James "The Amazing" Randi is just so cool! He's also a no good rotten liar and a cheat who likes to deceive people -- and I, along with millions of other magic lovers, love him for it!

His tireless efforts to expose self-professed "psychics" and other lying entertainers has given the world detailed insights into both how these frauds do what they do as well as insights into humanity's bizarre need to be hornswaggled by even the simplest of tricks and to believe even the most silly of claims.

Not too long ago the Skeptics Society (housed here in the Los Angeles area) gave an awards dinner for a number of people on the forefront of the debunking arena. James Randi was schedule to be part of the event. My wife and I managed to make it to the dinner and, even though we had to leave early, had a great time and got to learn a thing or two about a great many things.

I hadn't known that Randi would be performing that night so I was pleasantly surprised when Randi offered some conjuring. Though I had of course read a great many of his books and read untold accounts of his spoon bending, I had never seen the phenomena up close. This night I was less than five feet away from Randi as he performed his spoon bending trick!

Randi selected a spoon from somewhere (I don't recall where he got the spoon from) and passed it to a member of the audience at the table next to mine. An expectant hush immediately falls among the crowd as everyone focuses intently upon one of Randi's most famous conjuring tricks.

After the spoon is examined and handed back, Randi proceeds to hold the spoon horizontally in his right hand between thumb and forefinger. As he wiggles the spoon up and down, keeping the spoon horizontal, Randi talks as if to himself, "It's starting to bend; I can feel the spoon starting to give..."

Everyone in the audience can see that the ends of the spoon appear to dip down as Randi holds the spoon between his thumb and forefinger. The spoon looks like it's turned to liquid and it starts to flop up and down like it were made out of soft, pliable rubber.

There's an audible <click> and the two pieces of the spoon fall to the ground. The audience goes wild as Randi picks the spoon pieces up and hands them to a member of the audience.

What exactly did we all see?

Every good magician and conjurer is a good study of human nature; of the preconceptions and expectations humans carry with them from day to day which are a part of each of us. Randi appears to have learned how to read individuals and "profile" individuals like long-time hardened police detectives do when sizing up a criminal. In fact, as my wife and I were waiting for the dining room to open, I noticed Randi making sure to make eye-contact with everyone and making sure that everyone knew that he acknowledged their presence. His small stature and his beady little eyes coupled to his direct glare are specifically intended to be remembered and to direct focus and attention away from what he's doing.

It's the understanding of preconceptions and expectations which give a bit of background into what we saw that night. Selective recall also works to the conjurer's benefit as seemingly insignificant events are totally discounted when the phenomena is remembered and talked about later.

Having read most of Randi's books and, most recently, his book "The Truth about Uri Geller" I knew a little bit about what to look for during his presentation.

I recall that there was a quite audible snap when the two pieces of the spoon broke -- loud enough to have been heard by everyone in that hushed room, in fact. Yet it is a mistake to assume that the snap we all heard was the spoon breaking. Conjurers have a history of giving audio cues to help-along a deception; they'll tap a table leg with the side of a shoe to produce a metallic or wooden sound designed to solidify the illusion taking place on the table top; they'll use metal plates in the elbow of their jacket to clank together when they tap two metal rings together to "show" how solid they are.

I suspect that after the audience member verified the solidity of the spoon to bend, Randi took it back and immediately switched it for one which was already either totally broken in two else one which was hanging by a thread. As the spoon is held horizontally the thumb and forefinger are pressed tightly together and, to make the spoon become "plastic" and bend, the pressure is released slowly.

I also think that the audio click we heard was manufactured elsewhere on his body. (The sound was actually more like "ching!") I don't know what kind of a sound a piece of metal like a spoon would make if it is pulled apart by a machine yet I would expect some kind of a snap rather than what we actually heard.

Another clue I have to wonder about is the dropping of the two pieces of spoon. Randi would never drop something if it wasn't intentional. After decades of using his hands to manipulate countless deceptions, Randi had a reason for dropping the pieces of broken spoon.

Did he take that time to pocket something? Did he rely upon human nature for half the audience to turn to the other half to express their enjoyment of the feat? I have no recollection of what Randi's left hand was doing during this time because I (like everyone else) was totally focused on what his right hand was doing.

Perhaps he used his left hand to hitch-up his pants before bending down to pick up the spoon parts -- a natual enough thing to do, actually. And perhaps while he was "hitching up his pants," he moved something into a pocket.

Be damned if I could see anything, though.

One thing's certain: James "The Amazing" Randi is truly amazing. His work -- either conjuring or debunking other liars and cheats (those who take advantage of magical tricks for immoral, unethical purposes and thus degrade his wonderful profession) are top notch.


A good example of his debunking work follows:


On April 1st, we award the coveted Pigasus prizes in four categories, for accomplishments in the period January 1/96 to December 31/96. The awards are announced via telepathy, the winners are allowed to predict their winning, and the Flying Pig trophies are sent via psychokinesis. We send; if they don't receive, that's probably due to their lack of


Alright, already! Notices have been pouring in here that you received three copies of one of my recent postings. Sincere regrets. I often get multiple postings, myself, and it's a nuisance. I'm looking into the problem right now.

And, many of you pointed out that thos miraculous crystals that are said to have been buried at the goalposts at the instructions of Uri Geller to save the Exeter team from defeat, would of course work the opposite way when the teams switched ends at half-time. My understanding was that there were "tuned" crystals at BOTH ends, so this is a moot point. These mysterious powers take years of study and self-denial to master, you know.

And, as a good friend points out to me, it's hardly sporting to call in occult forces to help a team. It's supposed to be strength, skill, stamina, and determination that win football games, isn't it? I'd say that using witchcraft is simply CHEATING! However, judging from the effects that Mr. Geller has been having on U.K. football, the "cursed" teams don't have to worry much. In fact, these magical charms seem to work the wrong way around.... Hmmmmm.

We in the USA can hardly point a finger of accusation. We're just as naive. Teams here actually have chaplains who invoke prayers to various gods to bring victory. What a dither the deities must be in, trying to decide whose plea is the more deserving! But hey, the god business is a tough one.

I'm now told that a character on the tedious soap opera "Melrose Place" had a succinct comment on Mr. Geller recently. I'll report on that as soon as I've seen the episode. I'm not a watcher of that sort of material, but I'm amused to know that even these dippy characters have opinions on such stuff.

I'm also informed that Mr. Geller is still claiming that Stanford Research Institute validated his powers. Not according to Stanford Research Institute. But what would they know?

And, the recent lawsuit brought by Mr. Geller against me, in which his colorful lawyer suggested to the judge that he issue an order for "the confinement of James Randi," has been summarily dismissed. Gee, with football and with lawsuits, Mr. Geller just seems to have no success at all!

James Randi

James Randi Educational Foundation      phone: +1 954 467 1112
201 SE Davie Blvd.,                     fax: +1 954 467 1660
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815          http://www.randi.org


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