Thursday, December 18, 2008

I have plenty of posts in draft from over the years... here's one about a hero of mine!

This post was originally from last July, according to the previous date. The reason I didn't publish it is obvious - it largely consists of videos.
` But hey, can't a post be about videos? Videos of one of my favoritest people in the whole world?

Who might that be, you ask? He's a magician, famous for publicizing the fact that the tricks magicians do in the name of entertainment are often performed as demonstrations of psychic abilities and such things.
` No, not Houdini - though that's a good guess. I'm talking about James Randi - sometimes called The Amazing Randi.
` I was delighted to learn that many video segments of Randi's television appearances are available on YouTube, and I thought I'd bring these to your attention. They're fun, too!

Where to start? Well, how about this one from NBC Dateline, called 'The Magical Mystery Tour'.
` As the narration goes: "From the first time he first saw the great magician Harry Blackstone, Randi was hooked. And chained, and cuffed and bottled! ... [A]t some point, The Amazing Randi decided that dangling over Niagra Falls was not a profession with long-term prospects."

In this vid, James has a few things to say on people claiming to use real magic to do stage magic tricks, and demonstrates one of them!
` There are also clips of his exposure of Peter Popoff - the self-proclaimed faith healer who, Randi discovered, was getting his information through an earpiece!

In the next section, Randi demonstrates how bending spoons the 'psychic' way is really bending spoons the hard way.
` Also, this researcher from the Rhine Institute is just... well... not very informative. In answering why playing by Randi's 'rules' isn't acceptable to him, he says, "Because he advertises himself as a charlatan, and he knows nothing about science."
` Wow. Snappy comeback.
` In fact, Randi does understand scientific methodology, partly because science is about how to avoid being fooled, which, if you've been paying attention, you'll know is his main focus.
` Also, the fact that he does (good naturedly) tell people that he's a charlatan (referring to his performance of illusions) is a wonderful thing - if he claimed that his tricks were real magic , would you have any respect for him?
` Or, even worse, would you believe that his tricks were really psychic powers?

In the third and final part, I found myself feeling amused by the fortune tellers caught on Dateline's hidden camera. Can you possibly give out responses that are any more vague?
` "In a way it's good, and in a way it's not." "You can be the life of the party, or you can be the one who sits in the back." "In a way you're comfortable with it, and in a way you're not comfortable with it." "You have boring days and you have good days."
` Observe how a cold reader asks questions:
` "And you're also going to get a car." (= Q. "Do you have a car?")
` "I have a car."
` "Another one." (= Q. "Is it old enough that you want a new one?")
` "Mine's brand new."
` "Another one." (= "Then it's a brand new car.")
` "Another new car?"
` A tarot card reader says; "Beware the obstacles and stumbling blocks that are around you now." Wow, that's some really sage advice there. Also, she offers up a real bargain; clearing up 'negativity' with a package that costs $300!
` Then, Randi gets some college students to agree that one horoscope fits them all - actually, bits and pieces of other real horoscopes combined into one. Not all of them agree, however, that horoscopes don't tell you anything useful about yourself.
` Well, are you willing to help others? Do you have a strong need for others to like you? Are health circumstances important to you? That same horoscope may describe you as well!

Moving on, we get to Larry King, who brings up the subject of Charles Berlitz and the Bermuda Triangle to his guest, James Randi (of course).
` Randi replies that of the 105 cases of supposed disappearances of craft in the Bermuda Triangle discussed by Berlitz, only 30 of them can be pinpointed by latitude and longitude, and each of these are scattered across the Pacific, Mediterranean, etc. while only two of them actually occurred in the Bermuda triangle.
` He explained that he isn't really a 'debunker', instead; "If something doesn't seem to be logical... I look into it."
` He tells of a man he tested, and discovered that he had the genuine ability to tell, 20 times out of 20 trials, what was on an LP record, just by looking at it carefully.
` That's not a psychic power, however, that's a skill that almost no one bothers to develop. Well, why would they? It probably takes years.
` However, something which can be learned in 15 minutes, is the spoon bending trick, "It's such a corny trick I didn't even bother to put it into my book. It's that bad... it's especially not very popular with mothers."
` I know he's right. Ever wonder why they call me Spoony?
` But Uri Geller, he says, was only tested on his terms. Whenever he failed, he said that his powers weren't working right at the time, which is a common way to get out of performing when you aren't ready.
` Will Larry King buy swampland in Florida? He drops his watch when he sees that the time has 'mysteriously' changed. "How did you do that?" he asks.
` "Very well, I mean, with a certain dedication."

Were the people at Dateline right about how he did the watch trick? This time Randi explains how it's done, and after he does it, he points out that when he looks at the watch and says, "'not yet', and that's called, Larry, 'lying'."
` And the trick with the number grid and the coins? Now that's priceless! I don't remember seeing it last July.
` Like all of those who enter the James Randi Challenge, an astrologer he was talking about had to agree that it was a perfectly fair test. This Astrological Association member said that he had assigned people to the correct astrological sign many times before, but curiously, he couldn't even do it once for Randi.
` Also interesting in this vid is one of the callers-in, who admitted that after ten years of cheating people through psychic fraud such as "tarot card readings, runestone readings, past life readings, astrology and biorhythms, it's all fake." He said it's kind of like being a "professional rassler" and describes just how easy it is to do:
` In tarot cards, if a picture of a woman comes up, you can say; "'Oh, there's a woman in your life, now this woman has caused some problems, do you know who I'm talking about?' And the people start giving you all the answers that you want 'em to."

Whoever this alleged psychic fraudster of ten years is, I don't know. Is he or is he not? What he says is accurate, from all the material I've read about this. I wonder if he's ever called Randi? Should I bother actually trying to find that out? How empty is my stomach right now?

Hey, I think I'm going to go off for a peanut butter and banana sandwich. I'll be back with more Randi vids later, but that doesn't mean you have to stop watching; all of these should be linked to other videos, if you have nothing better to do for the next few hours....


Kingcover said...

Ha! I've seen a lot of Randi's videos on YouTube and I enjoyed watching them. Perhaps I should start pulling a rabbit out of a hat and make millions from it. I think the rabbit would get tired of being pulled after a while though! :-P

Galtron said...

Forget a rabbit, why not a pterodactyl? I would pay good money to see that, granted it was a real pterodactyl.