Friday, July 24, 2015

The Amazing Meeting 2015 (and a bunch of other meetings)

It has been almost two months since my last Blog posting, which is a bit unusual. But I have been going a lot of places, especially conferences and meetings. Let's take a look at some of them.

In the first week of June I went up to Oakland to attend the one-day conference Skepti-Cal on June 6, sponsored by the Bay Area Skeptics. 

Since the late Bob Steiner and I were the founders of that group back in 1982, I figured I should check out how they're doing. Actually, they are doing quite well, even without us!

Bay Area Skeptic Sheldon Helms appropriately brought his brain to Skeptical-Cal, for intelligent discussions.
It was held in the Asian Cultural Center in Oakland, CA.

Waiting for the sessions to begin
Hailey Sheaffer, born June 7.

Actually, that's not the only reason I was in Oakland the first week in June. My son Ken's second child was due the last week in May. They live in nearby Alameda. A perfect plan, I thought. The baby will be a week or two old, I'll visit with them, and attend Skepti-cal. Small problem. The baby was stubborn, and was almost two weeks late. I was afraid that I'd have to go back home before the baby was born! But the baby came the morning after Skepti-Cal, so I got to see my newest granddaughter a few times before my flight home. And that delayed schedule also gave us the chance beforehand to be surprised by the giant purple Sea Slugs washing up on the beaches in Alameda and vicinity. I thought it was some kind of gross jellyfish, but my son quickly figured it out. These are gruesome-looking things. One person actually called emergency services, saying that a human organ had washed up on the beach!

Giant purple sea slug.

On June 28, I attended the annual Awards Ceremony of the Independent Investigations Group in the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood. This parody of the Oscars gives awards for good (and bad) treatment of paranormal claims in the media. Dr. Oz was awarded the Truly Terrible Television Award.

Speaking at Westercon about the Roswell Slides

The next weekend, July 4, was the Westercon science fiction convention, this year in San Diego. I was invited to give a talk, so I spoke about the Roswell Slides fiasco. 

The weekend after that was - of course - Comic-Con. Nothing in San Diego is normal during that week. There are tons of Comic-Con photos on-line, so I'll only post a few.

Damien and Godzilla offer Salvation, competing with the Jesus people

After a brief rest, I drove up to Las Vegas for The Amazing Meeting with the Amazing Randi. I presented a workshop, along with James McGaha, on "Evaluating UFO Claims in the Media." This was the only UFO-related item on the schedule. One of our main points was: the UFO "documentaries" you see on cable TV are intended as entertainment, not as factual programming. Exaggeration and/or fabrication are the general rule. For example: Hangar 1.

The audience at our UFO workshop

James McGaha and I chatting with The Amazing One

There were so many old friends, and new friends, it would take forever to tell it all. In brief, I did meet and chat with a large number of skeptics, including (in no particular order) James Alcock, Matt Crowley, Jay Diamond, Taner Edis, Tim Farley, Susan Gerbic, Andrew Hanford, Heather Henderson, Sheldon Helms, Sharon Hill, Ray Hyman, Barry Karr, Linda Lawrence, James McGaha, David Glueck, Kitty Mervine, Massimo Polidoro, Spoony Quine, Ben Radford, James Randi, Dave Richards, Richard Saunders, Jamy Ian Swiss, James Underdown, Mick West, and many others whose names have blurred together in my mind - so if I left you out, please excuse me.

Much was said about the new documentary movie about Randi's life, An Honest Liar. Frank Warren wrote a nice review of it on The UFO Chronicles. I purchased the Blu-Ray DVD of that movie, on sale at The Amazing Meeting. It has considerable bonus materials. I was very happy to see that, in the Blu-Ray bonus segment titled "Popoff Exposure: Undercover Plant," Bay Area Skeptics Don Henvick and the late Bob Steiner are featured, and credited, for their roles in Randi's sting of the Fake Healer Peter Popoff.

Most interestingly, Col. John Alexander contacted me just before TAM, asking if I'd be attending. He lives in Las Vegas, and we had met before. I said I was, so we arranged for him to come by to talk with me, James McGaha, and briefly a few others. We had a nice chat. We agreed about the fiasco of the Roswell Slides and such. Ultimately, John (who is still active in the Society for Scientific Exploration) was advocating for the supposed healing powers of John of God in Brazil. He felt that, since the "healer" was not attempting to collect money in any way, this suggests his powers are  genuine. Alexander also was promoting the supposed paranormal ability of a tribe in a remote part of West Africa to handle and even hold in their mouth an extremely hot, glowing metal rod. I pointed out to Alexander that right here at TAM, there was a million dollars to be had by demonstrating such a claim. "That challenge can't be won," he insisted. I have heard this before from parapsychologists: they insist that Randi's challenge is rigged, and is unwinnable. (They have to maintain this, otherwise they have no excuse for not taking the challenge.) It's obvious that these critics know nothing about how Randi's challenge operates, or else they deliberately misrepresent it. Randi does not tell the "psychic" what to do: instead, the "psychic" tells him what they claim to be able to do. The discussion then moves to, "How can this be demonstrated, while ruling out error or fraud?" At this point  magician Jamy Ian Swiss (seen in An Honest Liar) walked by. I brought him over to meet Col. Alexander. I explained that Alexander claimed to know of a tribe in Africa capable of performing paranormal feats of fire-proofing. Swiss invited him to submit a claim. Alexander said, "That challenge cannot be won." Swiss replied, "OK, this conversation is over," and walked off.

Randi and Deyvi - they're married now - are presented with a special memorial wine bottle
The Long and the Short of it: Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Massimo Polidoro

This guy has a bunch of skeptical tattoos. The text reads, "An Honest Liar."

Randi is retiring. What happens next year? We'll have to wait and see.


  1. was wonderful to see you at TAM. And keep attending those conferences! You have a lot to share! (my brother borrowed your Psychic Vibrations book also! He had better return it!!!)

  2. They'll have to find a darned good Hug Ambassador to replace Mr. Randi.

  3. They'll have to find a darned good Hug Ambassador to replace Mr. Randi.


Keep your comments relevant, and keep them civil! That means no personal attacks will be allowed, by anyone, on anyone. Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone. Comments in violation of these rules will be deleted, and offenders banned.

Comments should be in English, although quotes from foreign-language sources are fine as long as they're relevant, and you explain them. Anonymous postings are not permitted. If you don't want to use your real name, then make up a name for yourself, and use it consistently.