05 Jun 2010

Amazing Meeting 8 is Imminent

Dear Critical Thinking Enthusiasts,

After a long, arduous year of making 2 or 3 internet videos for my brilliant and highly acclaimed series on YouTube, I love to relax by attending The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. Arriving at TAM is like coming home – a larger, cleaner home where they make your bed, feed you and don’t criticize your choice of clothes.

The conference humbles even the snarkiest superhero with a lineup of brilliant speakers. I don’t mind telling you that many of the presentations challenge the limits of my comprehension skills… and I like that! This year is especially exciting. I look forward to seeing Richard Dawkins, The Daily Show’s head writer David Javerbaum and the much celebrated journalist Simon Singh, among many other impressive guests.

While the atmosphere of the talks is usually relaxed, with ample opportunity to personally interact with each speaker outside their lecture, it can sometimes feel a tad academic. But this is tempered by a wealth of other social events and activities during the conference.  From workshops to special performances, to various planned and impromptu parties, to the group recitation of the secret Illuminati chant which contains within it all the knowledge of the universe*, there is much fun to be had with jolly, like-minded folks.

The first year that I attended (TAM6), I experienced this alleged fun. I met mythbuster Adam Savage and the hosts of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, got to hang out with Penn & Teller backstage at their Rio show, and participated in a massive spoon-bending experiment conducted by author Richard Wiseman. But I was still skeptical. After all, the good time could’ve been a fluke, a statistical anomaly.

So I repeated the experiment last year (TAM7) with the same results – fun!  I got to show two of my videos to a room of a thousand people, participated as a judge in a cool skeptical talent show and made a number of potentially lifelong friends from all across the country.

I’m now inclined to think that TAM is in fact fun, but further testing is of course needed. This year, I will attend as many events as I can. Next year, if I secure funding, I will conduct a proper experiment where I’ll attend a crackpot UFO convention, attend TAM 9, and as my control, do what I always do – sit in the corner of a dark red room. I suspect TAM will still come out on top.

There is also another important and less satirical reason to attend The Amazing Meeting. Now that the skeptical movement is increasingly recognized in pop culture, there is a natural tendency to pigeon-hole it as a one-dimensional idea. “Skeptic=buzzkill” or “Skepticism=cynicism”. That’s simply not true. As the biggest event of its kind, The Amazing Meeting consistently dispels this false notion and reminds the world just how rich, diverse, far-reaching and important the culture of critical thinking really is. And to me that’s something worth being a part of.

I sincerely hope to see you at the conference! Although, you will probably not see me for I will be in disguise.

Your Friend in Reality,

Captain Disillusion

*Optional event, conducted by me in the basement of the South Point Casino Hotel at the stroke of midnight, in the middle of a pentagram spray-painted on the floor. (Don’t tell the JREF!)