The Amazing Meeting 5 Recap, Part 1

I spent the weekend at The Amaz!ng Meeting 5 in Las Vegas. While there is a lot to discuss, today you get the random minutia: Quotations.

For actual descriptions of what happened, visit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog (Parts 1 and 2 are currently up).

So, here you go. Things I heard that enlightened or amused me. Don’t quote me on the quotations. There’s only so much you can do with a pen, a notecard, and my memory when people talk fast….

When being introduced to debunking legend James Randi as “the guy who sold his soul”:

Randi: “Well, I can’t talk to a man without a soul.”

And then he walked away. I think he was joking…

Randi, during his welcome speech:

“The most common phrase you will hear tonight is ‘prove it.’”

When a media trainer (Margaret Downey of Atheist Alliance International) acting as a person who believes in visions of the Virgin Mary spoke to a student in the workshop:

[Image of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich is shown on the screen]
Trainer: “What do you think of that?!”
Student 1: “It looks delicious.”

Later in that same workshop, the trainer switched to believing in psychics:

Trainer: “[If psychics are all liars] why are they listed in the phone book?”
Student 2: “If they were psychics and I had a problem, shouldn’t they be calling me?”
Trainer: “… I knew you would say that.”

Talking to Rebecca Watson, founder of SkepChick.org and the SkepChick/SkepDude calendars, during a poker game:

Me: “So, what do I have to do to be in the SkepDude calendar…?”
Rebecca: “Well, first, you can’t have any modesty.”
Me: “This conversation is over.”

Q & A session with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park:

Questioner: “With the War on Christmas going on, will Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo be known as Holiday Poo or Seasonal Poo?”

(The answer was no.)

Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, explaining the reaction people have when they see him in person:

“You don’t sound bald.”

Q & A session with Sagal:

Questioner: “Can you kick Ira Glass’ butt?”
Sagal: “I have kicked Ira Glass’ butt.”

Magician Jamy Ian Swiss, speaking to the audience after completing a trick:

“If you thought this stuff was real, you wouldn’t be an audience. You’d be a congregation.”

Professor Neil Gershenfeld, director of The Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT:

“Computer Science may be the worst thing that happened to computers or science.”

Later, Gershenfeld spoke about a class he once taught called “How To Make (almost) Anything” and the response students had to it:

“This looks too useful… are you allowed to teach it at MIT?”

Q & A session with Penn & Teller:

Questioner: “Doesn’t the show Identity reinforce stereotypes?”
Penn: “You cantankerous bitch.”

Questioner: Were either of you circumcised and did it hurt?

Questioner: What is the most dangerous show on TV?
Teller: You’re assuming we watch TV. I don’t even watch us.

Random person who came up to me with a very serious look on his face:

“I love your blog… I’m sorry things didn’t work out on Shaadi.com.”

Scott Dikkers, editor of The Onion, when his PowerPoint presentation stopped working:

“Let’s just watch porn.”

Me talking to Christopher Hitchens at a hotel room party (coolest thing ever, I must say):

Me: How will your new book be any different from Harris’ and Dawkins’?
Hitchens: It’s better.

It was a fun conference :) Pictures coming up next.


[tags]atheist, atheism, The Amaz!ng Meeting 5, TAM5, amazing, Las Vegas, Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy, James Randi, sold his soul, Margaret Downey, Atheist Alliance International, Virgin Mary, grilled cheese sandwich, psychics, Rebecca Watson, SkepChick.org, SkepChick, SkepDude, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, South Park, Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo, Peter Sagal, NPR, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, Ira Glass, magician, Jamy Ian Swiss, Neil Gershenfeld, The Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT, Penn & Teller, Identity, Shaadi.com, Scott Dikkers, The Onion, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins[/tags]

  • Susan

    Sounds like it was a wonderful experience! I’m jealous…maybe the next one…

    I’m terribly curious about the context of the quote by Niel Gershenfeld about computer science. On the one hand, if he’s talking about computer science as a field, then I want to see some *excellent* justification for that statement, because it sounds like a load of nonsense to me. On the other hand, if he’s talking about the use of the word “science”, then I probably agree entirely. The field known as “computer science” is really a combination of engineering and mathematics, and the use of the word science *is* misleading. So what did he actually mean by that statement?

  • Allison

    It was great to meet you at TAM. I have to mention another favorite quote of mine from Peter Sagal,

    All my life I’ve been surrounded by cool people or geeks. You all (the audience) are the best of both worlds, you’re wearing the leather pants AND the IT t-shirt.

    Looking forward to seeing you in the next Scepti-dudes calendar.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Susan– I wish I could give you a good answer. The line stuck out to me. The context did not. Perhaps someone who was also at TAM5 can comment on this…

    – Hemant

  • MTran

    Thanks for your report. The snippets of conversation are great, especially your reply about qualifications for the SkepDude calendar.

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