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Your Paracast Newsletter — October 25, 2020



Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
The Paracast Newsletter
October 25, 2020
www.theparacast.com

Director James Fox Presents Fascinating Insights About His UFO Documentary movie, "The Phenomenon"!


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This Week's Episode: Gene and Randall welcome movie producer/director James Fox, whose UFO documentary, "The Phenomenon," was released after eight years of work. James will focus on the highlights of the film along with exclusive background information, including anecdotes, on how the film was put together. Narrated by actor/voiceover specialist Peter Coyote, the film includes Senator Harry Reid, President Clinton, President Ford, John Podesta, White House Chief of Staff for Clinton and advisor to Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Christopher Mellon, NASA Astronauts, Governor Fife Symington, George Knapp, Dr. Garry Nolan, Dr. Jacques Vallee, who was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

J. Randall Murphy's Ufology Society International: Ufology Society International (USI) - Explore the UFO Phenomenon

"The Phenomenon": https://thephenomenonfilm.com/

After The Paracast -- Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on October 25: In Part II of an interview that began on the October 25, 2020 episode of The Paracast, documentary film producer James Fox, a long-time friend of The Paracast, continues to provide fascinating background information about his long-awaited UFO documentary, "The Phenomenon" which represents some eight years of work to bring a conclusion to this project. During this interview, Fox will also present some personal asides as to his involvement, years ago, as one of the hosts of a short-lived UFO reality show where things rapidly became unglued, and about three instances of encounters with possible government agents focused on the enigma.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Check out our new YouTube channel at: The Official Paracast Channel

Some Thoughts About James Randi and Skepticism

By Gene Steinberg

I’m sure most of you will remember James Randi not so much as a magician and escape artist, in the tradition of Harry Houdini, but as the arch skeptic of all things paranormal. Born in Canada in 1928 as Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, he presented himself as The Amazing Randi throughout much of career before he simplified the name.

He died October 20 at the age of 92 from what were described as age-related causes.

Now I first met Randi around 1963 or so after he took over from Long John Nebel at WOR when the pioneer all-night talk radio host moved on to WNBC. I appeared on Randi’s show a few times in those days before I actually entered broadcasting myself in 1966. That ages me.

Randi was a decent enough host, and took a calm skeptical approach to his interviewing, but he didn’t have the charisma or the unique personality Long John presented on his pioneering program. According to Wikipedia, Randi was soon fired, allegedly because of complaints from the archbishop of New York that Randi had said on-air that “Jesus Christ was a religious nut.”

Randi denied it.

Now a year or two after I entered broadcasting, I made a trip to New York and interviewed Randi over his interests in astronomy. It’s the last time I met him.

I might have caught one of his appearances as a magician on late night TV over the yeas, but he wasn’t on my radar again until he established his reputation as a vocal critic of all things paranormal.

So in 1972, he took on Israeli psychic Uri Geller. He would appear on TV shows demonstrating what he claimed were the techniques Geller would use to make it seem as if he was performing such feats of magic as bending spoons. Randi’s efforts to discredit Geller were featured in his 1982 book, “The Truth About Uri Geller.”

While I had read about Geller over the years, I had no firm opinion about what he could or couldn’t do. Well, except for one thing.

In 1975, between marriages, I briefly dated a woman named Sally, an aspiring actress. I discussed my interest in UFOs and other subjects with her from time to time; we also bonded over being Star Trek fans, and I remember the time we used my press pass to gain admission to a sci-fi convention in Philadelphia.

That’s where we meet a couple of the stars of the original series, James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols. I recall asking Doohan to imitate a 70-year-old Scotty, not knowing that he’d be performing that iconic role well into his senior years.

One day, Sally told me her Uri Geller story. She was watching him on TV, as he performed his spoon-bending schtick. To her surprise, the spoon she held in her hand was also bent! No, she said, she hadn’t tried to bend it herself.

I didn’t know her to put people on. She was quite the serious individual, and so I believed her. It was a one-time thing, she said. More to the point, that doesn’t mean that Randi was wrong in disbelieving Geller’s alleged psychic skills. Or that duplicating the stunts truly exposed Geller’s own methods.

Om As to Randi, in 1976 he teamed with Ray Hyman, a psychologist, and Martin Gardner, a columnist for Scientific American, to form the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).

Randi is probably most famous — or infamous — for an offer from an organization he established, the James Randi Educational Foundation, to pay the sum of $1,000,000 to someone who could prove they possessed paranormal powers.

Obviously that prize was never awarded, and I’m not aware there was ever a serious claim that was considered beyond the first stage. Of course, the terms and conditions might be considered too onerous, such as the requirements, established in 2007, that only people with a media profile and backing from a “reputable academic” could apply for the challenge.

That maneuver probably put the kibosh over any serious effort from anyone to apply for the award.

Over the years, Randi was involved in a number of legal battles with people with alleged psychic powers, but he reportedly never had to pay up as a result of those actions. Randi ended the challenge upon his retirement from the foundation in 2015.

Now I suppose one might suggest that Randi deliberately tailored the challenge in a form that would make it well-nigh impossible for anyone to win the award, let alone apply for it. Even if someone qualified to enter, one might suggest that nobody could have won that award regardless of their qualifications because of the way it was set up.

More to the point, there has been no challenge of that level from anyone else, but that shouldn’t mean that nobody possesses any paranormal abilities.

Of course, a common excuse from psychics is that they cannot always control the onset of their abilities, and thus they wouldn’t be able to demonstrate them unless the conditions were right. This would provide plenty of elbow room to complain that “bad vibes” or that the presence of skeptics made the process difficult or impossible.

Now I welcome skeptics. They keep the so-called believers on their toes, but the two sides should learn from one another. But being a skeptic — or worse a debunker — without seriously considering all the evidence is no better than accepting things uncritically.

As to Randi, I’m not at all sure how he’ll be remembered going forward. Will his show business career as The Amazing Randi be the most significant, or will his creation of CSICOP and that million dollar reward take precedence?

Or will we all be asking, a few years from now, “Randi who”?

He certainly had a long and colorful history with sufficient achievements to warrant a documentary or a book about his life and exploits.

Regardless, putting up large monetary awards is also a stunt. If UFOs are extraterrestrial, ET isn’t going to come on down and ask for a check. If it’s about psychic powers, the fact is that strange things do appear to occur, but clearly not at a rate where such feats can be delivered on demand, under test conditions that skeptics would accept.

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