Friday, January 30, 2009

Behind the Scenes: GOD

Why God?

Last night our diverse panel of experts lead us on a provocative and enlightening journey exploring the role of God in people’s lives and the common language we have used across all cultures and time to make sense of the mysteries of life.

Let's take a look behind the scenes!

The evening began with the panelist meeting. Here, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Rev. Peter Gomes, and Christopher Hitchens along with Moderator Connie Schultz had the opportunity to meet and greet each other before the Forum got underway.

Next it's off to the YOUTH Forum press conference. Here, YOUTH Forum Members, who are high school students from around the state, have an intimate opportunity to ask the panel anything that is on their minds.

Once the Forum was underway, the stage was electrified with a spirited, enlightening, and eye-opening conversation about God and religion. Stay tuned to our YouTube Page for clips of the Forum!

Ever wonder what's happening back stage at intermission?

A group of Forum Subscribers, Friends of the Forum, and Sponsors gather backstage to sort through your great questions, in preparation for the second half.

The panelists grab a quick snack in the green room.

After the program ended, we had the opportunity to ask Christopher Hitchens just one more question backstage...

(Click Here to see a video of Christopher's water board experience)

Want more insight on what happened back stage? Check out Forum Valet Peterson Toscano's Blog!

It's your turn! Share your reactions to God, leave us a comment!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rev. Peter Gomes on Comedy Central?

Check out God Forum panelist Rev. Peter Gomes getting "scandalous" on The Colbert Report a few months ago!

(Click here if video takes too long to load.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebrating the Life of John Updike

The Forum celebrates the life of Pulitzer-prize winning novelist John Updike.

A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people's patience. Confessions of a Wild Bore,” Assorted Prose (1965)
Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings. A Month of Sundays (1975)
Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone. Accepting Edward MacDowell Medal, New York Times (August 26, 1981)
Here is an interesting interview with John Updike conducted in 1995 by former Boston Globe columnist Donald M. Murray.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, January 26, 2009

The End of Student Loans?

Is it possible to create a global, tuition-free Internet university?

One man seems to think so.

Shai Reshef, an Israeli entrepeneur and founder of several Internet-based educational businesses, plans to bring college degrees to people all over the world through a non-profit, online educational venture he calls the University of the People.

“The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.”

A free education for people across the globe? Leverage the power of social networking and online course content? A University of the People?

More power to you, Mr. Reshef. Read the full article here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Get to Know the God Panleists!

The God Forum is less than a week away, which means it's time to do your homework and get to know the panelists!

Rabbi Harold Kushner is a spiritual leader and the best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Check out for a great archive of Kushner videos and resources.

Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and the best-selling author of God Is Not Great. Click here to listen to his interview on WNPR this morning!

Rev. Peter Gomes is a distinguished Baptist Preacher and Harvard Chaplain. You can listen to his archived sermons here.

The program will be moderated by award winning journalist and author Connie Schultz. Check out Connie's blog!

For more information on our panelists, visit our resource page

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's Eating Anthony Bourdain?

Apparently, it's Alice Waters.

In November, 2008 following the presidential election, Alice wrote an open letter to President Obama, urging that the new White House Chef be " A person with integrity and devotion to the ideals of environmentalism, health, and conservation would send a powerful message to our country: that food choices matter."

In a Janurary 19th interview with
DC List, Bourdain reacted:

"I'll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living sh*t out of me. We're all in the middle of a recession, like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I'm not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I'm a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits. I'm suspicious of orthodoxy, the kind of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth. I'm a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we're eating is killing us. But I don't know if it's time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald's. My libertarian side is at odds with my revulsion at what we as a country have done to ourselves physically with what we've chosen to eat and our fast food culture. I'm really divided on that issue. It'd be great if he [Obama] served better food at the White House than what I suspect the Bushies were serving. It's gotta be better than Nixon. He liked starting up a roaring fire, turning up the air conditioning, and eating a bowl of cottage cheese with ketchup. Anything above that is a good thing. He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."

Looks like the pot is being stirred for an interesting evening!Anthony Bourdain and Alice Waters, along with Duff Goldman will be appearing at The Connecticut Forum's Food for Thought on May 14, 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Forum Panelists React to Inauguration

Yesterday, we heard Yale Alum Elizabeth Alexander deliver the Inaugural Poem on the steps of The Capitol.

Earlier this week, NPR encouraged some of the nation's most renowned poets to write their own inaugural poems...including two former Forum Panelists!

Suzan Lori-Parks, MacArthur “Genius" & Playwright of Topdog/Underdog visited us in November 2008 for Storytellers and the Stories They Tell. Here is her inaugural poem, U Being U.

U Being U
[Listen to Suzan-Lori read her poem here.]

U Being U
Mr. President-Elect
Makes me wanna get MY stuff

I feel like starting with something RADICAL
Love my Neighbor
Like share what I've got
Like think for myself
Like ask the hard questions
Like lean toward the good and help keep the peace

U being U
Makes me wanna do something new
Like Go Green, or at least try to.

You being you, Mr. President-Elect
Makes me want to look on others with respect
Makes me wanna
practice Radical Inclusion, you know,
Open my heart wide, especially in the presence of folks who
Are not like me, you know,
work to see my Brother
In the Other
You make me want to entertain all my far-out ideas
Make me wanna represent the race, as in the human race,
And know that, like You, I too am Prized.

And to those who say yr a Magic Negro,
I love them just the same
And my love helps us weave a United States.

Mr. President,
Heaven sent
Since heaven is just a place where possibility
becomes possible
And where hostility
its hostile,
I feel like picking up the trash in the park or on the beach
I think I'll teach, and learn, from all I meet
I think I'll apologize in person for all our faults
and try to make amends for our shortcomings
And also, I think,
I'll brag,
Just a little bit,
About how cool We The People are

Oh, I just had to sing you a little something
Because you,
Mr. President,
You are embarking with Us on an awesome and beautiful
And potentially perilous journey
And so I am giving you
All the Love
All the Love
All the Love
All the Love
Mr. President
That I've got
Because I believe
In the dream
And I am ready
To wake up
And live it.

American Journalist and Humorist Calvin Trillin visited The Forum in 2002 for The Forum Food Fest. Here is his poem, Anticipating the Inauguration of Barack Obama

nticipating the Inauguration of Barack Obama

[Listen to Calvin read the poem here.]

Inauguration is the day
The nation's hopes go on display —
When through one man we all convey
Our dream that things will go our way.
His resume we can't gainsay.
In politics, we know, his play
Is worthy of the NBA.
He proved that in the recent fray,
Though he had help from Tina Fey.
And now this solemn matinee
Awards the winner's bright bouquet.

First, Pastor Warren's going to pray
For everyone who isn't gay.
Obama then will stand and say,
"I take this oath that I'll obey
The statutes of the U. S. A."
In his address, he might portray
The dragons he intends to slay:
How Wall Street's sky will turn from gray
To blue as blues are chased away,
How workers will collect good pay
For turning out a Chevrolet,
How in Iraq we'll end our stay
With shortest possible delay,
How pay-to-play will be passe
So K Street suits will not hold sway.
Yes, how we'll triumph, come what may:
We'll rise up like a good souffle
'Til life's just like a cabaret.

Obamacans will shout hooray
And toast their man with Chardonnay
As commentators all make hay
Comparing him to JFK.
The Beltway types, those still blase,
Might think that soon, with some dismay,
We'll wonder if his feet are clay.
But that's all for another day

For more poems, visit NPR's Inaugural Poetry 2009 page

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Dream Realized

Today the words and wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King were realized as Barack Obama broke the racial and political barriers of old, becoming the first African American President of the United States.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"A preacher, a rabbi and an atheist walk into a bar..."

This Sunday "The Dot" column in The Hartford Courant will feature a Connecticut Forum contest!

Submit your funniest punchline for the joke - "A preacher, a rabbi and an atheist walk into a bar..." for a chance to win Forum tickets and to hear your joke read at The Forum.

Submit your punchline by posting a comment here (be sure to include your email address or other contact information) or by emailing us at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Atheism on the Move

Atheists are not typically thought of as "joiners"; they aren't the type to organize around their beliefs. That's usually the type of thing they eschew. But, it looks like that's all changing...

The Atheist Bus Campaign has garnered interest lately with its successful fundraising. The ads started as a half-joking plea by Ariane Sherine, a writer for The Guardian who was disturbed by bus ads directing riders to a website that condemned non-believers to hell. Within a few days, Sherine had raised enough money to run pro-atheism ads on London buses for two weeks.

Each ad features a quote from a famous atheist and includes the tagline: "There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life." (The "probably," which Sherine admits is more agnostic than atheistic, is a constraint of the transportation authorities' ad restrictions.)

What's amazing about the campaign is that it started with a simple article. Other campaigns are popping up all over the world and the original campaign, having already raised the money needed for ads on the London buses, are now soliciting funds for "wider humanist campaigns."

Who knew atheists could organize?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Can't There be More Jobs like This?

Don't let the economy get you down. The "best job in the world" is currently vacant and - you're in luck - accepting applications!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Before he was President-Elect...

This photograph from 1996 accompanies an excerpt from Mariana Cook's interview with Michelle and Barack Obama that same year.

Michelle mused: "There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it’s unclear. There is a little tension with that. I’m very wary of politics. I think he’s too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism."

You can read more of the interview in The New Yorker.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mockeries of the Day

Recent news headlines are making a mockery of everything from the U.S. legal system to the current financial crisis. Consider this:

1. U.S. "Interrogation" Strategies?
Bernie Madoff, the man we can all thank for adding "Ponzi Scheme" to our vocabularies, is still living in his plush, Manhattan penthouse apartment in an effort, the Feds say, to "encourage his cooperation." When it comes to "encouraging the cooperation" of prisoners detained at Abu Ghraib, however, our government condones torture tactics such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. What's it gonna be, folks?

2. Another Industry Hard-up for Cash?
Following in the footsteps of the financial and automobile industries, the adult entertainment industry has now approached Congress for their own $5 billion bailout. Who will it be next?

3. Senate Seat Going Once, Going Twice...
In the most recent news from the Illinois, Rod Blagojevich says that he "looks forward to" a trial about his alleged attempts to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder, and The Chicago Sun-Times reports changes and contradictions in the story regarding the seemingly squeaky-clean Roland Burris.

#4. Kidney Failure?
A Long Island man is suing his wife over the kidney he gave to her when they were still happily married. Richard Barista contends he donated his kidney to his wife only to have her commit adultery, divorce him, and keep him from seeing their children, and now he wants it back. Or at least $1.5 million in damages.

#5. Joe the Journalist?
Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher,
has been given a position as an international news journalist. Just when you thought his fifteen minutes were over...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Former CT Forum Panelists in the News

Former Forum panelists Al Franken and Ann Coulter have been in the news a lot lately for different reasons - Franken has just been declared the winner following a recount in the Minnesota Senate race, and Coulter is promoting a new book.

Let's journey back a few years and see what these two headliners had to say to one another in a most memorable Forum...