Dan Arel is a writer, journalist, speaker, and secular advocate who writes on humanist values such as secular parenting, church and state separation, and secularism in public policy. He has contributed pieces to the Huffington Post, Alternet, and is a Special Correspondent to American Atheists. Additionally, he is an editor and writer for the Richard Dawkins Foundation. In our interview we talked about the 9/11 memorial, the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Debate, and how Dan went from being a religious believer to a non-believer. Visit his website here and follow him on Twitter @danarel.
Rex Huppke is a humble guy, but I like to think of him as a national treasure. His writing manages to make important subjects palatable to wide audiences, and also somehow makes serious topics funny. His articles are smart, clever, and witty. His satirical obituary for facts was named one of Time Magazine’s Top Ten Opinion Pieces of 2012, and became a viral hit. My interview explores how he handles feedback from readers, how he went from engineer to writer, and what it was like to be in the room when the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was executed. Follow him on Twitter @RexHuppke and visit The Chicago Tribune to read his work.
My guest today was recently honored as a living legend by the Human Symphony Foundation, and she truly deserves the title. Jane Elliott is an internationally known educator who was made famous by her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. she wanted to introduce her Iowa grade school students to the horrors of racism in a way they could understand. She assigned her students inferiority/superiority based solely on eye color. Her exercise has since been duplicated around the world. She still tours the global educating people on racism and fighting for equal rights for all. It was an absolute honor to speak to her. Below is a video of her conducting the exercise with her class. Listen to my podcast below the video. Visit janeelliott.com for more on her amazing life.
It is not often that I get to meet a person who shares my affinity for religious and political culture, so I was over the moon when one of my favorite humans agreed to chat with me. John Fugelsang has a ridiculously long resumé with television, film, and stand-up credits, but it’s his articulation of progressive religion that makes me swoon. His mom is an ex-nun and his dad was a Franciscan Brother, and this upbringing provides a unique lens through which he sees the world (and he says he admires Jesus “as any guy would admire mom’s first husband”). Fugelsang happily engages the two subjects we’re not supposed to talk about in polite company: religion and politics, and manages to do it while maintaining the most unbelievable head of hair you’ve ever seen. I hope you enjoy the interview if you can hear any of it over my incessant schoolgirl laughter. Visit www.blog.johnfugelsang.com for his tour dates and follow him on Twitter here.
Crystal Hefner just celebrated her one year wedding anniversary with Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner. In this interview she shares some details about their life in the Playbody mansion, what it’s like being married to the world’s most famous Playboy, and her plans for the future. Follow her on Twitter: @crystalhefner and visit her website here.
Robert Irvine is one of the hardest working TV chefs in the business. He hosts “Restaurant Impossible,” “Restaurant Express,” and “Worst Cooks in America” on the Food Network and spends most of the year on the road. His impressive physique is getting as much attention as his cooking since this ex-Navy man looks like he could wrestle an alligator and then cook it up. I ask Robert how he keeps up that incredible fitness routine on the road, what’s up with British cuisine, and how he whips restaurant owners into shape. Follow him on Twitter here and visit www.chefirvine.com for more updates on this incredible talent!
We’ve all seen them; the videos of soldiers returning home from their stations abroad, often surprising their families through elaborately planned reunions. The families are filled with a bouquet of emotions, but mostly, I’m sure, gratitude that their loved one is back safe from months or years away fighting for our country–finally home with a family that will surround them with the stability, affection, and safety they’ve missed for so long. And the family will surely sleep better knowing the soldier can now report for duty at home again.
The videos inevitably elicit streaming tears from anyone with a soul. They capture the rare moments in a lifetime when love and pain and joy are almost palpable. People feverishly post the videos on Facebook and challenge their friends to watch without crying–an impossible feat. As we watch the surprise reunion unfold, there’s a sense of pride and moment where we seem to feel the burden of what it must be like to have a partner, a parent, a friend, a child in a foreign land fighting for our country and freedom, finally returning to their safe place. The sacrifices the soldiers and families make become, for just a moment, real.
When Hollywood recently lost The Fast and Furious star, Paul Walker, social media nearly exploded in memoriam for his tragic death. Meanwhile, the number of United States military deaths are so staggering we maintain a collective numbness perhaps to avoid the reality of it or perhaps because it truly doesn’t seem real at all.
“60 Minutes” recently ran a piece on the plight of many soldiers returning home and the difficulties of adapting to civilian life, with many of them experiencing the debilitating and sometimes deadly effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical health issues related to their service. Likewise, The Daily Show has run a series of segments detailing the ways Veterans Affairs has failed the men and women returning home through poorly managed paperwork that affects their medical and psychiatric care.
While the videos we watch of the brave men and women who fight for our country returning home to their families are beautiful and poignant, it saddens me that we collectively don’t take as much interest in these people after the video quits rolling. Are we only interested in the sentimentality of it all? Is it just a good old-fashioned reunion story that allows us to feel emotions, but not enough to actually push our government to take care of those who take care of us?
I write this perhaps in part as a confession. I actually love these videos as much as everyone else. I love the idea of a family reunited and the sense (however false) that all is right with the world. The reality, however, is that these men and women need help after their tear-filled reunion with their families and their difficult and sacrificial work abroad. Perhaps if we remember that when the video camera stops rolling, these soldiers return home as parents, friends, spouses, and children who need assistance returning to “normal” life.
In light of the ways we as a society have failed our soldiers, the reunion videos feels hollow, maybe even fraudulent. I challenge you, the next time you see a video of a soldier returning home, surprising his/her family, to remember we must do more. We must support veterans in bigger ways than simply sharing videos–slacktivism, as it were. May the videos serve as a reminder that the reunion is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey to those who serve and are lucky enough to return home.
Scientology is one of the most controversial religions of the day. While shrouded in secrecy and often embroiled in scandal, it is also the religion of choice for some of Hollywood’s most successful stars. In this interview, Jamie DeWolf describes what it is like growing up in the shadow of his great-grandfather, L Ron Hubbard, and the religion he founded. Despite his genetic relationship to the religion, DeWolf is an outspoken critic of the religion. He acknowledges that he inherited some of the traits that made his great-grandfather rich and famous, but he channels them into a creative and uplifting outlet instead of what he sees as a corrupt religion. Visit his website here to see some of his poetry and performances. Below is a clip of his performance where he describes his great-grandfather and family history amidst Scientology. Listen to the interview below the video.
You can preorder Candace Cameron Bure’s new book, Balancing it All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose here–available on January 1, 2014!
When I begin preparing for interviews my goal is to avoid the ten questions the person is constantly asked. For this interview, that meant avoiding pretty much all “Full House” questions. I did address the rumors of a “Full House” remake/reunion though. I was happy, however, to have the conversation to focus on Candace’s faith and how she navigates the tricky worlds of fame and faith successfully. The beginning of the interview has been lost to the ether due probably to my ineptitude at sound equipment, but the interview picks up with Cameron talking about how role as wife, mother, and actress and how she manages to make it all look easy. She is down-to-earth and gracious, and it’s easy to see why she’s one of America’s sweethearts. Visit her blog at candacecameronbure.net and follow her on Twitter @candacecbure. Don’t forget to watch her Hallmark Channel Original Movie, Let it Snow, on November 30 at 8pm!
I first saw Eden Wood singing her signature song, “Cutie Patootie,” while dressed in pageant regalia and full make-up on “The Talk.” Her grown up look raises eyebrows, but she has now made it to the mainstream with movie roles. Eden first entered the public eye on the reality show, “Toddlers and Tiaras,” which features the child pageant circuit and the families involved. After starring in her own reality show, “Eden’s World,” Eden began to focus on her acting career. She recently played Darla in The Little Rascals Save the Day, which is scheduled to be released in March. I taped this interview with Eden’s mom last year, and I was waiting to post it when the Little Rascals was released, but it has been delayed, so I wanted to get the interview up. Listen to the interview below where we talk about child pageants, breaking out of reality television, and what people’s reaction is to them. You can visit her website here and follow her on Twitter @MissEdenWood.