Category Archives: James Randi

The Pencil Today:


“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” — Anais Nin


The Spice Girls?


Do you realize there’s such a thing as a School of Exorcism?


Karen Stollznow writes in James Randi’s Swift blog that the school is run by a fellow named Pastor Bob Larson. He travels the country selling books and giving demonstrations. He trots out his teenaged daughter and her two young friends to pray and gesticulate and dance around saps they pluck from the audience for their brand of spiritual scrubbing.

Larson At Work

Larson runs something called the Spiritual Freedom Church. He’s been a guest on Dr. Phil (duh), Oprah (duh, duh!) and Anderson Cooper (wtf?) Stollznow tells of attending one public exorcism/panhandling event and watching as Larson played his parlor game with an alcoholic audience member who’d been dragged in by his mother.

Larson, his daughter, and her nubile pals whacked the guy with their Bibles while he was restrained by stage goons and showered him with abusive rhetoric. Or should I say they showered the “demon” that they claim has been victimizing the poor guy’s family for seven generations.

My fave part of Stollznow’s recount is when Larson daughter interrupts the festivities to ask her daddy-o, “What was the demon’s name again?”

People give this guy their hard-earned cash, natch.


The School of Exorcism reminds me, Indianapolis was the site of the 2012 Paranormal Meet & Greet this past weekend.

Believers in ESP, EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena, wherein spirits of the dead speak through audio recorders), ghosts, and other woo-woo fabulosities got together and told each other they weren’t loons at Hannah House. Run exclusively by volunteers, the historic Hannah mansion is marketed as a haunted house.

One of the featured guests at the Hannah was Kat Klockow, who calls herself the Urban Legends Detective and a cultural anthropologist studying urban legends. She’s written a book called “Haunted Hoosier Halls: Indiana University.”

I bet you didn’t know that this neck of the woods is rife with wraiths.

The Indiana Memorial Union Is Home To A Ghost Dog

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind my reading public that this is the year two thousand freaking twelve! Sheesh!


Jared Thompson, the big cheese at The Comedy Attic, deejays tonight at The Bishop, downstairs from his laff joint.

He’ll be spinning discs from 8pm to midnight. And they’ll all be 45s from his mother-in-law’s collection. We used to call them “singles.”

Here’s the spindle of jams JT’s M-in-L sent over to the happy couple:

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

I Fucking Love Science: Experiment By Mohamed Babu Of India

Present & CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

The UniverseA Facebook community of astrophysics and astronomy geeks.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

From Eat Sleep Draw: Drawing By Dylan Silva

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Muddy Boots Cafe — Joe Sanford; 6-8:30pm

Landlocked Music — Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, in-store performance; 7pm

Monroe County Public Library — It’s Your Money series: Kayte Young of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard demonstrates ways to save food money; 7pm

The Bishop — Donora, Teammate; 9pm

The Bluebird — Dave Walters karaoke; 9pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th
  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:


“There is a distinct difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain leaks out.” — James Randi


Just a reminder, the transit of Venus will be visible in these parts in the hours just prior to sunset Tuesday evening.

The phenomenon has only been seen by human eyes seven times.

Wear #14 welder’s glasses or get a pair of those neat eclipse glasses that look a bit like movie theater 3-D glasses. The transit also is visible through one of those pinhole projection boxes the geeky kids in seventh grade always knew how to make when there was a partial solar eclipse.

Eclipse Cheaters

Which leads me to my fave beat-the-dead-horse question: Why believe in magic and monsters when real life itself is so spectacular?


Man, you blew it if you were unable to catch the Italian movie “We Have a Pope.”

I just caught the Ryder Film Series offering last night at the SoFA small theater and it was a delight.

A cardinal named Melville is elected Pope and just as he’s about to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s he suffers what can only be described as a nervous breakdown, brought on primarily by his long simmering lack of self-confidence.

The Moment Before The Breakdown

The assembled Cardinals, who by canonical law cannot leave the Vatican until the new Pope greets the crowd, panic and eventually bring in a shrink in an effort to get the new boss to the balcony window.

By and by, the new Pope escapes the Vatican and a certain madness ensues.

The beauty of a lot of non-Hollywood movies is they don’t have Hollywood endings. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The movie will run on cable’s Independent Film Channel and if Peter LoPilato can ever get it back here in Bloomington, don’t blow your chance to see it again.

GO! — NOW!


WHaP reminds me of all the foofaraw over Martin Scorsese‘s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” based on the eponymous book by Nikos Kazantzakis.

Released in 1988, TLToC dealt with the fever dreams of Christ as he hung on the cross, baking in the sun, driven mad by pain. He imagines an alternative existence wherein he settles into a simple life, marrying Mary Magdalene and not carrying the burden of all humankind’s sins.

The Man Wants Out; The Deity Has A Responsibility

It’s one of the most pious, spiritual, and reverent movies ever made.

I mean, the whole idea of Christ’s death, as I understand it, was that he was tempted to avoid his fate, but his faith and obedience to his “father in heaven” overcame his human need. And therein, I always thought, lay the foundation for Christianity.

But when TLToC played at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Catholics and other defenders of the one and only big daddy-o in the sky picketed and shouted and otherwise drew more attention to the film than it ever would have garnered otherwise.

Go figure.


BuzzFeed the other day ran a list of the most powerful photos ever taken.

Which got me to thinking which pix I’d pick. Ergo, here they are (in no particular order):

The French guy crying as the Nazis march through Paris

Vietnam: The naked girl running, the self-immolating monk, the Saigon police chief executing the guy in the street

The JFK assassination: LBJ takes the oath, Ruby shoots Oswald, JFK Jr. salutes

Earthrise from Apollo 8

The Chinese student and the tanks

Martin Luther King lay dying

World War II: Marines reenact the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the sailor kisses the nurse on V-J Day

The National Geographic Afghani girl


Protest: John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the Black Power salute, Kent State, the flowers in the gun barrels

(All photos copyrighted.)

There. How about you? Tell us what’s on your list via the comments.

The Pencil Today:


“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.” — HL Mencken


How are your preparations going for the National Day of Reason Thursday?

Is all your shopping done? Have you wrapped all your presents?

Yeah, Thursday’s the day the godless among us celebrate our holy atheism. There’s even a brave politician who admits being one of us — US Congressman Pete Stark of California.


He’s gambling, of course, with his “eternal soul” that there is no invisible Big Daddy-o in the Sky. It’s the ultimate risk-reward conundrum. The argument has been made that it makes much more sense to believe in god because, if it turns out there is such a character, the believer will be rewarded in paradise and the non-believer will be, well, screwed.

In fact, should the gambler who’s a believer lose the proposition, s/he actually loses nothing. If the Great Croupier does exist, then, the non-believing gambler suffers endlessly in the company of the souls of Hitler, Stalin, and Donald Trump.

“Your Suite Is Ready, Sir. Welcome To The Afterlife.”

Nice god, huh?

I never argue with folks who are believers. First, I can’t prove the non-existence of anything. As James Randi says, no one can prove a negative. Therefore, I won’t spend time and energy arguing a point which may sometime in the future be proved by late-breaking evidence. Absence of evidence proves only that, um, evidence was absent the last time I looked.

Sheesh, these philosophical excursions are rough. The road is laden with logical fallacies.

Anyway, I want to respect the beliefs of people who, er, uh, believe. They say they have faith, which I believe. If so, then I don’t want to lure them into a rational argument, since that would violate the very definition of the term faith.

Aren’t I Christ-like?

Like Two Peas In A Pod

Even more important, I don’t want to bum them out. Honest. The realization that there is no god is really depressing.

I mean, here you are spending all your life wishing, hoping, and praying for a big, all-powerful being who loves you with all his enormous heart. Not only that, when you die, you get to go to heaven (assuming, of course, that you never took another human being’s life, fondled a child, or voted Republican) and have a party with all the most well-behaved people who’ve ever lived. Oh, and god and his archangels will all be there and no one will ever have to pay taxes or worry about a strange new lump.

It all seems rather comforting, no?

Why should I try to kill that buzz? Have at it, believers; I hope it gets you through this weird, confusing, often painful life.

You oughta see some of the things I do to get through my day.

So you’ll never hear me trying to convince anyone that there is no god. I only say (mostly to myself) there is no god. I have no interest in being the attorney for the atheists until they start paying me like one.

Thursday, though, I’ll happily crow to the world: There is no god!

I hope I don’t get struck by lightning. The way people talk about this god fellow, it seems he has a nasty temper.

“Alright, Alright — I’m Sorry!”


A bunch of IU folks got together yesterday and discussed the future of the university’s Office of Women’s Affairs.

Man, I didn’t know infidelity had become so institutionalized.


Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Monroe County Courthouse SquareBloomington Quarry Morris Dancers, May Day Morris Dance; 6:45-7:45am

Bloomington Quarry Morris Dancers

Trinity Episcopal ChurchExhibit, collaborative mosaic tile project; 9am-4pm

Monroe County Public LibraryExhibit, “Muse Whisperings, water color paintings done by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st, 9am-9pm

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series with Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen; 11:30am

IU Grunwald (SOFA) GalleryMFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th, Noon

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th, 1:30-5pm

“Eric With Flowers” By Laura Hartford, Kinsey Institute Gallery

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsPainting demonstration by Dawn Adams; 5:30pm

Jake’s NightclubKaraoke; 6pm

IU CinemaStudent Showcase, 3D Film; 6:30pm

Rachael’s CafeThe Golden Hour; 8pm

Max’s PlaceComics’ Night; 8pm

The BishopSpirit of ’68 Presents: Vandaveer with deadghost; 9pm


Vintage Phoenix Comic BooksListening party, “The Best Show on WFMU”; 9pm-midnight

IU CinemaIndiana Filmmakers Network Short Films: Made in Bloomington; 9:30pm

Rachael’s CafeWringer, Arms Aloft; 10pm

%d bloggers like this: