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I have an extra ticket to Penn & Teller at Mesa Arts Center on Friday Night.

Does anyone want to go?

(edit: got someone. sorry.)
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So last night one of the episodes of Bullshit I aired was "The Bible: Fact or Fiction", in which is asserted that the Bible contains "equal amounts of facts, history, and pizza." I was a bit curious how [livejournal.com profile] tamtrible would respond, as she identifies as Christian, and at the same time believes strongly in science. I wasn't so sure about the beliefs of everyone else in the room, but the discussion that ensued was likely to be interesting at least.

Kalin and I were the only people in the room that were avowed atheists. Trible and Larry seem to be a bit more pantheistic, and Georgia wasn't particularly outspoken. I wouldn't presume to describe what they said accurately; as I'm only certain of a few details. With Trible, I know that she won't dismiss the claim that a Hebrew man rose from the dead, but she does dismiss that this Hebrew man had a monopoly on that kind of thing. Larry invoked nine-dimensional mathematics for a reason I couldn't fathom, and turns out to be an ordained minister who performed marriages. In both cases, it seemed apparent that one of the points where they disagreed with the Judeo-Christian story was that it's too provincial in nature.

This seems to be a trend in theists that avoids the most important pitfalls that are created by religious thinking, such as the denial of science, cultural insulation, and automatic credulity for religion-based authority. Such people are free to believe and learn from Darwin's theory of natural selection, they are able to relate to people and ideas outside of their own tribe, and they won't be protesting funerals or flying planes into buildings.

It seems that everyone in the room disagrees with ASU mall preachers, and agrees with Darwin. Beyond this, I consider it a minor detail whether they accept or reject the idea of God.

(edited to correct some small mistakes with large semantic effects)

Clown nose

Nov. 8th, 2008 08:22 pm
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I found a clown nose in my luggage. It's a relic of a trick I never ended up trying. It's from Penn & Teller's book, How to Play in Traffic, and it goes like this:

Prepare for the trick by carrying a clown nose with you anywhere you're likely to be asked for ID. Use a small piece of red foam to "improve" your ID so that there is a small, but easily removed clown nose on your picture. Then, when you hand someone your ID, you put on the clown nose. They look at the ID, they flick off the nose, they look at you, they laugh.

Neat sounding trick, and I found a clown nose at a local party shop, but I couldn't find any "red foam" anywhere. Pencil erasers don't work, even when I use rubber cement to make it a little more tacky. I figure a tiny wad of that poster-stick stuff would work, but I can only find it in blue or white. And wouldn't it come off in my pocket?

Do any of you think you can solve the problem of applying a temporary clown nose to a piece of ID?

P&T review

Jul. 14th, 2008 11:41 pm
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I saw Penn & Teller live for the second time last night. It was glorious, even though my seats weren't quite as good.

They brought back some old bits I'd seen on TV, like Penn's fire eating, the cigarette sleight-of-hand demonstration, and the cups and balls with clear cups. And they repeated some tricks I'd seen before, but only live: some shadow pruning and goldfish bowl stuff by Teller, and the stealing of an audience member's glasses to open the show. And, of course, there were three irreplaceable acts that were present: the psychic comedian act, the bullet catch (renamed "magic bullets"), and the flag burning and restoration.

The new bits were notable. Especially the nailgun trick that was so new, they had an equipment failure they couldn't deal with and had to abort it. There were a lot of red balls appearing all of a sudden, both featured in new acts, and taking the place of other props in old acts. I thought there would be a theme, but not quite yet. They also sawed a woman into halves, which they then pretended to explain.

My favorite new bit involved creative use of the video monitor, much like my favorite bit last year. I suppose it's because these videos would be difficlut, or impossible, to do on television. They pulled an audience member out, and had him operate a handheld camera, so that Penn could do some close-up magic. But before the camera was turned on, Teller appeared on the monitor holding a sign telling the rest of the audience that we're doing a different trick. There was some important information I missed because I was distracted by a ringing cell phone that just kept going. So I kept watching the video, even though I was supposed to be watching the real stage, where we could see that Teller was assisting the trick from behind the scenery. And like most P&T tricks, the trickery escalated to points I'd rather not spoil for anyone who's going to see the show live, which I hope is at least one of you.

This time, both Penn and Teller were doing meet and greets after the show. They were on opposite walls, so as to keep the crowd dilute. I got another Penn photo, but both of them signed my copy of "How to Play in Traffic", and neither of them could tell me where to get tiny circles of red foam for my state ID for one of the tricks in the book. I perhaps should have gotten a Teller photo too, because a lifetime of silent performances has given Teller a wide variety of face poses. But, after my Penn photo, I said into thin air, "Dr. Penn, how do you type with boxing gloves on your hands," which was what I asked when I called into his radio show two years ago. And he said he remembered that. I said he had me on the phone for like 20 minutes, which was an exaggeration, but if you'll listen, you'll find I changed the subject twice before a commercial break forced the call to end. Who knows, I might have been able to chew Penn's ear off all night, but there were other fans who needed his attention. The crowd was so much thicker than last year.

Since I'm a sucker for swag, I got a T-shirt, and a CD of music by Mike Jones, the jazz pianist who opens for the show, and implores people to sign the envelope used for the psychic comedian trick. And, though [livejournal.com profile] motis is the only one who would ask, no, I didn't request "Monkey Tuesday" while Jones was playing.

I'm a pretty big fan, but the guy next to me claimed that Bullshit was the best show on television. I said that it was good, but there had to be one better. I proposed Firefly, but he rejected that, so I rejected a few of my other favorites, like Futurama. So I next proposed Carl Sagan's Cosmos, to which he said he hadn't seen it, and would have to take my word for it. Victory came a little too easy, for I could have defended that series against Bullshit easily.
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Via pennfans.net:
Penn Jillette will be on season 6 of Dancing With the Stars premiering Monday March 17th on ABC. Over at Buddy TV they have Penn ranked 9th out of 12 contestants. He's just ahead of Steve Guttenberg, Shannon Elizabeth and Adam Carolla. I guess they haven't seen Penn's dancing skills in Lift Off of Love.

Penn Says

Jan. 10th, 2008 05:10 pm
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Penn's back! Kinda. A small video blog series. Not as good as the radio show, but one of the things I liked most about the radio show was how Penn always had something to say about current events that was 90 degrees off center.

The first one I saw: MAGIC UNDERWEAR!. (It's a little snarky about religion, but don't worry; he agrees with the Pope.)

But, the radio show had the advantage that if he wanted to talk about something he didn't know about, like for example gangs in LA, eventually someone would call in and fill in the blanks or correct him, and often times it would be an expert on the subject with a lot to say. We don't have that here.
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I've blogged before about Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors, which had a sub-game called Desert Bus. Dedicated to Janet Reno for her crusade against contemporary violent video games like Mortal Kombat, P&T sought to make a nonviolent, realistic game. And they succeeded, with a game where you drive a bus from Tucson to Las Vegas with a top speed of 45 mph. The bus pulls a bit to the right, so you can't leave the controller unattended. After eight hours, you score one point.

Now, over a decade later, there's Desert Bus for Hope, where a team is playing Desert Bus in shifts, to raise money for Child's Play. So far, they've been playing for over three days, and have raised $15,000. There are even webcam feeds. Right now, the player on duty is being interviewed by some lady who I think is reading questions submitted to a chat room.
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How many LJ comments have I held back because I realized that I was tying EVERYTHING into something Penn &/or Teller have done?  Plenty, let me tell you.

So, instead of boring you all with my obsession, I'll pose a small challenge.  In this post, leave a comment with any topic whatsoever.  Let's see how many I'll be able to connect to the works of Penn & Teller, or a topic discussed on Penn's radio show.

Obvious topics include: religion and the paranormal, magic, monkeys, second-hand smoke, smoking monkeys, Tuesdays, hot tubs, bees, or waiters offering you a choice of waters.  For any of these topics, I can get you a URL or a torrent within two minutes. (late additions: guns, foie gras.

If enough people succeed in foiling me, then perhaps I'm not obsessed after all.

red eye.

May. 9th, 2007 11:29 pm
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My picture with Penn.  At least the red eye removal in iPhoto worked, a little.

I have no skill for posing for pictures.  I usually don't even smile.  And look at the ridiculous angle I cocked my head at for the THEM formal dinner picture.  I guess I know that the picture will probably be ruined by albinism-enhanced red eye, and don't bother actually trying to look good when cameras are around.  By contrast, look at [livejournal.com profile] thesawg who's in front all the way on the right.  He could use this for an online personal ad, if it weren't for the 30 other people in the picture.

What I really need is some way to put some extra distance between the lens and the flashbulb.  This is the only way I can avoid red eye, and it also has the side effect of casting the light at a better angle, so people don't get that moon-faced look.
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My picture with Penn. Looks like I do have red eye, but not quite as bad as usual. But I'm all slack-jawed.

One of the many thing Penn does well: posing for pictures. You don't even have to ask. Just stand next to him and he makes that pose. I, on the other hand, usually don't even smile.

I'll get a better one in 2008, though.


There's a better one with the red eye removed in the next post now. I'll also post links to highlights from Chicago eventually.
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God, I'd like to file a bug report.

It's easy to see how other atheists don't slip into total nihilism. For example, I'm at the airport, enjoying free WiFi, and using a $79 device smaller than a cigarette lighter, in order to listen to parts of a time-delayed radio show that aired 6am this morning. And I also have the power to see a webcomic, and post it where all my friends can see it. And they will see it if they're sufficiently bored at work for a few minutes. The average American life is full of conveniences like these.

It's also easy to see why I'm so fixated on the opposite of these. Because the radio show I'm listening to is the Adam Carolla show, and he's currently complaining about the chicken-shit tickets they give out in California. If you don't have a front license plate, they give you a ticket, and if you have one, you get photo tickets in the mail if you squeak past a yellow light a little too late. This is something that literally never affects me, being that I live in Arizona and don't drive, but I'm sympathetically pissed off. So I have to find stuff in my life that sucks in order to justify that.

This is why I wish Penn's radio show was still on, because that man has the opposite effect. He has a love for life I don't see in many people, even people with careers as successful as his. That's what I need rubbing off onto my psyche every day.
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In early 2006, Penn Jillette used his radio show to tell us about the time he suffered a bunch of bee stings during a TV special, resulting in the skin coming off his scrotum the following day. It was a brutal story. I'd link to it if I could only remember which day it was.

It was at this point he mentioned another story in his repetoire, which he referred to only as "the Blow Dryer Story," which, he claims, makes the bee sting story sound like a fairy tale. Apparently, it is a story that is so special, it would have to wait until 2007.

Well, 2007 is here, and tomorrow is the anniversary of the first show, he is packing as many witnesses into the studio as he can, and telling the blow dryer story. And you can listen to it, noon MST, on January 3, online. Gather your friends in the cubicle and grab some cupcakes.
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For those of you who heard about Penn & Teller's video game, Smoke and Mirrors, Penn talked about it on his radio show a month ago.  Listen here.  His co-host seems to have done all his research in the Something Awful forums, and Penn provides a few new details about the game.  It turns out Desert Bus was designed to appease Janet Reno, as crusades against violent video games were a popular hobby for Democrats too.  He also listed some of the tricks, magic and otherwise, you were supposed to be able to perform with the game, and the principles behind them.  But not quite enough to replace the manual, which is still lost to history.
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I just rented the DVD of "The Aristocrats".

It didn't occur to me until tonight that many of these acts described within the joke are unrepeatable, in that they involve deaths, births, or the despoiling of pristine body parts such that might impair future performances.  It's probably the only aspect of the joke that wasn't explored.

They glossed over the reason there are no black comics telling the joke -- Chris Rock explains that black comics worked blue throughout the 20th century, seeing as it was nigh impossible for them to get on TV anyway.  As such, the joke held no fascination to them.

The biggest gap I noticed was that there were certain other classes of comics that didn't appear.  I saw nobody from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, for example, and nobody similar.  Nor did I see anyone who appeared regularly on Mr. Show, except for Sarah Silverman, even though most of those people went on to tour nationally and sell CD's by the truckload.  On the other hand, if they'd been that exhaustive, the movie would be nine hours long, and would have been released as an incomplete work upon the death of both producers.

This makes a great rental, but don't watch it alone.  It's definitely meant to be watched in a group, or even a theater.  I wish I'd had the sense to get a group together while it was still playing at Harkins Valley Art.

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