Though her intentions may have been good, Ms. Romano’s decision to provide you with an unfinished draft of the story was a lapse in her professional judgement. Doing so violated not only our internal procedures, but also our copyright in the story, which is owned and controlled solely by the Daily Dot. Furthermore, Ms. Romano has no authority — and therefore should not have promised — to post, publish, or provide you or any other source with the transcripts of her interviews. Again, the transcripts are owned by the Daily Dot, and only the Daily Dot has the right to control their dissemination.
We understand from your March 10, 2015 Tumblr post that you intend to release the unedited version of the story at the end of this month if Ms. Romano does not post all of the interview transcripts associated with this story. As noted above, the decision of whether to post the transcripts is not Ms. Romano’s to make, so please direct any further coorespondence regarding this story to me.
We are planning to publish the interviews, but it will be done to our standards and on our own timetable. First, as you can certainly appreciate, we need to honor any requests made by our interviewees at the time Ms. Romano conducted the interview. For example, if something was disclosed under conditions of confidentiality or off the record, we need to respect those conditions and either not publish that particular transcript or redact certain portions of it, as applicable. Second, if there are any statements of fact that could be regarded as defamatory and could expose the Daily Dot to legal liability, we will need to redact those portions. Given the two foregoing requirements and the sheer breadth of the interview material that will need to be reviewed by us and our legal counsel, this process will take time. We estimate it will require around four weeks.
I trust that this satisfies your concerns. Please understand that we are not offering to publish the transcripts in response to any threats, but in the interest of transparency and closure.
In light of my assurances to you to publish the interview transcripts as set forth above, please confirm to me that you will honor you promise to Ms. Romano and not publish or distribute the pre-publication draft of the article. In addition, I request that you delete any copies you may have of the original article, as it is the copyrighted property of the Daily Dot, and Ms. Romano had no right to share it with you. Please understand that the draft of the story you have contained a host of potentially problematic issues, and any publication could expose anyone publishing it — including you — to legal liability from third parties.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Everybody got that?
I was displeased, to say the least, at this development. Furthermore, I was down with a nasty cold most of last week, so I let my rage (and virus) simmer until I finally sent my reply on March 29. Here it is:
Dear Mr. Powell,
It is certainly your right to be proud of the article you have published. I would expect any legitimate publication to stand by their own stories.
However, you are failing to note that in taking on a subject like Andrew Blake, you were knowingly taking on a risk. When you publish an article about a known abuser and cult leader, the risk that some statements may appear “defamatory” must surely be accepted. A failure to accept this risk results only in the sidelining and silencing of victims, as is evident from your final published article. This is what you must redress with the publication of interviews, and this is where your priority must lie if you are to be taken seriously as a “leading online newspaper”.
It is of course understandable that you seek to protect yourselves from litigation, but you also have an ethical responsibility to Andy’s past and potential victims, a responsibility that in my opinion you failed to meet. You published an article that portrayed an abuser and cult leader as a fascinating person, one who might be “worth the risk” of involvement. It was your choice to end it on that note. You also allowed Aja Romano, your reporter, to utterly fail to interrogate Andy on his many excuses and claims, claims that the article could have at least questioned without fear of legal reprisal. (For example, in the interview, Andrew Blake admits to sexual abuse of victims, offering spurious defense, and yet Ms. Romano had no further questions on that topic, apparently. This is an astonishing oversight for someone who represents herself as a professional journalist and an appalling opportunity offered to an admitted sexual abuser to excuse his own behavior.)
You must also accept responsibility for the unethical treatment of Andy Blake’s past victims. I am extremely unhappy with Ms. Romano and her interactions with both me and my fellow victims. She has been rude, dismissive and extremely sloppy in her “research” and her treatment of all of us. Many of us have openly stated that we feel dirty and used in the wake of her interactions and the article that she produced. Again, though you are not legally responsible for such treatment, you are ethically responsible.
Further ethical responsibility must be accepted by you regarding your use of Brittany Quinn’s tragic death and your total misrepresentation of the blogs known as “Andy Awareness” blogs. I can only hope that the publication of interviews by you will go some way towards redressing the several wrongs committed by you in the publication of this irresponsible article.
As regards the draft shared by Ms. Romano, if she had no authorization to share it, or to make any promises regarding the release of information and interview transcripts, perhaps this is something you should take up with her. Particularly , particularly since she has publicly and consistently blamed her editors as being at fault. Her continued unprofessional behavior reflects very badly on The Daily Dot, and I know that I am not alone in my opinion.
Ms. Romano sent me the draft article with no statements indicating that it was to be kept in confidence. I quote from her original email here:
“This is the version I filed before any edits at all, including self-editing. The final version had been hacked down by me (I cut 4,000 words in a shorter version but filed this version too), and then it was gone over again by three different supervising editors and a copy editor.
Any mistakes and factual errors in this version are all mine. I will say that the last section, the mention about AB “forgetting to give me an answer,” was written before his last-minute email, which my editor insisted on quoting a huge chunk of. i just hate how much AB got direct-quoted in that article. ugh, i hate it.
I have clearly stated on my blog and my tumblr, “Any correspondence may be published in whole or in part at my sole discretion unless specified as private.” As you can see from the email excerpt above, Ms. Romano made no such indication that this was private. As such, although I had yet to publish any version of the draft article, I have already shared it with a number of my fellow victims/interviewees. I will be forwarding your notice to them so that they may protect themselves, but I will not be held responsible for your reporter’s actions and negligence both in sending it to me to begin with and in failing to specify that it was to be kept in confidence. Your attempt to place the responsibility on me for limiting the distribution of this article is highly inappropriate, as are your vague threats of legal reprisal.
Nevertheless, I can assure you that I won’t be publishing the draft on my blog. I’m a wife, mother and very small time blogger and have no interest in the vendetta of a publication that employs journalists such as Aja Romano. I haven’t the resources to fight a copyright claim, and I would like very much to have no further dealings with Ms. Romano. I have deleted my own copy of the draft, but I cannot and will not be held responsible for other copies that already exist and have been shared, nor will I refrain from commentary regarding this article, Ms. Romano’s behavior, or this entire situation.
I have worked very hard to regain my own reputation as an honest person, both personally and online. I am extremely incensed that your employee has caused this situation, and put me in this position. I had no notable contact with Ms. Romano prior to her contacting me about this article, and it was I who put her in contact with many of Andy Blake’s victims. I don’t take well to being used as Ms. Romano has used me, and I deeply resent that she was able to hurt people through my vouching for her.
I look forward to reading the released copies of the interviews. I also hold myself accountable in terms of honesty, integrity, objectivity and transparency. It is in that spirit that I will be publishing our correspondence, both to my tumblr and to my blog.
So what happens now?
I have not yet heard a reply from The Daily Dot. However, I am well aware that more than one interviewee intend to self-publish their interviews, or have sent them to me with requests and permission to publish them. That means that it won’t be that long before at least some of the material Aja and The Daily Dot are withholding will be available. Also, as I stated in the letter above, I had already shared copies of the draft article (which had no specification that I was not to when it was sent). That means that, although I have contacted all of those parties and told them not to publish it, there will undoubtedly be commentary forthcoming.
It’s been one year today since the tragic and preventable death of Gavin Michael. In that year I’ve become friends with his mother, Danielle, whom I blogged about here. She later said it helped her see how she was being manipulated by midwife Christy Collins.
In the last year, not one person responsible for Gavin’s death has so much as expressed sadness for it – let alone guilt, grief or responsibility. Jan Tritten, Midwifery Today magazine, Christy Collins – nothing. Except to ban and delete all evidence that it ever happened.
Don’t let them hide another unnecessary, completely preventable baby death. Don’t let them bury another child twice.
I was interviewed by MotherJones.com some time ago about my son’s life and death. I have tried to make a post ever since, especially with all the anti choice legislation and seas of misinformation out there. But I just haven’t been able to. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus as I focus on my living son, my husband, my family and my job.
I’m still around. I update my Tumblr on occasion and express my creativity through arts and crafts. Lately, papercraft.
I have a half dozen almost-finished posts, but I’m so stressed about how tomorrow’s article will go that I haven’t made much progress on any of them.
I spent an hour on one tonight only to have the computer eat it, so this is the best I have. If you’re new here, welcome. Most of what I write is about my life and my history. My son’s death and my experiences with it are here. I’ve got lots of archives and new work is always forthcoming. Read and enjoy, and forgive a busy mom for putting life above prompt blog posts.
It’s 3:44 am and I cannot sleep.
After two hours of trying to drift off and being barely able to lie still enough to avoid keeping my husband awake along with me (truly unfair, as he works tomorrow morning and I don’t have to be functional until my sweet son comes home from Grammy’s at 9). I could theoretically get up to five hours of sleep if my brain would turn off for even a moment, but it won’t. It’s replaying my night, reveling in the best moments. My heart feels so full it aches right now, in a way that I can’t quite put words to. I feel inspired and humbled, ecstatic and embarrassed, proud and shy.
Tonight, I met my heroes.
I knew months ago that Penn & Teller would be doing a show at Spirit Mountain Casino. It was such a given that I’d go that it didn’t occur to me that I might not get a ticket – that the show would sell out weeks before we could afford even the cheapest tickets. But sell out they did (no surprise, really) and my husband and Diamond both just shrugged and moved on. I, being the one who tends to be a bit larger than life, would have been devastated under most circumstances. Somehow, though, I wasn’t.
Nope, I just decided after barely a moment’s deflation that to hell with that, I was going to go to that casino and just wait until the show let out. I’m a fan; I know these guys hang out in the lobby until the last fan waiting has met them and been selfied or autographed or whatever. I wanted to see the show, but what I really wanted was to meet them and say Thank You. Thank them and tell them a little about how much of a difference Bullshit! made in my life, for ill and later for good.
It was a magical night, full of a luck that I don’t usually encounter for an event I’ve built up this much in my mind. I left at five, fingers crossed that my husband’s suggestion of asking about no-shows at the box office would work. I made good time, chugging along I-5 and listening to Stephen King,’s It, too excited to stop for more than a cup of coffee. I got there and went to the box office and was given one of three remaining seats. Good seat too, on the floor, 15 rows back, not too far from center. I could see and hear and was so hopped up on anticipation that I couldn’t even read the program I’d bought.
The show was great – I can’t do it justice with words. Much of it was quieter and more intimate than I would have expected. Seeing them making the audience complicit on tv doesn’t capture the true magic of it in person. They did one of my favorite bits – the one where they symbolically burn the flag. It was nearly identical to the ones I’ve seen, both on Bullshit! and on youtube (I watch it every year on July 4th). It was like watching a dance – one that made me laugh and tear up at once. And the last gag was nothing big or explosive – just the two of them, Penn talking quietly, mostly lit by a candle, and ultimately eating fire. It reminded me less of a grand finale than of sitting by a fire at the end of a night, listening to one last story before bed.
Out in the lobby, it was madness. I waited patiently – more still and silent than anyone who knows me would ever believe. I mostly just stood and watched; tried not to stare like a creeper. Eventually the lobby emptied to just a handful of fans, those few of us with stars in our eyes, exchanging looks that were a mixture of camaraderie and wariness. We all knew why we were there – we wanted to go last and get to have a conversation, not just a souvenir.
I don’t talk about it publicly, but I’ve met a whole lot of celebrities since Project Elanor. I’ve got a bit of pride about the fact that I have kept my wits and been able to… well, to be my usual “public” self – confident, gregarious, casual. But not this time. This time I had to force myself talk. I stammered; I had trouble getting the words out; I blushed furiously and hung back.
I felt humbled to be in the presence of these men that I respect on such a deep level – as a comedian, a writer, a performer, a skeptic… I am not joking when I say they’re heroes to me. But they were both so kind – and so different than I expected. Penn called everybody “Boss” and was soft-spoken and listened intently to what people had to say – when they got his attention, which was prone to wander. He also looked exhausted enough that I felt mildly guilty to be one of the last hangers-on. (ETA: I think he’s sick – he skipped Sunday school)
But I pushed through enough to stammer out a very truncated version of my story. I told Penn that I’d been in a small cult. He immediately said, “I’m so sorry!” I smiled and said that I’m all better now, and then told him that the leader had us watch Bullshit! and explain away what Penn was saying. He nodded and then doubled back. “You mean, like, trying to debunk us?” he said. “No, I mean he was explaining to us why what he was doing wasn’t what you were debunking,” I managed to say. Penn laughed. “I wanted to understand!” he said and patted my arm, and then was on to the next adoring fan.
Teller, on the other hand, was bright and eager, friendly and welcoming in a way that was almost totally unexpected. It’s hard to describe Teller in person – so different from Teller on television. His near-silent performance has so much nuance that the camera doesn’t do justice, and his interactions in the lobby had a very different feel. I was unprepared for the full attention he gave me – and every fan – and wasn’t able to do more than stammer my gratitude for the show – all the shows over the years – and take a picture, and then sheepishly ask for his autograph. “I usually don’t, but Penn kind of signed it before I even asked,” I said, feeling stupid. But Teller is a class act and signed it, indicated that symmetry is important, and just seemed to try to make me (and everyone else) feel at ease and as comfortable as he clearly was.
At the end of the night, I left with a ticket stub, an autographed program, the photos I’ve posted here, and a heart over-brimming with joy and gratitude. It’s an hour since I started this post (and, admittedly, three shots of vodka) and I’m no closer to sleep than I was when I began. All I can think of is what I wish I’d said, what I want to say next time, and what an amazing dream come true it was to meet them both. I came away feeling inspired and ready to work all the harder on my writing, performing and comedy. Instead of the horror I felt in the wake of Project Elanor and Tentmoot. It was a revelation – this is what it is supposed to be like to meet a hero. Not shame; joy. Not horror; honor. Not ignominy; inspiration.
I hosted an AMA on my livejournal last month, and finally completed all the questions. You can read it here.
New content over at Off the Rails:
I still miss Jason. More than you’d think it was possible to miss someone that, technically, you’ve only seen in person three or four times in the last several years. I’m finally coming out of that tunnel of untapped anguish now. Ever since he was killed, I haven’t felt much more than this awful, gnawing, numbing ache. To quote, of all things, Lord of the Rings….”I feel stretched, like butter over too much bread.” And there’s been little to no creativity, at least writing-wise, in that aching nothing.
I’m finally starting to just cry sometimes. Watching the new Half in the Bag (which, ironically, Jason hated) broke through. They were talking about how the best thing about a certain bad movie is watching it with someone who hasn’t seen it yet and watching their reaction to the absurdity. And suddenly the sorrow was loosed, as I remember the last day I saw Jason, days before he left us all. When I sat him (with Diamond) down and made him watch Sharknado. And laughed with joy at his repeated shouts of, “What the SHIT is going ON??!?!? WHAT?!!”
Now that the sadness has broken free, I’m feeling the loss more keenly than ever. But I’m also loosed from that prison of numbness. The words are starting to flow along with the tears.
So the blogging will resume – along with the long, long overdue blog redesign, which I am grateful that Jason got to see. Thank you all for still checking in on me and the various kind condolences I’ve gotten over the weeks. It matters, more than I can say.
The “About Me” section is now online. I am working on the FAQ page update – thank you to the commenter who sent me a copy from the wayback machine!