Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



My First Time PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

tam3It was fall of 2003. I had just moved to Vermont, and didn't quite feel at home yet. Not that I've ever really felt at home anywhere. Did you ever have the feeling that you were just a little bit different? That you saw things that others didn't see (and perhaps missed things they did see)? Well, that's how I've felt much of the time.

It was my good fortune to come across Skeptic magazine in the bookstore at Georgetown University, and a new issue arrived in my shiny new mailbox about a month after I moved to Vermont. I read it eagerly, and saw an ad therein for a convention in Las Vegas featuring James Randi and Penn & Teller.

It was called The Amaz!ng Meeting 2, and I decided to go. And nothing's been the same since. I immediately bought tickets to everything... the workshops, the fundraising dinner, and started hanging out on the JREF Forums to see what this was all about. I was shy and didn't post much, but I liked reading the comments and looked forward to meeting these interesting people.

When I got to TAM, I was nervous and felt out of place. A lot of the attendees seemed to know each other, and I had little hope of fitting in. And then a miracle happened.

After about 30 minutes of sitting in the room watching Hal Bidlack* and James Randi* speak, it began to dawn on me that these were my people. These were the people that I could wink at or nod to and they'd know what I mean. They were the ones who would know what hypnogogia was, and would understand that science wasn't about facts but a process. And they were here.. and we were together, and it was good.

And then it got better. Michael Shermer* talked about why we believed weird things. Banachek* blew my mind. Jamy Ian Swiss* blew it again! Bob Park became a new hero, and every single person in the audience fell in love with Julia Sweeney as she showed us a new idea called "The God Monolgue" that eventually became Letting Go of God. Ian Rowland introduced me to cold reading, which has been invaluable. Phil Plait* discussed the illusive (and non-existent) Planet X, and Eugenie Scott impressed everyone with her battle against creationism.

Wow.

And then... I got to interact with these folks! They were real people... not just props on a stage. I shook Randi's hand, had dinner with Julia (and 40 other folks), talked with Penn about Bullshit!, had a chat with Banachek... and on and on. I got to meet the late great Jay Marshall. There wasn't a line to stand in.. he just sat down at my table during a break with his son Aye Jaye, who then "magicked" a quarter away from me only to place into his wallet, which immediately burst into flames. Jonathan Pritchard, then a JREF intern and now a practicing magician, bent a fork with "his mind" right in front of me. One breakfast, another TAM attendee asked to join my table, and I learned that he worked with Oppenheimer on the Manhattan project. Where else can you have these encounters?

For that weekend, I had the sense that I wasn't alone. There were other folks with similar interests and ideas, and every year, they made the return migration home to TAM. I haven't missed a single one since.

I collected what was in my pockets at the end of the trip, and made a collage-y thing that still hangs on my wall. Slick gave out amethyst crystals, forum member Eos of the Eons gave everyone a loony, and the hotel laughingly gave out fortune cookies at one lunch. My fortune: "There will always be delightful mysteries in your life." So far, that's been true. Hmm.

There are a lot of "in" jokes at TAM, but the great thing is... you are already "in." You don't need to be shy, you can sit with anyone and have a sparkling conversation. Try it, and you'll see.

TAM 7 promises to be more of the same. Every one with a * by their name will be returning this year, and many new speakers will become our friends by TAM's final goodbye. They'll become MY friends, not because I work for the JREF, but simply because they'll be there at TAM with me. This can happen to you, as well.

There really is nothing like this, and I regret that you have to take my word for that. But please do. Take a look at these videos, and understand that is only one tiny part of what TAM is. TAM is about the attendees, as much as the speakers, and hopefully, you'll be one of us this year.

 

Trackback(0)
Comments (25)Add Comment
...
written by MadScientist, April 08, 2009
Bad timing for me. smilies/sad.gif I blow all my money on a working trip to Europe the month before and it looks like I have a million deadlines around that time too. :{~ How late can I register?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by thatguywhojuggles, April 09, 2009
As soon as this is made affordable for people who make under 35k a year, I'm there!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +13
...
written by BillyJoe, April 09, 2009
As soon as it comes to Mooroolbark....
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by CasaRojo, April 09, 2009
How about having a once a week TAM? One in every state. Centrally located as to be as easy to get to for as many people as possible. If every state had an "official" JFEF group, they could be responsible for setting up the details. We could have camp TAM's and snow TAM's and beach TAM's and cave TAM's, Sedona TAM's, a TAM in, or very near, to the world renowned spiritualist camp of Cassadaga FL. etc. To have a skeptical presence on that scale would be very cool! And I find it a necessary one. Just a forward looking thought as the LV TAM, at least this year, is looking totally unaffordable to some of us.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by boredagain, April 09, 2009
For everyone like me who have trouble affording this kind of trip. The JREF does offer financial assistance, which I have used before and they have been very acomidating. If you still can't make it, buiy the DVDs... almost like being there- minus the Vegas nightlife!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Used Cars?
written by Realitysage, April 09, 2009
Sounds like Wagg could have been a used car salesman in a previous life.....or not.... smilies/cheesy.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by GODOFPIE, April 09, 2009
An east coast TAM would be much appreciated. Maybe 2 TAM's a year?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by Kuroyume, April 09, 2009
Yes, Jeff is very persuasive. Must be some of James' mesmerizing tricks in play. smilies/smiley.gif As others have mentioned, not a chance for me to attend. Last year was financially dismal (my job isn't salaried - it depends on my online software sales). This year we moved to a new house to cut costs (half previous mortgage) but moving alone entails many expenses. Thankfully, the TAMs are available on DVD - have 2/3/4 so far. Not always perfect due to amaturish videographers supplied but well worth it if you cannot attend or have missed previous ones.

I think that CasaRojo has an interesting idea to explore. Maybe not this exact idea but the idea of having affiliated organizations or groups wherein the TAM or some derivative goes about the country in the same way as a concert tour.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by CasaRojo, April 09, 2009
"I think that CasaRojo has an interesting idea to explore. Maybe not this exact idea but the idea of having affiliated organizations or groups wherein the TAM or some derivative goes about the country in the same way as a concert tour."

The Skeptical Circus is comin' to town! Or a Skeptical Revival! Works fer me! :-) But seriously folks, I think there needs to be more of a skeptical presence and the woo peeps need to be bombarded with it. Gently o' course, in a hardcore stern kinda way. Did I say 'but seriously folks'? I realize that going from an annual TAM to doing a weekly TAM is not realistic right now, if ever, but something along those lines, as you say, would be in good order. State chapters of the JREF in the near future sounds reasonable to me.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of a TAM concert tour! :-)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by MaxwellBobo, April 09, 2009
I would love to see a Montreal-Tam (or even better, a Quebec city TAM). Despite clocking in the overtime, I doubt I’ll be able to make it to Vegas this year. Oh well, perhaps TAM8. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Hey...
written by BillyJoe, April 09, 2009
My wife and her two sisters could accommodate about a half dozen speakers at their beach house at Sandy point and we could all lie out on the beach at night waiting for our messiah and his apostles to appear over the sand dunes in the morning - a sort of sermon on the mount.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Kuroyume, April 09, 2009
Hey! James doesn't do 'sermons on the mount'. He does 'discourses on the shoulders of giants'. smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Diverted Chrome, April 09, 2009
Appealing.
But summer is out of the question for me.
April/May OR Oct/Nov next year??
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
I Liked
written by mackhitch, April 09, 2009
I liked this article.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
...
written by BillyJoe, April 09, 2009
...yes, it was a joke smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by bromac, April 09, 2009
I attended TAM-3 and it was a wonderful experience.I only wish I could afford to go again and if I have the opportunity I certainly will.
My experience,however was different from Jeff's.I too was shy and felt that I would be unable to fit in with these people,many of whom seemed to know each other.The difference for me was that this is exactly what happened.As I said I am very shy an though I tried a couple of times to start conversations I was basically ignored.As much as I enjoyed all that went on, I did it by myself and felt a bit out of place in the company of all these people.
There is one other part of this. When I got home I thought I could cure my problem for future TAM's (I really thought I would be going again) by joining the forums.I did so and made an innocent ( but of course brilliant) comment and was treated so rudely that I never commented again.
My point here ,I guess,is that if you see someone at an Amazing Meeting who seems alone and a bit out of place make an effort, if you can, to make them feel more welcome.

Bill Brown
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +10
...
written by dr pepper, April 09, 2009
There's a long tradition in fandom of holding what's called an "anti con" or a "consolation con" for locals who can't make a particular major convention. Of course there's a long tradition in fandom of having local clubs capable of doing this. If there were local skeptical organizations they could do this too. Perhaps Jref could offer a pay per view deal where one major event (such as a magic demo, or a lecture) would be streamed out for a fee. In fact, just the act of trying to find enough people to cover the fee could be how such a local group gets created.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
...
written by Kuroyume, April 09, 2009
The forums are brutal here. You either have the most obnoxious of believers or the most brilliant, clear, concise, knowledgeable minds responding in like. It is difficult for an 'average' person to have twenty years of study on a particular subject or range of subjects like metaphysics, sociology, biology, parapsychology, and the like. Yes, not all of us skeptics are Ph.D.s or have twenty years of university under our belts - sorry. So, I stopped visiting the forums. I mean, before you can even respond you MUST spend a month reading papers and textbooks 24/7 if you aren't a specialist (by then, any argument you had was already cleverly posted by someone more clever than you). Why bother being embarrassed for making general or generally knowledgeable but unauthoritative responses?

Me - not one year of college or university (Sorry, again, Reagan+lowermiddleclass=fuckyou for that type of education at that time). But I've read about two, three thousand books (and papers, btw). Heck, I can't teach physics but I damn well know the basics, intermediates, and some of the more indepth parts of it. Just can't handle the higher maths (triple derivative whats? Riemannian spaces who?). smilies/wink.gif Yet, I found a way to explain Special Relativity trigonometrically that was flawless and simple (and, btw, is the same description used by those who know the more pernacious mathematics).

My point: ignore arrogant bastards (on both sides) and learn how to construct your ideas concretely as best you can. Obviously, some humans are genetically and environmentally raised more intelligent than some of us. Are you going to let your genital size be the arbiter of your life (something, contrary to popular spam email, that cannot be changed)? Why the same for your circumstances otherwise? Find your strengths and brandish them like gold plated armor. And don't forget to polish the strengths so that others are blinded by them.

Robert (the timid, village idiot, idiot savant, below-average person))*

* I did graduate 50 out of 900 in high school and received a 1440 out of 1600 on the SAT. Nerd, geek, savant, I don't know...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Our First
written by Clintsc9, April 09, 2009
Our first time this year. Well it is a long way to go from Australia, but we are doing three months in USA this year and TAM7 is smack in the middle. How could we resist?

Have been a fan of Randi ever since a memorable TV appearance in OZ and we are regular listeners to SGU, Astronomy Cast and Geologic. Here's hoping we get to meet some of these.

If you see a very large and very red motorcycle, that will be us.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Bill
written by BillyJoe, April 09, 2009
My name is Bill as well. smilies/smiley.gif
So that's a good start.

But it's all down hill from there...

Aw, you poor little thing, you went to TAM and tried to make converstion and were ignored. Ignored! Blessed be jesus! Wasn't your mommy there to keep you safe and warm? Then you went to the forums and made an innocent remark and was treated so rudely. So rudely! On my jesus god almighty! And your comment was brilliant, oh yes of course it was. That's why you never returned, you tender little self-inflated piece of nothing you.

Just joking. smilies/cheesy.gif

I was fortunate in being on the forums right from the start. As bigger and better individuals joined, I decided that they were not going to beat me down. I adopted an avatar depicting a little mouse holding a large pencil. This was an acknowledgement that I was a small player, but a warning that I was not going to shut up.

If you read my first paragraph with mounting anger (I sure hope it wasn't tears smilies/cheesy.gif), read it again. And laugh. The forums are fun. Join in, and don't let anyone spoil it for you.

smilies/smiley.gif

regards,
BillyJoe
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -6
Indeed!
written by Kil, April 09, 2009
TAM7 will be my fourth. TAM gets under your skin, it does. Meeting people that I have admired, and having that happen again and again at TAM is amazing. And I'm not just talking about shaking a hand or getting a picture here and there, though I do that too, but chatting with them. Having breakfast, or lunch or dinner with them. That kind of thing just happens at every TAM. And then there's meeting friends from a previous year and those people you have only known from online. But even better are the talks and events. Jeff is right. Right about all of it. And I don't even like Vegas!!!

bromac, I don't post much on the JREF forum, having a skeptic forum of my own. So I know a little bit about how you feel. I don't know, but maybe I have been lucky. I know a few of the people. Not many. But I always wind up knowing a few more people by the time I leave.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
TAM 7
written by Newcoaster, April 10, 2009
TAM6 was my first, and I have signed up for TAM7. It was a great conference, and Jeff is right, all the "celebrity" skeptics are very down to earth and approachable. (But, no, I didn't join the line for Adam Savage to sign my ping pong ball...I let my wife do that) Chatted with Phil and James. Got called "Boss" by Penn.(I know, me and everybody else) Met the guy who invented the home pregnancy test at lunch one day. It was a very cool vibe the whole time. I've been to a lot of medical conferences, and for the most part they are boring. Never a dull moment at TAM.
Now, I also am shy, and don't make small talk very well. And I don't post in this forum either so I don't have any online buddies to meet up with. But I really did feel like I was with my peeps just the same, even if I didn't talk to most of them.
Ya Vegas sucks, and ya its expensive and a million degrees there in July...but it was still one of the more memorable things I did last year(and that includes a trip to Egypt) I didn't stay in the TAM hotel last year, and that was a mistake for all the after conference socializing I didn't get involved in. That won't be a problem this year as the hotel is miles from anything.

If you can't afford to go..too bad, but don't whine about it.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by BillyJoe, April 10, 2009
Okay, guys, quit it now, you're starting to make me think I'm missing out on something special.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by saxx, April 13, 2009
smilies/smiley.gif

thanks
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Steel Rat, April 14, 2009
Wagg-man, one word: proofreading. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy