Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dogma Free America

Do recent stories like this have you scratching your head?

…it was revealed by ABC News that a Wixom, Michigan-based defense contractor had long been putting Bible verses on scopes purchased by the military for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, both predominately Muslim nations, military officials want to meet with representatives of that company to discuss the matter.

Or this:

As international aid agencies rush food, water and medicine to Haiti's earthquake victims, a U.S. faith-based group is sending Bibles to Haitians in their hour of need. Not any Bible. These are solar-powered audible Bibles that can broadcast the holy scriptures in Haitian Creole to 300 people at a time.

Do you struggle to come up with words to express the mixture of irony, ire, and indignation you feel?

Heck, let's ramp it up. Do you scream in rage at your computer screen (or the biscotti catcher we still refer to as a "daily newspaper") when you read about women and children being burned to death for being witches or Uganda is planning to put homosexuals to death after American right wing preachers visit the nation and convince Ugandan politicians there's an evil homosexual agenda afoot in their nation?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Dogma Free America podcast gives voice to the complex and hard-to-express emotions these stories evoke.

Dogma Free America (DFA) started in December (or as we say in Canada Decembrrrrr) 2006 with Rich Orman as the main host and a co-host position that toggled between Dr. Robert Orman (Rich's actual brother and the show's medical correspondent) and Flynn Owens (we have been told Flynn is a long time friend of Rich's and the show's legal analyst).

It went on a hiatus after its 50th show (November 2007). The hiatus was intended to be permanent. The demands of researching and writing and editing a weekly podcast were getting to be a bit too much of a burden. Rich himself is a lawyer who practices law in Colorado and he has an actual human wife and a house and at least one dog so I can imagine down time is precious. A podcast might represent an hour of air time but it can mean giving up a night after work to write it, a night after work to record it, and then a night after work to edit and upload it and update the web site. Last I counted there are 6 free nights1 in a week, so a weekly podcast like DFA can mean giving up half a week's chill out time.

Much to the delight of DFA fans it returned five months later. Rich claimed it would be coming out on a reduced schedule but Rich has returned to a roughly weekly release. You can usually expect at least 3 DFAs a month.

In recent months the show has added a third rotating co-host Jamye Johnston (an actual woman). Jamye bills herself as the show's education consultant. She was chosen from, I believe, three potential candidates. I think Jamye won based on the strength of her personality and her willingness to call Rich on the carpet for reverting to a Southern accent whenever he reads a direct quote from a Christian fundamentalist. Jamye rather cleverly deduced that Rich wasn't looking for a fawning co-host but someone who would challenge him and call him out.

Oh yeah. The accent thing. Rich doesn't just pick on Southerners (defined in Canada as anyone from a state south of the Ohio/Kentucky border but maybe defined differently in the USA). He tries to do quotes in voice when they hail from odd ball places like Ireland, Pakistan, Canada, and Baltimore. Rich does a pretty good Bob and Doug accent when he reads a Canadian quote although some of DFA's Canadian listener don't think Canadians sound like hosers. I personally disagree. As a Canadian I can't hear an "oot" and "aboot" in my speech but my cowokers in Seattle would snicker whenever I'd say "It's about noon. Want to go out for lunch?" Accents have a lot to do with how the listener's brains processes an unfamiliar foreigner's speech.

Anyway, whether Rich should do accents on the show is a constant source of debate between the listeners, Rich, and his co-hosts (I believe all three of his co-hosts have sworn off doing accents). The debate is generally pretty good natured.2.

The format of the show itself is mostly Rich reading news items that best demonstrate the truth of the show's all time great tag line "Dogma makes you crazy". This is not a show about Christians behaving badly. A number of times Rich has stressed he doesn't run items about, say, a preacher killing his wife. The show is about people following their religious dogma to a bitter and sometimes deadly end.

After Rich reads an item and adds in a bit of his own commentary he turns to his co-host for comment. It's this unscripted interaction that is the appeal of the show. Rich and Flynn have been friends for a long time and they have a shtick you would think has been scripted by a Hollywood screenwriter. There's always a lot good natured joshing and references to Flynn's long and innumerable history of social gaffes. Rich and his brother Rob appear to have had an even longer relationship and this also plays out well for the listener. Rich is the slightly cynical rationalist and Rob rationalizes with his heart as much as his head. Alas, the new co-host Jamye has been given the impossible task of replicating this warm and friendly two way interaction and it falls short for those who listen to DFA as much for the weekly two-man theater Rich/Flynn/Rob perform as the news items themselves. But hey it took me a long time to enjoy Sammy Hagar as Van Halen's front man. Keep at it, Jayme. You're 1400% better than my own sucky appearance on DFA.

The show regularly has notable guests on to discuss topics relating to the problems caused by the misapplication of religious dogma. Such notable guests have included Lars Vilks (a Swedish artist who touched off an international controversy when he exhibited drawings of the prophet Muhammed as a dog), Out Campaign organizer Josh Timonen (producer of the DVD The Four Horsemen), author Frank Cress (author of Reason For Life), Edward Tabash, Ivan Stang (founder of the Church of the SubGenius), Bob Park (author of Voodoo Science), George Ricker (author of Godless in America), cult expert Rick Ross, Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, Jason Torpy (President Of The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers), Ezra Levant, Terry Sanderson, Joe Kaufman (founder of Americans Against Hate), leading atheist Margaret Downey, and leading Las Vegas juggler Michael Goudeau (former co-host of the Penn Radio Show and head writer of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! Showtime show).

Guest interviews have been declining in frequency as of late and lately guest interviews are simply released as their own free standing episode, instead of worked into the regular episode format. The Amateur Scientist podcast adopted this two show format a while ago. Amateur Scientist Brian Thompson explained once he adopted the two show format because he deduced people just wanted to hear him and co-host Bob ramble. The interviews kind of got in the way and unnaturally broke up the show. I agree.

DFA always finishes up with Jackass of the Week and viewer mail. In Jackass of the Week, the cohost gets to pick which "religious moron" (to borrow a phrase from the Geologic podcast) has best exemplified the show's maxim "dogma makes you crazy". "Jackass" is about as close to a four letter word you'll hear on DFA. Rich makes it a point to create a show worthy of the iTunes clean tag. DFA may be profane in eyes of some faithful but it is never obscene. The show ends with viewer mail. Yes I said viewer. A long running joke is the hosts call their listeners viewers and persist even when informed the terminology is incorrect.

Name: Dogma Free America
Release: Three times a month. Usually on a Thursday or Friday

-- Karl

1 "But, Karl, there are 7 nights in a week." Hey, even I'm not such a loser that I'm spending my Saturday nights working on a podcast.

2 For the record, I love the accents, including the Canadian ones. I've come to suspect Rich is a closet Canadian sympathizer:

1) He has a reasonable knowledge of Canadian geography.
2) His favorite band is the Great Big Sea.

1 comment:

  1. I generally like the two format system if it means the listener gets a longer interview. However, if the interview only episode has a brief 15 minute interview I fail to see the point off not wrapping into a regular episode. I enjoy Thompson's interview shows an enormous amount, but the sex-o-licious or whatever her name was a short interview, and I felt a tad jipped. (Ok back to vacation time, Karl great posts)


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