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Jul 03 2014

TBT: Al Franken, Comic

This was originally posted in June 2008. It seems appropriate to revisit it now, six years later, when he’s up for reelection after his first term as senator. Just a comic, my ass.

I was on another blog this morning where someone was disparaging Al Franken as “this comic.” I’m crossposting my response here, because…

I’m getting tired of this “just a comic” trope. Being a successful comic, which Franken is, requires a number of talents useful to a politician. It requires you to be able to communicate to a broad range of people. It requires you to look through things that are “supposed to” be to see what is. It requires an ability keep your audience on your side while making them uncomfortable.

Now, sure, a comedian can take all that and never apply it beyond battle-of-the-sexes jokes. Maybe I don’t want that comedian to be a politician. But that isn’t what Franken has done. Have you read Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them or his other political books? Franken used his talents to dissect the conservative policy machine when almost no one else was doing it. He could have just taken potshots at personalities, but instead, he combined the potshots with substantial information on why those policies are based on bunk and actively hurtful.

So when someone dismisses Franken as a comic, I have to wonder. Have they paid no attention to Franken, or are they shilling for the other team and expecting that I’m too dumb to notice they don’t have any better arguments?

Jul 03 2014

How to Moderate a Panel

So you’re thinking about running a session for FtBCon, but you haven’t moderated a panel discussion before. Or you ran one, but you didn’t feel that you knew quite how to make it go the way you wanted it to. We’re here to help.

Graphic of call for proposals. All information included in the link above the image.

Moderating a panel discussion, like most complex skills, looks effortless when done by someone with experience. It’s easy to underestimate how much work it is until you’re the person expected to keep things moving, on topic, interesting, and interactive all at once. Here’s a guide to make it easier when you find yourself in that position with no idea what to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 02 2014

The Reading List, 7/2/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

  • What actually happened at Edinburgh Central Mosque–”A religious ban on bacon from shared secular space would have me up in arms. But one doesn’t have to accept religious doctrine to see desecrating private houses of worship as an intimidation tactic; look at how the Nazis went about it.”
  • How I learned to stop worrying and love their #ListeningToMenFace–”After laughing my way through the first few dozen entries I saw, the sheer weight of numbers began to wear me down. Had it become, I asked myself, something of a misandrist parade?”
  • Flirting At Conferences–”It is selfish pigge behavior to expect other people to suffer for your social ineptness, and that expectation itself is exactly a symptom of what ails you.”
  • My zombie story–”The zombie plague was a dud. When the first cases emerged, scattered around the globe, everyone knew exactly how to put them down: destroy the brain.”

The Wider Web

Jul 01 2014

Between Now and November 4

So you’re upset about yesterday’s Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision that says your company can have a religion, and if it does, its religious rights trump your rights to affordable medical care. Good. You should be upset. You should be upset about most of the rulings the Supreme Court has been putting out over the last several years and this year in particular.

What are you going to do about it?

You can’t change the makeup of the court without illegal and arguably immoral actions, but this is not an acceptable situation. How are you going to change it?
Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 30 2014

Start Your CONvergence Early with Quiz-O-Tron

Will you be in the Twin Cities Wednesday evening, just waiting for CONvergence and SkepchickCon to start? Come on down to the Bryant-Lake Bowl for Quiz-O-Tron. Rebecca Watson explains.

You know you’ve got a good show going when the professional birder on stage continually threatens to steal the show from the professional comedians. Quiz-O-Tron will be a great show, and the BLB is a great place to grab a meal. Plus, if all that’s not enough to pull you into the theater, proceeds from the show help pay to bring scientists and skeptics into town for SkepchickCon.

Jun 30 2014

Mock the Movie Postponed

Due to the holiday weekend and the timing of SkepchickCon, Mock the Movie is postponed until the second Wednesday this month. Catch us next week when we offer you a little Rowdy Roddy Piper. That’s worth waiting for, right?

Jun 29 2014

The Reading List, 6/29/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Jun 28 2014

Congratulations, Richard Dawkins

Dear Professor Dawkins, congratulations on your new intellectual peer group–the slime pit.

For those of you not yet in the loop, on Tuesday, Dawkins suggested that “Shakespeare Schubert Darwin Einstein” should be the people chosen to represent humanity to hypothetical alien intelligences. At the time, he did suggest that other people would have other opinions and even suggested he would be interested in hearing them. On Thursday, however, when someone tweeted at him that they didn’t want humanity represented by “only old white guys”, Dawkins turned around and asked “”Old white guys”? Who then would you choose as a better poet than Shakespeare, better scientist than Einstein . . . etc ?”

After Dawkins moved his recommendations up the ladder from personal choices to “the best”, the following conversation occurred.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 28 2014

Saturday Storytime: Toad Words

Ursula Vernon has, among many other things, won a Hugo for her graphic novel Digger and created the lovely, wonderful Morally Ambiguous Honey Badgers. This week, she did this.

Frogs fall out of my mouth when I talk. Toads, too.

It used to be a problem.

There was an incident when I was young and cross and fed up with parental expectations. My sister, who is the Good One, has gold and gems fall from her lips, and since I could not be her, I had to go a different way.

So I got frogs. It happens.

“You’ll grow into it,” the fairy godmother said. “Some curses have cloth-of-gold linings.” She considered this, and her finger drifted to her lower lip, the way it did when she was forgetting things. “Mind you, some curses just grind you down and leave you broken. Some blessings do that too, though. Hmm. What was I saying?”

I spent a lot of time not talking. I got a slate and wrote things down. It was hard at first, but I hated to drop the frogs in the middle of the road. They got hit by cars, or dried out, miles away from their damp little homes.

Toads were easier. Toads are tough. After awhile, I learned to feel when a word was a toad and not a frog. I could roll the word around on my tongue and get the flavor before I spoke it. Toad words were drier. Desiccated is a toad word. So is crisp and crisis and obligation. So are elegant and matchstick.

Frog words were a bit more varied. Murky. Purple. Swinging. Jazz.

I practiced in the field behind the house, speaking words over and over, sending small creatures hopping into the evening.  I learned to speak some words as either toads or frogs. It’s all in the delivery.

Love is a frog word, if spoken earnestly, and a toad word if spoken sarcastically. Frogs are not good at sarcasm.

Toads are masters of it.

Keep reading.

Jun 27 2014

“39 Unconvincing Arguments for God”, August Berkshire on Atheists Talk

How many bad arguments are there for the existence of god(s)? Well, there are probably a lot more than 39, but that’s the number that Minnesota Atheists past president August Berkshire addresses in his latest publication. Inspired by his interactions with students over the years he’s been a guest lecturer on atheism and humanism, he’s been building a list of common lay apologetics and their counters. These are just a few of the topics he covers:

  • God Is Intangible, Like Love
  • The Argument from Motion
  • The Argument from Embarrassment
  • Free Will

This Sunday, he joins us in the studio to talk about the kinds of bad arguments people make and the ways that they’re flawed.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

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