"An Honest Liar" documentary - considering James Randi

Well hell, sometimes it seems like a project is never done, but eventually…
you see, my pal Gail at the FourCornersFreePress returned it and asked me to explain who Geller and Popoff were.
Getting into it I realized I’d left the heart (Randi and the documentary) barebones and even misleading.
Originally I’d intended to go back, but never did, and was in a rush to return to other projects.
What I’ve got now is up to 1117, but I like it a lot more.
It’s the process and it can’t be done in a vacuum, that’s why I put up some
of my projects over here, I may not get much feedback but I get a lot of mileage out of what I get ;- )
{I’ve had a chance to polish this up a bit and post it over at my
I figured I might as well update this version ;)}

"An Honest Liar - Considering James Randi" Recently I learned about a new documentary concerning James Randi, called “An Honest Liar." Unfortunately, it won't be out until early spring. What a shame, because though I'm no movie buff, here was one I wanted to watch. You see, I grew up watching the "The Amazing Randi" doing incredible stunts on TV during the ’60s and ’70s, then in the 80s I started paying attention to his other career, that of the stinky eye ferreting out frauds. That started earlier, as the young magician Randi got better he got sick of seeing others using his same tricks not to entertain, but to gain the confidence of innocents in order to steal hard earned money from then. His life long crusade began in 1964 with a thousand dollar challenge for anyone who could offer proof of the paranormal. The prize went to $10,000, then to a cool million dollars. The media attention around his crusade was big and it trickled down to young adults such as myself. You know, we of the happy hippie generation, still in the afterglow of discovering and experiencing a wonderfully miraculous world all around us. Spiritual and chemical energy infused everything and there was so much to take in and wonder about. The spiritual and metaphysical seemed interwoven with everything and now science was starting to find supporting evidence. Then came Randi, to remind those of us who would listen, about skepticism and turning a critical eye on amazing claims. While these exposures were sobering for many, they enraged just as many who resisted having their bubbles burst. It’s telling that over a thousand hucksters have taken and failed Randi’s “Challenge" yet spiritual/psychic con artists are raking in as much as ever. Still for many Randi’s interviews were teaching moments of rational critical thinking and he taught many how to recognize bunk. Skills that helped me navigate a world filled with too many predators hiding behind the smiling mask of the con artist. But all that’s known to me from snippets, various articles and media stories I’ve read. I actually didn’t know much about the man himself. So, reading the synopsis of this documentary, I knew I wanted to see it. Life is full of surprises. As serendipity would have it, I was reading the program the very afternoon of the evening "An Honest Liar" was being screened in Yountville, Calif. Now, I'm just a working stiff, in the area because of a lucky short job I landed, and headed home the next morning. The last thought on my mind was attending a fancy Napa Valley Film Festival, yet that’s where I found myself. Sipping on some Cabernet Sauvignon that proclaimed to me: Now you see? Taste me... look at me... swirl me and breathe me in... take your time, savor the moment. Now you see, wise guy... you see why some don’t mind dropping a Ben Franklin for a bottle, or a glass, if they can? With that boisterous glass of wine in hand, I was ready as “An Honest Liar" began with a review of Randi’s career and fun old TV clips. The film recalled the unmasking of Uri Geller the “psychic" spoon bender who was investigated by some gullible scientists that judged him legitimate, making him a media sensation, then a bust after Randi exposed his tricks. There was also Reverend Popoff the minister with miraculous telepathic “gifts", provided by his wife transmitting information gleaned off the prayer cards visitors filled out, into Popoff’s “hearing aid". Using that information he mesmerized his flock and proceeded to “heal" his hapless victims and rake in the donations. It got fascinating when we learn of the various fictitious psychics Randi created. They managed to fool the world despite Randi liberally sprinkling hints. When Randi wasn’t all hell and brimstone on frauds, he found time to help Alice Cooper create some on stage. Then came the plot twists, for those of us who haven’t kept up with Randi’s amazing life. There was the surprise of Randi coming out in 2010 and publicly revealing his 25-year partnership with Jose Alvarez, a fascinating survivor and amazing fellow in his own right. Then, while still absorbing all that, we're hit with an even more startling revelation, unfolding in real time, heightened by the dead seriousness of jail time and worse. After the film was finished, we were treated to a Q&A with Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, the co-directors. They surprised us by announcing a couple visitors, Randi and Alvarez in the flesh. Watching Randi walk down the aisle, I couldn't help but think that he looks like Charles Darwin in his later years. That’s fitting, though Harry Houdini would probably deserve it more considering he's the grand-daddy of debunking spiritualists and con artists, as Randi acknowledges. Taking questions, Randi responded to one with something I'd already jotted down in my notes as the single best line in the documentary, "People need to believe." Later, I had a chance to speak with him and asked: “OK, people need to believe – what can we do with that? Where do we go from there?" He looked at me with those deep intense eyes, shrugged and shook his head for a beat, then perked up: “Teach the young ones," and invited me to check out the James Randi Educational Foundation. After watching the documentary, I came to appreciate that Randi had given me more than skills to deal with con artists. He'd helped me learn that I was my own toughest challenge – falling in love with my own notions and refusing to acknowledge my own blindspots, being afraid to be proven wrong. Fabricating bubbles of contrived realities, in order to justify rejecting contrary evidence, no matter how valid it is. Those are each of our worst enemies. And what of our allies? There's the passion to keep learning about this incredible world I inhabit for a short moment. Appreciating that no matter how much I think I may have learned or know, there’s more to learn. Besides, I could be wrong and need to remain willing to honestly listen to and digest new information – then base my belief on the strength of the evidence presented – not on my tender ego or desires. If I’m wrong it’s a learning opportunity and not an excuse to lash out against the bearer of better information. In closing, what I thought would be an entertaining, informative movie about one of the interesting characters of my time turned into an enthralling, even compelling journey of discovery and reflection. It gets my thumbs-up recommendation, with or without an accompanying glass of fine wine.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ For those that want to learn about James Randi's scholarly work, check out the Google Scholar search results: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=James+Randi&btnG;=&as_sdt=1,6&as;_sdtp= ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ "An Honest Liar was a highlight of what had been a very strong documentary program at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. " http://thefilmstage.com/features/the-amazing-randi-talks-the-ethics-of-an-honest-liar/ For more information about the documentary here's their website http://anhonestliar.com/wp/

I got word this morning that An Honest Liar won Best Documentary at the Napa Valley Film Festival !
It’s well deserved and I hope it’s a big hit when it finally get’s released to the public.

Nice write up, CC. I’m looking forward to the movie.
As an aside, I had my own experience trying to show how easy it is for cold readers to fool people. About 10 years ago at a music festival one night someone was talking about cold readers, and I launched into a cold reading of my own, gleaning information out of her responses and convincing several people I was a psychic. When I divulged the tricks I used several people got angry with me, and two of them stomped off in a huff refusing to admit they had been fooled.
People want to believe in the supernatural.
Edit: corrected 20 years ago to 10 years ago.

What’s behind the Liar designation?

As an aside, I had my own experience trying to show how easy it is for cold readers to fool people. About 20 years ago at a music festival one night someone was talking about cold readers, and I launched into a cold reading of my own, gleaning information out of her responses and convincing several people I was a psychic. When I divulged the tricks I used several people got angry with me, and two of them stomped off in a huff refusing to admit they had been fooled. People want to believe in the supernatural.
Funny story I would have loved seeing that, you touch on the sad part People Need to Believe. And I see it with close loved ones of my own. Sure I can thump my chest here, but with them I stay away from that confrontation. If they are sure the homeopathic meds and acupuncture and what not are integral to healing, staying healthy, it's hard to make a stand for rational science, for what? Beyond a hint now and then, I back off (unless someone invites serious talk) - making a big deal out of it hurts more than it helps - … then thee 'ol fatalism steps in, if the right one don't get you, then the left one will, after all, in the end none of this matters anyways and all those platitudes. Hell, even the global warming thing, I've had friends say the dumbest things, but it's unapproachable, where do I start when there's no foundation of knowledge to work with - why step into something that will turn emotional, just like you experienced, and screw up the whole event? It's one of the biggies I struggle with. {Thanks Darron, that was good, it helped me fix up some closing paragraphs which weren't firing on all 8.}
What's behind the Liar designation? Lois
seriously? :coolhmm: . . . an honest liar A magician, a man that tells you he's going to trick you and deceive you then does it. With the overtone being, Randi does it to entertain you, others use the same skills and tricks to mesmerize the playable, then they take and take and take as much as they can suck out of the sad gullible sods who haven't had the opportunity to learn about the world and science and rationality and critical thinking for themselves.