Sunday, April 25, 2010

Monster Talk, Skeptic Zone, Token Skeptic, and Amateur Scientist

I've just returned from watching American Idol winner Taylor Hicks in the roadshow revival of Grease.  I'm still a bit stunned by the mediocrity so I apologize if the following lacks any sense.

Token Skeptic, Kylie Sturgess, shared with the listener a panel discussion regarding skeptical/rationalist/atheist blogging at the 2009 DragonCon.  Notables on the panel included Rebecca Watson, super skeptic from down under Dr. Rachael Dunlop, and Brian Thompson, among others.  This was broadcast in honor of "You only like me because I am good in blogg" about women and critical thinking.  As a blogger, I enjoyed the discussion an immense amount.  The panel discussed how much freedom the bloggers give to their commenters, how they handle trolls, and flame wars.  They discussed at what point does one cross the line, and get cut from a thread or discussion.  Also touched upon is how the panelists share their blogs and blogging thoughts with family and friends, which was fascinating.  Thompson's tale of his mother finding out about his thoughts on religion was worth the listen alone.

It was an unconventional T.S., and I believe even if you are one of the three or four skeptics left that does not blog it would be of interest to you too.

While in another part of Australian skepticism, The Skeptic Zone featured an interview by Dr. Dunlop of Maynard.  Maynard, from what I could gather from the interview, was a morning D.J. on a pop/rock station in the 1980's.  He was known for his wisecracking antics and catchphrases.  Dr. Dunlop seemed to be enjoying the interview an immense amount.  Maynard apparently has a skeptical bent, although calling him a closet skeptic might be pushing it a bit far.  The part I found interesting is that Dr. Dunlop is a true "Tears for Fears" fan.  I gather this since she knew the song "Mothers Talk," an album track off their international hit album "Songs from the Big Chair."  I had a cassette tape of the album myself, which I wore out.  The reunited band is apparently on the Australian leg of their tour.  (I wonder if they'll hit Hershey.  Peter Frampton was here last year, and he was awesome.)

The Think Tank featured Dr. Dunlop, Jo Benahamu, Eran Segev, Dave the Happy Singer, and Jason Brown.  Richard Saunders was off at the voiceover guy's house bbq to celebrate a birthday.  Needless to say, Dr. Dunlop steered the ship of the Think Tank quite nicely.  Jason Brown gave an update to his Skepticator, which appears to be growing by leaps and bounds.  A mobile version of the site is in the works, and as a word of advice an iPhone and iPad application would not be a bad idea either.  Eran Segev discussed the growth of the skeptical movement in Israel, which even a year ago was nonexistent. Segev apparently speaks Hebrew and has listened to a rather polished start up, Israel-style SGU podcast "Reasonable Doubt."  (It's something else in Hebrew; I don't believe a Google search will locate it.)  The panel discussed how Dr. Dunlop's shorty award has her named misspelled.  It has Rachel Dunlop, but not RachAel Dunlop.  From pics of it that I've watched on Dr. Dunlop's twitter feed, it does look impressive.

The panel discussed a controversy occurring at an Australian school where the kids have a choice between taking a Religion Class or taking an ethics class.  This is a big deal since before you had a choice between the religion class and doing nothing but twiddling your thumbs.  It appears the new class has caused a noticeable drain on the attendance of the religion classes and the clergy is none too happy about it.  The panel discussed the Boobquake experiment for women one day a year to wear chest revealing or enhancing clothing to test an Iranian cleric's declaration that Earthquakes are caused by trampy dames' clothing.  Here's an experiment that I can get behind.  The panel also covered a new group in Australia that questions the safety and health effects of genetically modified foods.  It might be quite legitimate, but Segev goes through some of the sources for the website that appear to peddle pseudo-science.

A slightly disappointing topic brought up was Deepak Chopra's tweet about him meditating so powerfully that he caused an Earthquake in California.  The panel discussed it as if Chopra was being serious.  As brought up by Brian Thompson last week, and clarified by Chopra, was that he meant it as a joke.  Now if it was a joke, it was in poor taste, but I thought discussing it as if Chopra was serious was a bit improper.  (I cannot believe I am defending Chopra.  Unclean.  unclean!)

As always Dr. Dunlop hosted the program quite nicely, and it was quite a bit of fun to hear her interview someone who was an important part of her routine in the 1980's with Maynard.

Back in the States in Louisiana, Brian Thompson's, the Amateur Scientist podcast provided almost a half hour of constant laughs and chortles.  I even enjoyed the prank phone bit on this week's episode, which sometimes I find a bit disquieting.

Thompson covered that 25% or so of the American population in prime enlistment age bracket for the U.S. Military is too fat to fight, and he pondered alternative sources of recruits.  Namely gay Americans, which is fine.  However, why the stereotype of a gay male American that looks a lot like Jerry Seinfeld circa 1992; in reality many are "bears" and are likely to be too fat to fight as well.  I like where Thompson is going.  Thompson covered a story out of Britain where a woman is blaming her violent conduct on drinking too much Red Bull, and skillfully mocks the bowel habits of our friends in Japan.  They have portable electronic devices that make sounds so you can cover the crass sounds of defecating while in public restrooms.  I cannot imagine that there is not a race to make an iPad application to do the same thing, which I will buy.  The iPad, and not the defecation noise camouflage device unless it is free.

The show ended with Monster Talk's own, Blake Smith, calling the Glenn Beck-approved "heirloom seed" company.  Heritage seeds apparently are special seeds to stock up on when chaos reigns during the end times, or at least until the President of the United States and his lizard overlord puppet masters take over. You can use the seeds to trade and barter, or use them to grow food.  These type of things sometimes make me uneasy as I feel bad for the poor slob on the other end of the phone call, but this time it was amazingly funny.  I believe it is because Smith does a great deadpan militia hick voice, and the lady on the other end does not sound like a temp doing some job.  She sounds like she is on the special seeds she is hocking.

Speaking of Blake Smith, I was able to catch Monster Talk on a train ride home from Philadelphia.  The episode was another in the show's continuing episodes of historical investigation of alleged haunts.  Smith discussed his investigation of the haunting of the S.S. Watertown in the 1920's.  The Watertown was a tanker on which two of the crewmen died enroute and were buried at sea.  The two dead seamen heads were allegedly photographed by the crew, and have been legend ever since.  I quite enjoyed this episode and the previous one talking nuts and bolts of historical investigations of alleged hauntings.  Smith is one impressive character.  I would love to hear him as a guest Rogue one day on the SGU.

I have to finish the latest Skeptics' Guide to the Universe and hope to comment on it quite soon.  It is the live show at NECSS.

I am also in discussion with Karl Mamer about a return appearance on his show.  Unfortunately, Karl refuses my simple request to ship me a bag of only red gummi bears, and a box of twenty Mozart Balls to snack upon while on his show.  He's countered with two Tim Horton donuts.  Humph.  We'll see how this all ends up.

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