This was one entertaining and interesting week in the world of skeptical podcasts.
I've already covered Skeptoid #168. Please read the previous post for that discussion. Both Skepticality and Reasonable Doubts posted fine episodes this week. Normally, August is the doldrums of the information and entertainment world, but not this week.
Skepticality #168: Interview of David Cullen
The episode featured an interview with Cullen author of "Columbine." It was Swoopy's turn and her interview of Cullen covered not just some of the high points of his findings regarding the tragic attack on the high school on April 20, 1999, but also how he went about spending the better part of a decade living with this event and writing the book. He even discussed how the affect of the boys shortly after the slayings effected him.
Every time I think of Columbine I also get a tad bit wigged by the thought that a very close friend of mine in undergrad (a small Northeast liberal arts college) hailed from Littleton, the nearest town to Columbine High School. I went to college a five years before the attack, so I do not know why it flips me out a bit, he did not attend Columbine High School, it just does.
I was a bit proud of myself that some of the mass media misinformation uncovered in this book, I already knew was likely incorrect. I was aware that it was not planned as a shooting spree, but a mass bombing, and that Eric and Dylan were just out to kill as many people as they could, and not just the jocks. However, I thought they were Marilyn Manson devote, and members of some strange "trench coat mafia" gang. Clearly, I have things to learn about Columbine. At the start of the interview, I was thinking this book could just be another in a line of publications, books, websites, that is out to reveal just how wrong the mass media's broad brush knee jerk story/myth making and botched yet another topic. Yet, at the end of the interview I really desired to read Mr. Cullen's book.
I give Swoopy credit that she allowed Cullen to explain, that at least according to the interview, this work was not a general indictment of those idiot mass media reporters who blew it again, and just see how smarter I am. Instead, Cullen indicated that even after he did some early reporting on the shootings, his own recollection of the early facts became lost in the murk of what became the story in the wider media. To an extent as I followed Cullen describe his narrative, part of the reason he "got it right" was that he spent an enormous amount of time with the story, in the town, and with the local folks. He had the added luxury of no hard deadlines to meet as in most of the mass media. He was very thoughtful on the topic, and not boastful at all.
I do not know how Derek and Swoopy were put onto this interview, clearly Swoopy is quite invested in this event. I am glad they did such a thorough interview, and gave Cullen sufficient time to explain both his book and the story of his writing "Columbine" justice.
The one thing I found upsetting during the is that apparently Oprah (yes, that Oprah) has an entire show in the can with Cullen as a guest, which was to set the record straight, and she has yet to air it. For once Ms. Winfrey can truly perform a positive public service, but it sounds as this episode is condemned to just sit on some hard drive in a studio vault. (Good grief, Oprah at least release it on DVD or Youtube.)
My only real complaint about this episode was at the end when Swoopy ascended her soapbox for a brief pontification on what Columbine meant to her and how much effort she put into this particular episode. First, I believe that she put a great deal of time into preparing for this interview. It was obvious to the listener without it having to be pointed out. Second, her take away of what Columbine meant to her and what questions this event raises to society as a whole is just not my cup of tea. I personally do not respond well to such bookending editorializing be it Swoopy, O'Reilly, Olbermann, Dr. Laura, or Oprah. I just listened to a wonderful interview. If I had a Kindle, I would have downloaded "Columbine" on the spot such was the power and the success of the interview. The speech was simply not necessary. In fairness, Swoopy seemed particularly attached to this topic, and Swoopy just does this sometimes. It is not the end of the world.
Don't get me wrong, I commend this episode to the reader, and if I had such a scale I would give it four spicy meatballs.
Reasonable Doubts RD Bonus Episode
This was not an episode in the traditional sense, instead it was a rebroadcast of a panel discussion of Jeremy, Luke, and David at CFI Michigan in the Spring of 2009. (I may not be wigged by this next fact, but I'll share it. Your friendly blogger was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan "the clasp on America's Bible bra," but moved away at age two to Harrisburg Pennsylvania home of the atom gone awry at TMI.) This was one of the best podcasts that have aired in a while. They did a quick history of the show, followed by some rapid recap of the topics covered by the show. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and with very little of the pretension that sometimes dogs the show. If you are a new listener to Reasonable Doubts, I would listen to this episode first for some quick background information, and then start listening to new shows and the back catalog of episodes.
As an added bonus, it is revealed that Jeremy does a very serviceable impersonation of Carl Sagan.
Overall, the episode reminded me of the Bar/Bri course I took to prepare for the bar exam which was filled with those “ah-ha” moments when a particular legal concept which never quite clicked in classroom clicked in the review course. I enjoy Reasonable Doubts, but at times I find the guys will be discussing some counter-counter apologetics topic, or something dealing with Kant or Hume, and at the end of the discussion I’ll be standing at a street corner with my dog thinking “what was that, huh?” Then I either have to rewind a few minutes to rehear the discussion and try and figure it out, or if Bernie is tugging the leash to go after his mortal foe the rabbit, I just proceed in ignorance. In this quickie overview of the show, a few little light bulbs went off in my mind with the thought "oh now I get it, duh." Also, I do think the show would benefit from a live audience. I am not saying this is practical, but I do think the hosts benefited from immediate feedback.
Overall, if I used the meatball scale, I would also give this episode four spicy meatballs.