“No matter how smart or well-educated you are, you can be deceived,” — James Randi
Woohoo Finally, I’ve got to see James Randi’s An Honest Liar. It was a documentary of life and career of the world-famous magician (also known as The Amazing Randi) and skeptic of the “superstitious woo” such as psychic powers, psychic surgery, faith healing, Paranormal, crystal healers, dowsing, fake channeling, Aura reading, and etc. across the world.
They typically have one thing in common; they’re scammers. In other words, they are manipulative human beings who want money from the gullible people. He exposed those elaborate hoaxes of these scammers on television over many years. He showed how people got duped with just a slide of hands and illusions.
Philippine: Psychic surgery
If you read Carl Sagan’s book – Demon haunted world. The “Physic surgery” that became famous in the Philippines was mentioned there. Yes, I saw this “psychic surgery” on the telly when I was young. As a kid, I for one believe it. And was transfixed on how it was done. Imagine you can have a surgery without them cutting your skin and they eventually perform a surgery and pulled your guts with their bare hands. Many people actually buying this bullshit. Vulnerable and desperate people who wanted help to cure their diseases. They are willing to pay without questioning the real medical benefits from it.
Here’s the clip:
Remember this classic, guys? hehe
The film also shows Randi’s life when he was a kid. Just like a typical kiddo, Randi was amazed by magic. It had his attention when a man made the woman float in air. By then, he joined the carnival and never went home.
“When I introduced myself as a magician “Good evening my name is the great Randal! I’m a liar, cheater and a charlatan. I will lie to you but for purposes of entertainment only, of course.”
His favorite magician is Houdini. And there was a chapter in the film where Randi also did the stunts on what Houdini was being famous of, a great escape artist. A chapter in his life where he said this “If the man can make it, I could break it”
And yep, this was James Randi, his sweet escape!
Not only he wanted to be like him, but It also became his obsession to escape faster than Houdini. And just like Randi, Houdini started out as a magician, escape artist, and debunker, and dedicated his life to keeping people from being duped.
Furthermore, the film also focuses on exposing these two scammers:
Peter Popoff — This part is my favorite too. There are actually three ways to be rich in this country, and I guess, in other countries too — be hardworking, be corrupt, and be in the religion business. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being rich. It’s how you get there that is the question. Peter Popoff, a televangelist faith healer and had his own Tonight Show where he showed to his followers that he knows their diseases, as well as their names. He is harming them to the point that they didn’t have to go to the doctors anymore by believing that Jesus (through Popoff) has healed them.
After the Popoff’s show, he ordered his assistants to get buckets, so people would put their money there. People are throwing 5, 10’s and even 20’s. Because one of the things Popoff always tells them is that whatever they give, they will get it back ten folds. Taking money from the “desperate” in exchange with a false hope of getting healed :-/ That is sickeningly disturbing. And made me vomit. Watch it here: Hello Petey..Can you hear me?
Randi’s friend from the stadium where the faith healing was made; noticed an earpiece from Popoff’s’ ear and he reported it to Randi to investigate right off the bat. Randi said a man who can heal the deaf shouldn’t be wearing an earpiece. So they decided they need a technical help. And boom, Petey was busted. He’s guilty of lying to people for profit. Randi had an interview and told the world how Popoff had lied to his faithful followers.
Uri Geller — The man who can bend spoons using mind? Yes, Uri Geller is the man. He had claimed that he can bend spoons, keys etc. using his psychic power. So here comes The Randy, and he knows what to do. Here it is —James Randi exposes Uri Geller . Uri Geller defended himself by saying that Standford Researchers are on his side (‘cos he tricked them in a test). By saying that – as well as saying Randi is just a “magician” seems rational enough to many people – and still buy his shit. Yes, after his wrongdoing being exposed, there’s still a lot of willing victims supporting this guy. And they hated Randi because of that. (How come the man who was telling the truth and telling you that your money is not worth it, is the bad guy here, huh people? (Grrrr… duh! Grow UP!)
This film also shows how people still in denial even if the evidence were shown right before their eyes. Which is very sad actually. 🙁 And that’s the way it’s always been. As long as there are frightened, vulnerable and gullible people, there will be scammers and charlatans lining up to take their money.
Above all, his love story is quite sweet. James Randi came out of closet at age 81. You see in the photo, that was his partner for 25 years, Jose Alvarez (Deyvi Peña). I had mixed emotions on this part, and this was the part that I don’t want to spoil for you. Prepare tissues and all. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can judge it for yourself 🙂
He didn’t want to get called “The Great Debunker”, actually. As he said those people can still show if they really had this so-called superpower. In fact, he has still been challenging them on his One million dollar paranormal challenge.
You can check out a lot of his clips on YouTube. They are impressive and delightful as you witness him debunking the fraudulent woos of these charlatans. Here are some bits and pieces of it, they are not from the film but watch it anyway.
- James Randi Exposes James Hydrick
- James Randi Debunks an Astrologer – special participation: Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) <3 hihi and Stephen Fry
- James Randi Evaluating Astrology with Students
- James Randi: Scientists Fooled by a Match Box Trick
Argh! My movie review of this film was quite late now, as I wanted this to be very special for Mr. James “Amazing” Randi. 🙂 Your life is truly amazing. He isn’t only about being skeptical of the paranormal, he is also about promoting a scientific worldview.
He once said from his speech that “Science has created and shaped much of the world in which we live. But constant vigilance can never be relaxed.”
In our simple society where science only takes you so far, knowledge only takes you so far, and you need something else – magic comes in to fill this.
We can’t all be James Randi, but we can all do something to bring reason and oust superstition from the world.