TAM, Lightning, and Peepshows

A couple of weekends ago I got to share a stage with some cool people. My buddy Paul Provenza booked me for his ¡Satiristas! show at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas. TAM is named after its founder, James “The Amazing” Randi, and is a convention of science geeks, skeptics, free-thinkers, and atheists – a lot of black T-shirts, podcast junkies, and people who can quote multiple lines from Star Trek. As Doug Stanhope, who was in the show, commented to the crowd at the start of his act, “Congratulations on your graduation from Comic-Con.”

My people.

I love James Randi. He has spent a lifetime exposing frauds, charlatans, mountebanks, fakes, phonies, etc. – in short, anyone who tries to pull the wool over your eyes (and, often, take your money) by making you think what they’re doing is real when it’s not. He was famously (and unsuccessfully) sued by Uri Geller when he exposed the tricks behind Geller’s “psychic powers” to a national audience on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show.

At TAM, folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, and this year, Lawrence Krauss speak about various topics, like, what the universe is made of, why anything exists at all, and how to negotiate a rational existence in the midst of all the blather that passes for thought today. Things like TAM are not necessarily about changing peoples’ minds, but perhaps opening them up to new information. Most people aren’t aware of just how much we (humans) DO know because it’s obvious there’s so much we don’t. It’s also pretty inspiring, at a gathering like this, to be around a lot of people who live in the excitement of discovery, seeing great freedom in uncertainty, who are willing to have even their most cherished ideas proven wrong, should new facts arise. This is not to denigrate those who believe in stuff – some of my best friends do – but others of us want to make sure that science, rational thought, and atheism has, at the very least, a prominent seat at the table of public discourse.

We just returned from Washington D.C. and West Virginia (thanks to my great friends Chip and Grace Denman). We were in a record heat wave. And we also drove through the most dramatic and awesome lightning storm ever, that took out electrical power for hundreds of thousands of people.

This month I’m doing a pretty cool gig with my friend Amy Engelhardt. She was the female member of the quirky and cool a capella group The Bobs for over 10 years, and we started a band in 2010 called “The Peepshow Trio,” along with my great friend and percussionist, Scott Breadman, and sometimes Steve Deutsch on bass. (We were a trio like the Ben Folds Five is a quintet). The band had to lie dormant when Amy was in New York studying at Columbia. But thanks to Bob Stane and the Coffee Gallery in Altadena, Amy and I are reanimating the PS3o, as well as performing our own songs. There may also be a surprise or two. We would love it if you could come join us.

I’ll be in touch in a supplemental email for some other gigs that are coming up, but until then, please do enjoy the rest of your summer.

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