Monday, September 28, 2009

Bum-ble Beginnings

I really had planned to get around to this on my TAM Diary, but I haven't... yet. I swear I will, I just haven't yet.

In the time leading up to TAM I found myself thinking about the ideas that would eventually coalesce into what I would, by the time I landed in Vegas be calling Asshole Skepticism.

I got in a number of excellent conversations about my ideas with people at the conference. Some people immediately recognized the value of what I was saying and were able to add to it - often citing examples from the various presentations given over the weekend. Others got their back up from the outset - which I'll address specifically some other time, but I'll admit that talking with them was as valuable in refining my thinking as speaking with those who were 'on board' from word one. Foremost of those who disagreed with me was Sid Rodriguez of the London Skeptics. We got in a dicussion at the Skepchick party - which was his defacto wedding reception... an odd debate to get into on your wedding day, but that fact that he was so game to get into it is testament to his strong character and the generally eager and open minds of skeptics in general.

Later in the night Desiree Schell of Skeptically Speaking caught me on tape in a furious rant about Asshole Skepticism - pretty much my first of any emotional charge. There were a number of people standing listening and I was on fire... excepting the part where the gift of the gab failed me and the precise word I was looking for would not come to mind - but I digress.

Shortly thereafter I was discussing in more measured volumes 'who' were notable examples of Asshole Skeptics. Penn and Teller naturally sprung to mind as a prime example (not as assholes, merely in presentation) as to a lesser degree did Brian Dunning.

Someone who was half-listening demanded "Who is that!?!" I pointed across the pool and identified Brian and his podcast, Skeptoid. To which the fellow demanded that someone write that down for him - so much for personal responsibility.

His shirt was hanging wide open in the mid-July heat of the Mojave and I happened to have the sharpie that was the conference registration gift in my back pocket. I batted his shirt aside and wrote on his chest "Skeptoid." With mock beligerence he defied me - "What the hell!?! I can't read that. It'll be backward in a mirror." There's no way he could know what my stupid human trick is. My hand writing is pretty weak - but the up shot of that is that I can write backwards almost as fast and as legibly as forward. With only the tiniest of beats to get past the one letter I have any real trouble with - 'S' - I scrawled "S-k-e-p-t-o-i-d" in mirror image below the first version.

Now everyone was paying attention. And he clearly loved the attention as much as me. Be raised the bar, continuing to pretend like he was a bit of a dick-head. "Well what..." he blustered in a good approximation of Jonah Hill-esque filth-filled verbal-effluvia, "why doesn't someone just write on my ass then!"

A voice from the crowd - "What on earth would I wrote on your ass?"

The moment could not have been more perfectly packaged for me as I knocked that on right out of the park....

"Asshole Skepticism."

I think it's safe to say that this blog was a foregone conclusion by the time I was done the rant that preceeded the incident that resulted in this video... but if there was any question left, this was how it all began.

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