Skeptic Skeptical of Article About Skeptics
The magic of community: James Randi's fans do not refer him as a god, nor are they cultlike ["The Demystifying Adventures of the Amazing Randi," Michael J. Mooney, Feature, 8/26].
There is robust debate. People in the organization [the James Randi Educational Foundation] freely and vocally disagree with him. For many of us not associated with the meet-and-greet country club atmosphere of churches — and being afraid to tell neighbors our beliefs for fear of retribution — a conference like the Amazing Meeting is a once-a-year chance to meet with like-minded people engaged in robust debate, community, and charitable works, and sit in the lounge or bar talking until the wee hours of the morning. It's a community.
The Lie Machine
Poly-gaffe: The polygraph is the silliest excuse for a scientific apparatus that has ever been given serious consideration in modern times ["The Lie Detective," Matt Smith, Column, 8/12]. The very premise — that certain physiologic reactions occur only when one is being deceptive — is ridiculous. It is a means to psychologically manipulate a subject, and nothing more. How many innocent lives have been destroyed by this machine and the unconscionable examiners who use it?
You Can't Have Too Much of a Good Thing
Excessively irritated: If the 21st century is the "Age of Excess," then why do playwrights overwhelmingly report that they feel they must limit themselves to three to five characters and single-room sets if they want their plays to have any chance of seeing the light of day ["Too Much of a Good Thing," Chloe Veltman, Stage, 8/26]?
Veltman seems to think our theaters are crammed full of 13-character, three-hour new plays, and it's about time they showed a little restraint. Bizarre. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Noncommercial theaters are usually so concerned with the bottom line that new plays with large casts and long run times have little chance of being produced. It's a sad constraint to place on writers' imaginations. There are many stories that simply cannot be told within those restrictions. Personally, I'm excited by work that's ambitious in scope. But whether or not such work is to Veltman's taste, her belief that it is "excess" that is characteristic of contemporary theater shows a perverse disregard for reality.
Snitch Blog Comments of the Week
In response to news that a rule change might allow the SFPD chief to purge top brass: This seems like one of those rules that makes perfect sense — it'll allow the department executive to be more effective instead of spending time trying to soothe egos and play nice with entrenched administrators to get the job done. On the other hand, can you imagine what this will do for incompetent chiefs, with all their mistakes and ineptitude being swept under the rug by their loyal lackeys? This bill will most likely be the end of what little public accountability SFPD has to the citizens it serves.
In response to a blog post posing the question, "Why doesn't Muni have a cat?": "'Every idea that seems like a revenue generator isn't necessarily one. ... Sometimes there are hidden costs. ... There's administration,' notes [Muni spokesman Judson] True. 'Someone has to help with the mascot. You've got to pay for food, you know.'"
So it's okay to spend millions on unnecessary overtime, have streetcars that don't perform as advertised, loud beeping noises on the hydraulic lifts, and the stupid "Culture Bus," but it's not okay to pay someone for the two minutes a day it takes to take care of a cat and $40 a month in cat food expenses? Muni: We have no ideas and no creativity, and do not wish to expend the effort. We are not interested in outside ideas unless they come from an overpaid consultant. No wonder all of its ideas on improving service involve cutting back on things.