Thursday, February 18, 2010

Skepticality, Monster Talk and a trip to 2008

A little bit late, but satisfying 

Derek Colanduno manned the mic alone this week in a Skepticality Extra interviewing D.J. Grothe.  This was of course another interview of Grothe on his ascending the Presidency of the JREF, and pitching his new podcast For Good Reason.  Grothe spoke of the one year reign of terror that was finally ending with the abdication of former JREF President, Phil Plait, and how Grothe planned to keep Randi locked in a closet and skim money from the million dollar challenge bank account to pay for a hip St. Louis lifestyle.  (Ok. Let me be clear, none of the above is true.  Not a word of it other than Grothe is now President of the JREF). (editor's note - and the part about him ringing round to all the skeptical podcasts is very much true.)

Actually, there was not a whole lot new in the interview that has not been covered on other podcasts interviews of Grothe as of late.  Which is not to say it was bad interview.  A few highlights: Grothe is a big Marvel Comics fanboy, it appears that there will be a TAM Europe in Switzerland, the JREF will foster more regional workshops to get us couch potato skeptics doing something constructive, and now is the time to get a deal on a room at the South Point Hotel in exciting Las Vegas, Nevada (where bloggers get married) even though the sign up for TAM 8 has not been opened.

If you have not heard Grothe interviewed recently and want to catch up, this slightly less than 30 minute interview is a nice shortcut to knowledge.  The only negative about the interview is that it sounds as if it has been on the shelf for a bit, since Grothe is talking about the launch of his new show For Good Reason about to be released.  What is not talked about in this interview is that the keynote speaker for TAM 8 will be Prof. Richard Dawkins.  Other than that it is a good interview, but if you have listened to For Good Reason already or heard Grothe as a guest rogue on the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe and time is precious, then you will not miss a whole lot of new information if you do not listen.

Burden of  Proof

I listened to the latest Monster Talk.  This week's episode featured an interview of Greg Long, author of The Making of Bigfoot.  I'll refrain from going into detail as Karl sometimes covers this podcast.  Long's book is an investigation of the famed and now iconic Patterson-Gimlin footage of "bigfoot" walking into the woods while shot with a motion picture camera by a shaky hand.  While I think the evidence for an actual existence of a Bigfoot is thin and highly unlikely (to be charitable about it), the evidence presented by Long, while obviously laboriously collected, was disappointing to me.  Disappointing in this sense--  If the burden of proof is on this book to definitively disprove this Bigfoot film, I  think the book fails.  Yes, there are stories based on nearly forty year old memories that do not jive, and suspicious lack of orignal film stock, and passed lie detector tests, etc.  Yet, as a whole, if I were a Bigfoot proponent, there is no slam dunk against the footage.  Then again, if there were a slam dunk piece of evidence, Long would have authored a pamphlet and not a book.  Karl might disagree with my above assessment, but I did find it an enjoyable interview.    Speaking of Karl . . .

"American Taliban" starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds 

Karl Mamer, a co-author on this blog and proprietor of Conspiracy Skeptic (not to mention Puffin critic and general skeptical wizard) occasionally references his guest appearance on Dogma Free America episode 60 of July 31, 2008.  He usually pairs his description of his appearance on the show with "suck."  As a curious sort, I decided to download the episode and find out why Mamer thinks his appearance was as big a train wreck as when I appeared on his fine Conspiracy Skeptic episode.  (There is a good reason I write and not speak.)

I have listened to a few episodes of Dogma Free America, and I generally like it.  However, I am not moved to listen to it with any regularity.  The host of the show is Rich Orman, who has appeared as a guest on CS and did a much more coherent job than yours truly on Karl's show, is exceedingly passionate about slapping down dogma.  Sure, I am not a big fan of dogma in general, but Orman feels about dogma as I feel about the Red Soxs, fake moon landing advocates, or Jimmy Buffet.  I think this might be the key to why Mamer believes he failed.  Orman would read a story of some misguided person making a boob of themself such as a witch mistakenly impaling her own foot with a sword in a late night intoxicated cemetery ceremony, and Karl would make a little joke.  Orman just did not know how to react.  For example: Orman discusses a new story where the mayor who lost a court case putting up Jesus' likeness in the courthouse against the ACLU proceed to call the ACLU the American Taliban.  Karl noted that "American Taliban" sounds like a lessor known Gene Kelly film.    I laughed out loud and startled my dog on our evening constitutional, but Orman gave nothing.  It is as if Abbot says who's on first, and Costello says "oh.  A player named 'Who' covers first base."  Yawn.  I think that was the problem that Orman was very straight, while Karl made some well placed jokes without any response.  More evidence that if Brian Thompson ever wants a guest host, Mamer is the guy.

Also interesting on the show was Mamer's unsuccessful battle against Wikipedia to have DFA get a wikipedia page.  Mamer discusses his online arguments to have the show get a page, and the editors continuously knocking him down since the show, a higher ranking iTunes show, was not sufficiently "notable."  Finally, Mamer was left to make a page on Google's wikipedia competitor Knol.  While Knol has yet to take off despite Google's zillions of dollars, the page does contain interesting links memorializing Mamer vs. Wiki.  I also remember when Mamer posted that as an unexpected ripple of the battle, wikipedia started questioning whether the SGU or Skeptoid should have pages.  It is a fascinating tale and is evidence that Mamer is one dogged skeptic who is not to be trifled with.

The show also featured an interview of Justin Knapp of We Blog, who told of his battle with and how Amazon consistently erased or took down negative reviews about the book Dianetics: by L. Ron Hubbard.  I suppose the theme of the day was taking it to the man of the internet.  Knapp shared an interesting narrative of writing a negative review about the book after he learned that Amazon was deleting negative reviews after a few days.  He wrote a negative review and it was taken down.  He was told that he was attacking the author and not the material.  He wrote another review and it was taken down saying he was attacking the content.  (It is allegedly a non-fiction book so what else can you discuss if the not the content.)  He wrote a third review criticizing the literary style and book cover and so on.  In the end, Knapp won.  I just checked and his one negative review is now up on the site.

All in all, I found it to be an entertaining episode, and I thought Mamer was just fine on the program.  Mamer is too hard on himself.  I just think Mamer's witticisms did not jell with Orman's serious, impassioned style.  The episode is old, but worth a listen.

edit - New Conspiracy Skeptic out - commentary to follow in a day or two.


  1. Yes, fully admit that interview was 'on the shelf' for a little while. When I say 'little' it was only about 2.5 weeks old, give or take a couple days.

    Our show release schedule got a bit odd, but I decided to put it out 'in between' our normal show release schedule, hence why I called it a 'bonus' episode. ;)

  2. As a person who does 1/10 (at best) the amount of skeptical activity as yourself or Swoopy, and I still get behind on my blog, I'm in a big glass house. It is quite understandable. It was a nice interview. Thanks.

  3. I came to know of Karl Mamer's knols due to this blog post. Hope he will post more knols.


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