Beyond Rational: How To Discuss Contentious Topics and Keep Your Cool

In “civilized” society, we know that one of the cardinal rules is that there are certain topics one just simply does not bring up: politics, religion, money, and sex. The problem, of course, is that without these subjects most dinner parties devolve into inane conversations about the weather, and online communities such as Newsvine would not even exist. Being a lifelong veteran of the art of asking questions which bring dinner parties to a sudden and ominous silence, and yet rather partial to discussions which go somewhere other than “taking it outside”, I thought it might be of value to share some of the insights and techniques I have acquired over the years in the hopes that we can all get a little farther in discussing topics which are actually topics (as opposed to the weather, which I assure you really isn’t).
Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Pornography


Pornography is the quail inside the duck inside the turkey at Christmas dinner. The hidden secret lurking inside all our hard drives, waiting for its moment of private delight to shine out. We see it everywhere, but continue to strive to deny its influence. We don’t like to talk about it; not what we as individuals really see in it or why as a culture it’s still there under our mattress after centuries of effort to eradicate it. Enough denial, already. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it…let’s drag it out on the carpet and really explore why we keep it around.

Pornography has existed ever since people started drawing. We drew pictures on the cave walls of voluptuous women with no heads to give us a sense of connection to the mysteries of life (or perhaps as R. Dale Guthrie suggests, as simple pornographic doodles) . We worshipped snake goddesses with their bare breasts and their transformative power twined around their wrists. We had sacred prostitutes in the temples who would lay you for a donation, and explicit scenarios painted out on Greek urns. This is nothing new. Shouldn’t we be grown up enough to talk about it by now?

Continue reading