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April 10 2009

Harvard honors Joss tonight. With the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. Good write-ups here and here (the latter contains interesting comments from Joss about Dollhouse). has a good write-up but it is spoilerish for the 13th Dollhouse episode.

If any members are at the event, perhaps they could post their reports here.

YAY! Kevin Bachelder is there. I can't wait to hear all about it.
This is going on right now I believe, or about to. Photo. Follow GMMR on Twitter.
I love the (sort of) related news part of that article.
I just love the look on his face in that photo.
Props for Joss!
Revised the title to reflect the fact that it's *now* or thereabouts, and to encourage people to report, if possible. (And to change the "Category" - a Joss-centered story isn't "Cast and Crew" - that's for everyone else.)
That twitpic link of the event's poster is awesome.
I'm proud of you, my Master.
I expect a report from lioness. I'm sure she's having a wonderful time.
Couldn't have happen 2 a more deserving individual take notice fox execs
Ooh. Well deserved, I say. And big congrats.

In (sort of) related news: This article makes it sound like the Prinzes are having a baby named Mark Shanahan.
"Will be webcast on WGBH and available on CD." Source.
Tonight was great. The event was pretty well done, with the exception of needing to turn the speakers up and planning the signing set up better. Joss, as always, spoke elegantly and with his typical humor about why he is a Humanist and what that meant. I didn't catch everything he said because of the speaker situation, and the chatty girls behind me (GO HOME!), but again he is always so wonderful to listen to. I HIGHLY suggest checking out the webcast and cd. Oh...and they were selling the lifesize angel puppet replica. That thing is huge! I'll post some really bad and blurry pictures soon.
Hee. Thanks for letting us know, WitchyGrrl.
it was great. My first time seeing JOSS and I was thrilled.
He is a great speaker-some funny and some very thoughtful statements. the Q&A also offered thoughtful and funny--who would win in a Buffy v River fight?

and he is probably still signing!!
I just had him sign the little program

Didn't see the puppet
My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I agree with WitchyGrrl that there were speaker issues, but I hope that will be fixed for the webcast. I was a bit worried that there would be an abundance of "trivial" questions (based on the conversations I heard around me while waiting in line) but I was pleasantly surprised by the care and thought put into the majority of the queries. Many of the questions did relate to his views on cultural humanism and how those views contributed to his work. I'd share more, but it was a two hour drive home from Cambridge, then we all had to immediately watch tonight's Dollhouse on the VCR (of course!!) and now it's 1:20 AM, and I'm going to bed! What a great evening!
Good write-ups here and here (I added them to the entry).
My son and I had a wonderful time! It was great to see Joss in person. I loved the Buffy vs. River question.

EDIT to add the link to my pics.

Here are my pictures:

[ edited by mouse on 2009-04-11 17:13 ]
Most amazing night ever for me. Got to turn into a babbling idiot while shaking Joss' hand. It was pretty magical.

I would write a write-up, but I got most of it on video. They're posting it officially anyway, though, right?

My only comment for now is that I love everybody in the very awesome audience for actually asking great questions (cough, Paley, cough). Amazing first Joss event, and so very (beyond) worth it for the $5. :)
Congratulations Joss!! Well-deserved!
Go Joss! you're a great dude, and this was very well deserved!
I just got home from the event. He just rocks! He signed my tattoo! I'll be posting pic over at I'll leave a link for it here when I finish.
I am very envyous of all you guys. Especially you Jav, turning into a babbeling idiot is precisly the reaction Im planning to have the day I meet Joss. Or possible the blank stare, slightly shaking look. Havent decided yet. ; )
Tonight was great! Planning this event has been a big chunk of my life this semester and it was kind of amazing to watch it actually happening. Joss, as always, was eloquent and inspirational. I'm always happy as a Humanist to be reminded that I'm in good company.
I can't see River beating Buffy. Superpowers, people.
I dunno. I think Buffy has some pretty strong lines drawn concerning what she will do, how far she is willing to go, and how far she has to be pushed before she totally commits. Buffy would have to be severely pushed first in a fight against a human, especially a stranger. She doesn't exactly come out of the gate swinging. Whereas River can drop down immediately into a 'get-it-done/take-em-out' sort of mode.

Strength isn't everything and I never think Buffy's all that fast. She can just take a lot of punishment while she's tying to make up her mind. Being strong and able to take a beat down doesn't help if your opponent takes you out while you're still trying analyze the situation and work yourself into the state of doing what it ever it takes. I don't believe River shares any of Buffy's IMO admirable inhibitions. regards this from one of the written reports:

Whedon believes that religion is not, in fact, the origin of morality, but rather morality is the origin of religion. Mysticism was a way to explain and enshrine a moral code which is fundamental to humanity, and thus cannot be abandoned simply by stepping outside of the context of organized religion.

To be fair that is not a direct quote by Joss but rather what the writer heard and remembered. Perhaps it's not even accurate, but regardless...

Although I agree that religion is not the origin of morality, I disagree with the converse. I think religions are codified cultural responses to "The Why." By this I mean that they are the stories a particular people came up with at a particular time to explain anything not understood. Humans simply cannot stand not having a reason why. I think the kerfuffle here at WHEDONesque these last few days over "What are those FOX people thinking?" illustrates that point nicely.

Now where do I think morality originates since it's not from religion? Well, I'll have to get back to you on that one cuz I really need my morning tea and breakfast. I think I just used up one of my two conscious brain cells. The other is jonesin' to watch E9 of Dollhouse on Hulu as soon as the rest of the household gets up and it can't concentrate on anything else.
Congrats to Joss, and so well deserved.
Amaranth, you and your group did a wonderful job. (BTW, which student were you?)

Your hard work paid off. I really like how you set up the Q&A. (For those who weren't there... The members of the Harvard Secular Society each presented a clip from Joss' s work, then asked a question relating to the clip. Then, questions from the rest of the audience were taken from a single mike at the front of the center aisle.) Your questions were thought-provoking, and Joss provided illuminating answers. It also set the tone for the kind of questions that should be asked, and (most of) the rest of the audience lived up to your example. You are all to be congratulated!

[ edited by floofypooh on 2009-04-11 15:40 ]
(Having said all that... I voted for Buffy!)
Anyone find audio or video from the event yet?
I'm hoping that Amaranth will let us know when it's available.
I found a bunch of other people from my school going, and one of them happened to be the girl who shouted "I love you Joss!" And then in the Q+A session told him to try penis pumpkin carving. Yes, that was the same person. I think she was a little to shel-shocked afterwards to wait for the signing, said something about immediately having to get drunků

Still. That's a story you remember.
Because of the previously mentioned sound-system issues I did not completely follow the "pumpkin-carving" conversation (which was a blessing, I think -- inappropriate much?) Was she suggesting that Joss try it, or one of his characters? To what end?
The event was awesome! I was the person who asked the fifth question in audience Q&A (about moral rules and consistency in reference to Buffy's decision to kill Angel. I felt really embarrassed that I accidentally started talking like a pretentious philosophy major but...I am a pretentious philosophy major.

That may be why I enjoyed the off-topic questions so much. Of course the substantive conversation about humanism was interesting (especially for someone that identifies as a Jewish Atheist), but I also really enjoyed just relaxing and hearing Joss talk about the shows. Very few of my friends actually watch Whedon shows (and even fewer watch anything but Firefly), so being around so many fellow fans felt liberating in a coming-out-of-the-closet sort of way.

If anyone wants to hear more about the event, I'd be happy to share any more memories (like Joss extending question time so the girl dressed like VampWillow could ask a question).

[ edited by goingtowork on 2009-04-11 19:24 ]
It was such an awesome experience to see him in such an intimate
setting. Usually he is at these large events with thousands of people so it was very nice in a small setting and to have such a large amount of time for Q&A with so many other big time fans.

Once the event is available as audio or video I would highly recommend seeing/hearing it for yourself since the topics covered were not only about all of his shows but also about some very important social topics as well.

Great, great evening. :)
Hah, peachy, do we know each other? Because I'm fairly sure we're from the same college. For me, the pumpkin-carving comment was also one of those many really-mumbled-microphone moments, so maybe that was a good thing...I kind of assumed a cross between well-intentioned joke / "holy crap, did I just..." moment.

BreathesStory, that paraphrase is fairly accurate. And though Joss did focus on religion as a 'codified cultural response' more specifically to "Why [should we not hurt people]"?, I don't think your version of "The Why" is mutually exclusive from his. After all, religion, if anything, is rather sprawling in terms of its foci - I see your version as taking an angle on, say, creation stories, while Joss' is rejecting more specific constructs like "original sin". But feel free to correct me if I misinterpreted.
Most interestingly, however, was Whedon's acceptance speech. In it, he called for an acceptance of religion by the non-religious.

Thank you, Bold Purple Dude!
Thoroughly Religious Me.
Non-religious me accepts religious people. I do tend, however, not to accept stupidity or cruelty, and for some reason the anger seems to be greater when you call out religious stupidty or cruelty than it is when you call out secular stupidty or cruelty.

Some random driver might get mad at me if I call them an idiot for almost running me over because they are on their cellphone, but it's not particularly deeply felt. If I call someone an idiot because their particular religious beliefs insist that (say) homosexuals are perverts who are causing God to punish America, that person is going to get much more inflamed and incensed at me than that driver would.

Which isn't a problem with religion itself. It's more that when stupidity or cruelty arises out of someone's deeply-held beliefs, they seem to be that much more deeply attached to those behaviors because they've attached them to their beliefs.

The problem for many of us non-religious people is trying to avoid blaming the entirety of the idea of religious belief when confronted with stupidty or cruelty that happens to be wrapped up in some specific religious belief.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-04-11 20:20 ]
The io9 item (I think maybe spoilers for future Dollhouse but I tried to skip those paragraphs).
I found some youtube/Joss goodness here:
it isn't pretty clear, relatively speaking.

I wish I could have been there!
Best part of that YouTube: Confirmation of actual video recording, since there's a real camera and a real camera operator visible in frame.
Congratulations, sir.
Hey all,

Our event videographer is working on getting video online. I'll let you know when the vid's up.
Smashing stuff. Look forward to seeing it.
Yep, that'll be cool, thanks both for taping it and putting it up. Amaranth, did the videographer also tape the Q&A afterwards ? Pretty keen to see that.
They should have taped the Q&A. The woman at the beginning of the event announced that anyone who stepped up to the mike was giving them the right to tape and re-broadcast their voice and questions.

It was my first Joss event too. It was awesome. I'm so glad he had a signing after.
Awesome, I'm looking forward to that video being put up. It was really a great bunch of questions & answers, and lots of fun moments.

Meanwhile, I posted an annotated YouTube clip.
Oy. Seriously? Someone really, again, asked him to do the Dance of Joy?
Somebody always asks for the Dance of Joy.
The evening last night was wonderful. Yes, there were some inappropriate questions but over all I felt that there was a good mix. goingtowork, I liked your question a lot.
The evening started with a very nice set of clips from Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dr. Horrible (no Dollhouse) all set to the Dr. Horrible theme and as soon as the music started, there was a lot of cheering. I wonder how many of those students came because they only know him from Dr. Horrible?
As mentioned before, the sound was not great but then too, Joss would keep talking while we were all still laughing at the last thing he said, so that didn't help!
At one point, Joss was reminded that he had asked to be told to keep his answers short, because he was replying at length to everything. Great for us, not so great for all the people in line waiting to ask their question.

Let's see, what else? In his speech, he made it clear that religion wasn't the problem, hate was. That he had no problem with religion but he did have problems with people who told him that because he did not believe in the skybully, that he and others like him, had no morals. He discussed the role of ritual in religion and in people's lives and how, when he was young, he created a few rituals of his own, which mostly involved drinking. ;)
I did a poor recording of a little bit of this with my still camera which I have put on Youtube.
In response to a question about Dollhouse he said that the original intent was to have dolls of all ages and sizes and backgrounds because people's wishes are wide and varied, although he put it much better, of course.

The signing was indeed badly organized with an incredible amount of shoving going on at first. I ended up at the back of the line and we were warned that it was likely that we would not get anything signed. I had items for the CSTS screening auction here in Toronto that I wanted autographed and when that was explained to the very nice volunteers, they said they would make sure it would happen.
As it turned out, we got up to Joss right before the witching hour of 11:00. A big thanks to NYPinTA who stood in line with my sister and I and instead of having something of her own signed, carried one of the 2 auction items.
So I think River before the end of Serenity would win against Buffy. Just the psychic psycho-ness of her would give her an advantage.
The video clips, questions, and answers made this a fun event. I liked imagining 17-year-old Joss in London having an epiphany after a Spielberg film. Also enjoyed hearing that Joss's wife came up with the idea of Faith going to jail. Thanks to all the thoughtful and clever fans for creative questions. Content: A+

Organization/Equipment: C-
Standing in the rain for an hour waiting for them to open the church wasn't fun. Couldn't that have been organized to wrap more of the line under the roof? A woman in a wheelchair with no raincoat on couldn't find the ramp. (How about a sign, Harvard?) I held the place while my neighbor went on a scouting mission for her.

Hooray for recordings, because I missed the last line of many comments, which from Joss was frequently a punch line.

I asked the booksellers when I entered how the queue would be organized, and they "didn't know yet." After last year's Writer's Strike rally/booksigning, where I never made the signing table, I was anxious.

Fortunately, this line moved faster due to the "one item/no conversations" rule, and I succeeded. I even witnessed a cool Joss moment. The woman in front of me had two dvds and only held one out, but Joss reached over and signed the second one, quick as a wink. Sweet!
That is one frightening photo. He looks like a dictator behind that bird.
Joss was amazingly eloquent and inspiring Friday night. I was really stunned by how affected I was by just being in the same room as him, and by how moved I was at his words. I've written a bit about it here:
That is one frightening photo. He looks like a dictator behind that bird.

You know, now that you mention it, he did bring up invading Connecticut. I think we all agreed too. Wierd.

I will be happy to see the video of the event since I missed some of what was said, but that was more my fault than anything else because my mind has a tendency to drift and he says thinkable things.

I was only annoyed at the autograph line thing because there are so many logical ways that could have been avoided, but everyone got their stuff signed, (Lioness let me get a vampire kitty signed! It was adorable), so all is well that started out kinda stupid.

I too wanted to do a write up, but I've been without internet for the whole weekend and it was horrific! And I fell down so my knee really really hurts, which has nothing to do with Joss or his award, I'm just looking for sympathy.

Favorite quote: "There is a case for hating people. It's called history." Hee. And later I recall him saying he wanted to hurt everyone in the room. Uh, I think by breaking our hearts all the freaking time, I'd say mission accomplished.
Hello Whedonesque'ers! I am a new member of your community. I've read the rules, but if I break any of them, please bear with me.

I went to Joss' speech at Harvard last Friday, and here is my report.

It was a drizzly evening in Boston. The line to get in to the Old Memorial Church was so long! I took my place at the back and was soon joined by a young girl with her father. The father told me I could get under their umbrella with them as far as I could fit. I still had to pick up will call tickets, so I asked them if there was a separate line for that, but they didn't know. The woman in front of me urged me to go check it out, and offered to hold my spot. I jokingly told her that I was going to check it out, and by "check it out" I meant skip the entire line. Her response? "Whoa, be careful. I don't want to have to stake you!" Definitely a nice crowd.

The event started with the Chaplain for the Harvard Humanists, Greg Epstein, speaking a little bit about humanism before introducing Joss. Someone in the audience screamed, "I love you Joss!" and he responded with the universal sign for 'call me'.

Joss spoke for about 45 minutes. Here are some of the highlights (for me). He talked about sussing things out with his wife, the idea of morality divorced from religion. She told him her opinion on the matter, which is that morality arises from evolutionary instincts: humans want to insure that the greatest number of offspring survive, organizing into groups helps that goal along, morality is what evolved to help us all live in groups. Wise woman. Btw, "The Moral Sense" by James Q. Wilson expounds upon that idea. Joss also addressed the scariness of death when you don't believe in an afterlife. He acknowledged that death is super-scary, but said that the importance of his own life, and the attending fear of his death, abated after the birth of his children. Not in a "here is my seed; my work is done" kind of way, but in a "my whole focus is on the importance of your life, not mine" kind of way. He closed with a thought that went something like, "religious faith is profound because it is faith without evidence. Humanist faith is maybe profound because it is faith in the inherent goodness of people, despite all evidence to the contrary."

After Joss' speech, five Harvard students asked questions introduced with clips from Joss' work. I can't remember exactly what the questions were, but they were worthy of Harvard, all about didacticism, and the soul's journey, and morality, etc. The final student's clip was a splice of River's balletic massacre of the Reavers and Buffy's finest violence. In keeping with the other Harvard students, I prepared myself for a question about the evolutionary advantages of violence, or gender roles as they relate to the Hero, etc. After her clip, the student simply asked, "so I guess my question is fairly obvious, but if they went head-to-head, who would win: Buffy or River?" The crowd exploded. Joss said that the only way we could determine the answer was with democracy; we raised our hands to vote; I like to believe that Buffy won by a landslide.

After that there wasn't much worth mentioning. A lot of regular people asked questions. The highlight being a gay guy who said to Joss, "I'm an Emerson film student, and I'm wondering whether you have any jobs opening. (coyly) I feel like there's something between us." Joss responded, "Yes, yes! What is that between us?" He gestured between him and the man... "What is it? Oh! It's air!" Hahahaha.

So by this time, Joss has spent about an hour speaking, an hour taking questions, but he still sat down to give autographs to the hundreds of people in line. I waited in line for about an hour, super-impressed by how kind, patient, and generous with his time Joss was. As I got closer to the front, I smoothed my hair down, reapplied my lip gloss, and practiced what I was planning to say (I was planning on saying "thank you for giving me a group of friends, when I couldn't find any," but I got way too nervous for that).

When I finally got to the front of the line, I felt the tears coming in my throat. I blinked them back; dignity after all! I finally approached Joss (in person: very tall and much, much thinner than he looks in pictures/on tv, downright skinny). I said, "thank you for waiting for all of us." He replied, "oh please! It's the least I could do. You guys come out and wait to hear me babble on about all my nonsense." At which point, I simply held up my hands in the universal 'stop' sign, and said, "Please, I'd listen to you forever."

Yes, Girl! I said that to Joss Whedon!

[ edited by Becks on 2009-04-24 01:37 ]
Welcome, Rebecca Haley! Thank you for the in-depth. :D
Anyone know whatever happened to the podcast that was supposed to present the entire audio from this?

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