My first TAM (The Amaz!ng Meeting) was a life changing experience. I went mostly to spend some time in Vegas and see Penn & Teller. What I found instead was a community of like-minded, energetic, and generous people. I ended up intimately involved with the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation), and became one of the main organizers of TAM and the JREF itself.
In time, things changed. The community fractured. The JREF changed its focus. The meaning of “skepticism” was no longer something we could all agree on, and the community collapsed. I share responsibility for this.
I left the JREF in 2010, after TAM 8, the last one I was involved with. In 2011, I went to TAM 9 (I couldn’t attend the conference itself, but I was in the hotel), and found myself constantly pulled in to little bits of drama. It was not a good experience, and I haven’t been back since.
But this year, I’m going. And it’s for one reason: to say thank you to James “The Amazing” Randi.
Despite the fact that the community is either gone or in turmoil, despite the drama and scandals, and whatever, there is a bigger picture. And that is Randi himself. Randi has given us (the world, that is), so much, and he’s asked us to come together one last time and see him. I’m going to do just that.
I’ve seen many of my “heroes” in the Skeptical movement fall. Some have fallen harder than I could have ever imagined. But my respect for Randi remains.
People seem to forget what an impact he’s had. Watch his clip on “psychic surgery” on YouTube. Read up on how the JREF was involved with exposing dowsing rods being used to detect explosives (with predictable results.) Read the introduction to Randi’s book The Faith Healers to learn Randi’s true motivation for doing what he does. When I consider these things, I have to go.
I am putting aside my differences, my disappointments, and my bias to go to TAM this year. I’m asking you to do the same.
For one time, let’s get together and remember that we used to be one big happy family. It may have been a dysfunctional family in the end, but it was still family and we grew and learned a lot. I think we still can, and I think that starts with dropping swords and shields and gathering around the fire for a few more stories.
It’s just a weekend. If you can’t afford the conference, fine. Come anyway. Spend a day in Vegas. Find me and I’l shake your hand and thank you for being there. My guess is that you’ll be glad you took the chance and came.
And if not, Randi will still be glad you came. And that’s worth something.
If you need a reminder of how things used to be, here’s something I wrote about my first TAM many years ago.
(Note by GG: I attended TAM4 in 2007, and went to everyone including the two in London, through 2013. I’m going this year!)
I agree with Jeff. I went to TAM 3 in 2005 and it was just like coming home. He’s right – it’s life changing. I brought my wife Lynn to TAM 5 and 6. we haven’t been since, but we made massive numbers of friends on JREF. We were in New England last year staying with friends from JREF, as we have before. We’ve had so many people come to stay with us here in the UK, from Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Chile.
Now, sadly I have serious health issues and I won’t be able to go to TAM this year. I urge you to go however – it will change your life as well!
Thanks Tim. I’m very sorry you can’t make it this year. Drinks will be raised to you and your wombatness!
I’m in that group pic from TAM4, standing (STANDING!!) in the back, just to the viewer’s right of that red decoration. It was my first TAM, where I gave my Sunday Morning Paper Presentation about “Stopping Kaz”.
Little did I know that I would be a Speaker at TAM5 (When all Hell broke loose over the “Stop Sylvia Browne” Shawn Hornbeck article), TAM5.5 (About StopSylvia and my plans for other Stop sites) and TAM7 (About my stroke)!
To say that attending TAMs changed my life would be a massive understatement (trust me, autographing semi-nude photographs of me in the SkepDude calendar while my Better Half looked on, rolling her eyes, was a moment I’ll never forget. 😀 ).
Sadly though, I will be unable to attend this year’s TAM, although I’d dearly love to. Between finances and the hassle of airline travel in my big ol’ motorized wheel chair, we won’t be able to make it. I’ll have to settle for sending The Amazing One a congratulatory note. 😦
The rest of you, GO!!!! Make it the greatest. friendliest, Most AMAZING Meeting ever!
Robert, you remain an icon in the history of skeptical activism. We shall raise drinks to you as well. (I’m keeping a list. 🙂 )