Thursday, May 17, 2007

Video of Michigan Talk

The Freethought Association of Michigan has put a video of the talk I gave to their group on January 24 of 2007 at the Women's City Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can download it by going to the Freethought Association Past Events page dedicated to this event (Richard Carrier on January 24, 2007, "Sense and Goodness Without God") and right-clicking the link there to download the mp4 video (the size of the file is 56 Mb). If you have a problem downloading it, see comments section below.

This is the same talk I had announced on my blog at the end of last year, under Appearing in Michigan. I describe the talk more there, but in brief this was about the secular and scientific foundations of morality, building and expanding on my book. My intro also goes over worldview theory, and why it is essential to developing sound moral thought.
I also did about fifteen minutes on the moral aesthetics of cinema at the end of my talk, which was much more entertaining, but since that involved proprietary film clips, all of it was removed from the online video, which skips directly to Q&A, and even then only one or two questions are shown--the video even fades out in the middle of one of my answers! But I'm sure file length was an issue.

I just watched the video myself, and boy do I look like a kid! No one will believe I'm 37 there. Personally, I find that annoying. Can't I look all old and dignified instead? With my luck, when I finally start to look my age I'll probably shrivel up like Kris Kristofferson and scare neighborhood children with a smile like the crackled grimmace of a hellbeast. So I suppose I should count my blessings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Penn & Teller's Magic Bullet

I just got back from vacation and have one great story to tell. Everything went well, my sister's wedding, my talk in Vegas, our trip to Hoover Dam, and so on. But most unexpected was my appearance on stage during the Penn & Teller show as a participant in their famous "Magic Bullet" trick. I'll tell you all about that in a bit.

However, I must pause on another oddity. Though it never touched us, our weekend in Vegas was plagued by a bizarre series of disasters, including a spectacular suicide off the thousand-foot-tall Stratosphere, a plane crash on the Las Vegas strip, a boxing champion's death by motorcycle moronity only a few miles away, and two bombings, one a probable case of arson on the seedy side of town and the other a murder at the Luxor. What the hell, did we walk into an episode of CSI or something!? Or is Vegas always like this?

Anyway, my wife and I, and my sister and her new husband, all went to see Penn & Teller's magic show at the Rio. We all love their cable show Bullshit, and Penn is one of the few celebrities who isn't shy about his atheism and actually supports our movement, so this was the only event in Vegas we thought was worth dropping a ton of cash to see. We were right. Cool stuff. And funny. I also got to meet them after the show. They were so great with fans. Teller was awfully quiet so I didn't say much, just got a signature. But I introduced myself to Penn as Richard Carrier, author of Sense and Goodness without God, and he said he was a big fan. Because of the press of the crowd I didn't have time to ask what he meant by that, but I assume he read my book or possibly some of my stuff online. We had no working camera, so sadly I have no photo for you. But the image to the left is the adcard I had them sign.

I won't give away the rest of the show, though there are several impressive things in it, indeed amazing things when you think about the fact that this is live, on stage, right before your eyes. It's not showy magic, like Copperfield's spectacles, but funnier and simpler and all the more impressive for it. The grand finale of these was the quite astonishing "magic bullet" trick. This had us all stumped, especially since I was called up to verify everything, so I can vouch for the fact that they weren't using audience plants (Penn obviously hadn't recognized me and didn't know who I was until after the show).

I'll describe this trick as I and the audience saw it. Then I'll tell you how I think it was done. But I'll give you a spoiler warning before I do the latter, in case you're the sort who thinks knowing the secret "ruins" it or something. That way you can stop reading there, and go on being amazed, or even go see the show yourself and try to figure it out on your own.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Atheist Blogroll

I have joined the Atheist Blogroll, which is like a webring where you can locate authentic blogs maintained by atheists the world over. From now on you can find the scrolling alphabetical list of blogs (with a link to the list homesite), down my blog's right margin, under the label "Other Godless Blogs," just beneath my subject index. But I'll also put it here so you can jump right into the pool and start swimming...

Join the best atheist themed blogroll!