The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Friday - The Amaz!ng Meeting Begins

I had no definite plans for Friday prior to the start of the conference, so I slept in a little, and took my time getting ready. A group of people were going to go on an air boat tour of the Everglades, but I had sufficient exposure to air boats in previous trips to Florida, and decided to stay and see if I could help with any meeting setup. I spent the early afternoon reading, and having lunch in the hotel restaurant with two well-traveled skeptics whose faces I recall, but whose names I've now forgotten.

Shortly after that, it was time to start getting set up for the meeting. My offer to help was declined by Linda, saying that they felt like they had everything under control. So I went upstairs to change and grab my camera, nametag, and meeting schedule.

A Jerry Andrus illusion
Jerry Andrus 'Holds Court' with His Illusions in the Hotel Hallway

When I came back downstairs, nearly the first person I encountered in the hallway leading to the registration table was Jerry Andrus, who was already in full swing demonstrating and passing around some of his smaller optical illusions. These were unusual illusions, that had interesting effects when they were moved around. They primarily relied on structures that are "inside-out", similar to the hollowed-out reverse busts that seem to turn to follow you as you move past in Disney's Haunted Mansion.

Jerry Andrus, buddyh and Finella
Jerry Andrus Demonstrates an Illusion for buddyh and Finella

Jerry Andrus had collected a sizeable crowd around him. At one point Randi walked by, and (feigning jealousy just a little too well) remarked "I see that Jerry is holding court again."

Yes, We Have Books for Sale

The hallway was lined with tables full of books, t-shirts, pins, and souvenirs for sale, by many of the presenters for the meeting. By the end of the conference, many of the books were sold out. I just love being around a literate crowd.

Conference room
A Full House for the Opening Session

And a crowd it was. The final count of attendees was something in excess of 250. We nearly filled the whole ballroom. Linda Shallenberger has said that she is expecting almost twice as many people next year, and so we are going to need a bigger room!

James Randi
Randi Welcomes Everyone; I Need to Get a Better Seat Tomorrow!

Finally it was time for the meeting to begin. Randi started things off, welcoming us all to the Amaz!ng Meeting, and saying how pleased he was at the turnout. He pointed out and thanked many individuals in the audience for their hard work in making the meeting a success.

The one thing missing from my camera is an optical zoom, and unfortunately, I could not get a seat close to the front. So, for the evening's entertainment I had to trade off pixels for magnification.

Jamy Ian Swiss
Jamy Ian Swiss as Master of Ceremonies

Randi then introduced Jamy Ian Swiss as our Master of Ceremonies. Swiss expounded on the ethics of magic, and performed some appropriately amazing mentalist card tricks for us, before introducing Jerry Andrus.

Jerry Andrus and Nuts
Jerry Andrus Show Us His Big Twisted Pair of Nuts

For his demonstration, Jerry Andrus switched from pulling illusions out of his pocket to pulling illusions out of his briefcase, including his "Zone Zero" illusion: a board with a hole in it through which a ball could be made to vanish. His most compelling illusion, at least to those of us near the back, was of two nuts seemingly at an outward 45-degree angle to each other. He would put his arm straight through the holes of the nuts, and it would look like his arm was bent and twisted because of the topology of the nuts that our brains were inferring.

Jack Horkheimer
Jack Horkheimer (Star Hustler/Gazer) Talks on 'Cleopatra's Star'

Our final performance of the evening was by the legendary Star Hustler, Jack Horkheimer. He presented a version of his favorite talk, "The Star of Cleopatra". It was about the influence of comets and other wonders in the sky had on the course of history, including images on coins as propaganda, and the life and death of Cleopatra.

Jack Horkheimer and Samuel Clemens
Jack Horkheimer Cites Samuel Clemens

The Star Hustler also spent some time discussing his own history and how he became interested in the topics related to how astronomical knowledge (or lack thereof) has affected history.

Following Horkheimer's talk, Randi wrapped things up and reminded everyone of the trip to the Buehler Planetarium that would be leaving almost immediately. For those staying behind, there would be a showing of the John Edward episode of South Park, and the first episode of Penn & Teller's new skeptical show for Showtime, as long as the people who promised to bring tapes did so. Since I had brought a tape, I went quickly to my room, grabbed it, and brought it back to the conference room. Then I headed for the lobby to meet Scott for a ride to the Planetarium.

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