The Amaz!ng Meeting 2 (TAM2) was held January 15-18, 2004, and it more than lived up to its name. There were just so many incredible things to see and do, most of which require video and can’t be told in photos. But here are some of the incredible people and things I got to see and do…trust me, this isn’t even scratching the surface.
First of all, the man himself, James
The man to the left of Randi in this picture
is Master of Ceremonies Lt.
Col. Hal Bidlack, a very funny man except when he’s trying to
be (just kidding). Of Hal, I can only quote the words of the great
Gaelic poet Anonymous: “Knock it off with the puns already!!!!”
This man is Jerry
Andrus, a magician and visionary illusionist who brought many
remarkable and head-turning things to the conference:
Another great Andrus illusion is the Tri-Zonal Space
Warper. He sets the spiral thing to spinning (which I've done here with an animated GIF—
you might have to wait a bit for it to fully load and get spinning good),
you stare at it for about 20-30 seconds, and then look at a painting, your best friend,
or the nice benign face I have placed next to the Warper...
Here’s proof that Johnny
Carson, although he wasn’t at the conference, is still a world-class
I’ve been a fan of Phil
Plait (aka The Bad Astronomer), author of Bad
Astronomy, for years, and spoken to him on the Internet, the Randi
Forum, and in the Friends of James Randi room in PalTalk,
and I finally got to meet him in person. He’s just an all-around really
Unfortunately, none of my pictures of Penn & Teller came out, but they were both fabulous guests. They did a few of their tricks at the conference, and then did a small question and answer session (yes, Teller actually spoke!), and then a bunch of us went to see their show at the Rio. If you get a chance, go! It’s more than worth the money. Penn himself ended up contributing at least $50,000 to the JREF. What a guy!
Here’s the lovely, talented, and funny
She surprised everyone with how delightful, warm, and down-to-earth
she is, and her talk had us going from laughter to tears as she took
us on her life’s journey. To talk to her for five seconds is to fall
in love with her. According to Hal Bidlack, she got the highest ratings
by far of any of the guest speakers. I don’t have to ask why.
I really felt bad at first for Dean
(“Hey, you’re that guy”) Cameron, pictured
here on the right, because he was scheduled right after Julia
and we were all
so delighted with her she was a tough one to follow. But when he
and Victor Isaac (left) started reading Deano
and Victor’s “The Great Nigerian Spam Scam Scam,” a
true account of Dean’s emails stringing along a Nigerian
spammer, that feeling I had quickly faded as they drew
the biggest amount of
laughter from the audience compared to any other guest. I haven’t
laughed that hard in years! You can read the email exchange on his
web site, but it’s nothing compared to seeing it read out live.
Lance Burton was also a pleasant surprise
for me. I’ve seen him on television, of course, but the more intimate
setting of this conference let me see how funny and down-to-earth
he is. He entertained us with ways to confuse gamblers in casinos,
and then wowed us all with his Houdini-inspired escape from a straightjacket:
There was just so much to see and do just
walking around on the floor. Amateur magicians were everywhere, wowing
people with card tricks. Others had some small demonstrations, many
of which didn’t lend themselves to photographing. But this one did.
This is simply two metal bearings welded together and then set to
spinning at thousands of rpm. As you can see, the angular momentum
actually causes one of the balls to rise up off of the mirror on which
it is spinning, and the other ball provides the basis for the spin:
There were so many other things to see and learn. Jamy Ian Swiss was constantly doing card tricks and discussing skeptical issues with whomever was around. There were science papers presented on subjects including the Second Law of Thermodynamics and How Science Works. Michael Shermer was there presenting his new book, The Science of Good and Evil, and autographing copies. Ian Rowland gave a talk on Cold Reading, Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education and Dr. Hervey Peoples both gave talks on science and the evolution/creation controversy, Peter Bowditch presented a debunking of James Van Praagh’s talking-to-the-dead schtick, Banachek wowed us with his amazing mental ability to guess which card a person had freely and mentally chosen (without any psychic ability at all), Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer presented a talk on crystals that was both funny and educational, there were panel discussions with many of the guests coming together and discussing issues, just so much to see. There’s no way one web page can tell you how amaz!ng the Amaz!ng Meeting truly was. I can’t wait ’til the next one!