The JREF is quite an amazing organization in many ways - including, of course, that the organization's founder is, in fact, Amazing. One of the ways you may not have experienced, though, is the sense of close-knit fellowship found onboard the JREF hosted cruises, called The Amaz!ng Adventures. The Amaz!ng Adventures are different from The Amaz!ng Meeting in that the group is so much smaller, so much closer, and you never have an incident where you didn't actually say anything beyond "Hello" to someone you swore you'd hang out with (Sorry again, Loon).
Chasing El Chupacabra was the fourth cruise of the skeptical variety, and featured talks on the psychic industry, Mexican UFOs, and El Chupacabra (the Mexican goatsucker, who we were apparently chasing - though why anyone would actively follow a coyote with mange is a tad beyond me).
Recently, I interviewed D.J. Grothe, vice president and director of outreach programs for the Center for Inquiry, in a restaurant inside Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. At a nearby table, a group of fifteen or so men spoke in hushed tones. Sometimes they were entirely inaudible to me, and the only way I knew they spoke at all was by the movement of their lips. It was reminiscent of watching a group of government operatives taking lunch. But, to my knowledge, none of the men in the restaurant were government operatives. They were mentalists - mentalists attending Luke Jermay's Mentalism Workshop.
"It's not exactly a secret society," Grothe said, "but it is a society committed to keeping secrets."
I had never really thought of the secretive aspect of magic before. I mean, sure, mentalists aren't supposed to tell you how it's done, but I never envisioned a whisper-filled meeting that included celebrities like Teller, Max Maven, Eric Mead, and Jamy Ian Swiss. And, for something extra cool, Larry Fong, Director of Photography for 300 and Watchmen gave an excellent talk on story-telling.
I never saw any of the actual workshop - I assume because I'm not that cool - but Grothe was willing to fill me in on a few of the details: The event is, sadly for me, invitation only, and has a very small number of attendees. The one I visited was the fifth of its kind.
Reader Rob commented on this piece that appeared on the BBC website. It seems that Prince Charles has a detractor in one Edzard Ernst, the UK's "first professor of complementary medicine." The scion of the royal family has long supported unproven remedies, and Ernst is appalled at one particular product. The item in question, Duchy Herbal Detox Tincture, is heartily endorsed by Prince Charles. It's also of note that Duchy donates money to Prince Charles' charity.
From Duchy's site:
What is Detox Tincture?
Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture is made from extracts of Artichoke and Dandelion, cleansing and purifying herbs to help support the body's natural elimination and detoxification processes, and help maintain healthy digestion. Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture can be taken as part of a regular detox program.
Globe artichoke, which has the Latin name Cynara scolymus, is a thistle - like perennial plant originating from Africa. It is easily recognised by its large green leaves and attractive purple flowers. Its is a well known vegetable that can be used in a variety of different dishes, and is also a well known digestive aid.
Paper or Plastic? How do you answer? If you give what you think is the 'correct' answer, you say ‘paper' or you've brought your own bags. Let's examine that choice.
The paper bags used in the grocery stores begin in the forest, with the clear-cutting of forests. Even though trees are a renewable source, there is more to producing new paper than planting new trees. The paper industry is one of the dirtiest industries we have. The chemicals used in the paper pulp process include sulfur, bleaches, and acids. The process uses huge quantities of water, which must be treated and cleaned, a process which also uses chemicals. According to a representative of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, paper manufacturing also receives a larger number of complaints than refineries on ‘nuisance odors ‘ which is a term meaning that the facilities emit very strong, disagreeable odors, as unpleasant to live near as a feedlot. Processing facilities must control odors to the same extent that they must control pollutant emissions.
Barbara (Kitty) Mervine is a long-time friend of the JREF who is joining us on her second Amaz!ng Adventure. While she'll be enlightening those on board with tales of Mexican UFOs, she's taken time to point out some European assumptions concerning ancient American civilizations for those who missed the boat.
In preparation for travelling to Mexico for the first time I have been studying up the history of Mexico and in particular the Mayan civilization. The misconception that the native people of Mexico were incapable of having such advanced skills in architecture, math and astronomy started long before the Erich von Däniken wrote his infamous "Chariot of the Gods" book. When sixteenth- century Spanish historians wrote of the Mayan ruins, they concluded that the people that built the pyramids and other advanced architectural structures were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Cotton Mather, William Penn and Roger Williams were all supporters of what was called the "Jewish Theory" for Mexico. Other theories to explain how such an advanced civilization ended up in Mexico include the Mayans being survivors of a lost continent such as Atlantis. In recent times we have space aliens coming to both Egypt and Central and South America to build landing pads and pyramids, and pass on their wisdom.