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Happy Birthday, Randi!

Today is the 80th birthday of James “The Amaz!ng” Randi, a man to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. There are many people reading this who have been entertained, educated, and influenced by Randi over the years, including myself. Without Randi there would be no Skepchick, so even if you’ve never heard of him but enjoy this site, you owe him some thanks, too.

I discovered Randi years ago when I was performing magic. I was a big fan of Penn & Teller, and picked up Randi’s name through their act, TV specials, and books. I eventually figured out that Randi had a web site, so I dutifully began reading every week’s update. I was most interested in clever cons and scams — how even smart people get fooled. I became a fan of Ricky Jay’s books, and then on Randi’s general recommendation finally picked up a copy of Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World, my first purely skeptical book. That led me to read more of Sagan, plus Randi’s books and many others. I started frequenting Randi’s Internet forum and discovered an entire sub-culture of skeptics that I didn’t know existed. I found a community of women who encouraged and inspired Skepchick. I found a lot of friends and teachers who gave my life an entirely new direction.

And eventually, I found Randi. The real, living, breathing Randi, I mean — I met him at the first Amaz!ng Meeting I attended, and found a man who had experienced so much and was eager to share everything he had learned along the way. A man who wasn’t finished learning, and who wasn’t finished fighting the good fight. A man who was bigger than life yet still very, very short.

(Seriously, he’s mega-short.)

Every time I see him, his energy and good humor impress me beyond words. I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to know him, and I hope that by the time I’m 80 I’ve accomplished a quarter of the things he has — preferably the really exciting quarter, but I’ll be happy either way.

There’s plenty more to say, but I’ll cut it off there and let you all continue the love in the comments. Tell us what Randi means to you, and hey, why not let him know personally, too?

Happy birthday, Randi!

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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31 Comments

  1. His debunking of spoon bender Uri Geller remains classic. There are a couple of good YouTube vids on that – especially on how he helped Johnny Carson set up an appropriate challenge of Geller’s claims on the Tonight Show.

  2. That’s funny that’s kind of how I became a skeptic. I started watching a couple episodes of Penn and Teller’s BS, and they happened to mention Randi. I looked him up and the rest is history.

  3. I think I found out about Randi via the Million Dollar Challenge, which is just a purely brilliant piece of marketing. I know I signed up for the JREF newsletter at some point and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Interestingly, I didn’t know a thing about him when I went through my magician phase as a kid, only to discover him later in life. Then he browbeat my non-existant soul into submission to the Rational Overlords :)

    Also, Rebecca, I just got Demon-Haunted World from the library and can’t wait to read it! It was sort of disappointing to discover it in the same Dewey category as some crap about UFOs and the Bermuda triangle. Maybe we should petition the Great Library Cabal to add a skepticism classification…

  4. Happy Birthday Randi. Thank you for all of your hard work. Thank you for your rational voice. Thank you for explaining “How could they fake that? It must be real.” You have made me smile many times and made me happy many times.

    I found Randi and Sagan through the same medium. PBS. Nova did a special on Randi and his Project Alpha and I was just amazed. Then of course there was Cosmos.

  5. Happy 80th to Randi! Having had the pleasure of meeting him in person (thanks to Phil Plait!), I can honestly say that he is indeed bigger than life and very very short. And very well behatted.

  6. Randi is one of my true heroes. Sagan is too, of course, and The Demon-Haunted World is wonderful. Happy birthday to Randi, who has done more than his share to make this world a better place.

  7. I thought “The Rebecca Watson Story” was on Lifetime, with Kellie Martin in the title role and a bearded Peter Falk as Randi.

    Here’s a fun game: Who will play the other Skepchicks and Skepsam?

    And oh, yes, Happy Birthday to a truly irreplaceable voice in the Skeptical chorus. And many more to come, let’s hope :)

  8. Without Randi my father would still be an evangelical pastor. I would probably be a youth pastor and dating some boy who would never see me as his equal (ewwwww!). I would also be my science teacher’s worst nightmare. :twisted:

    Thank you Randi and Happy Birthday!

  9. As a kid I was into magic and seeing Randi on “Real People” in the seventies saved me from being credulous about many, many things… Hooray for Randi!
    I’ll be raising a glass tonight to celebrate my favorite eighty year old teetotaler!

  10. Randi has done so much good work in his life… The world is a better place for having him in it. If everyone tried to do half as much as he has, the world would be an amazing place indeed.

  11. I second Laarree’s comment; it was nice getting to know your full story, Rebecca.

    I’ve always had a familiarity with the name “Amazing Randi,” but I never really KNEW who he was. I became HUGE fan of Penn and Teller about 10-12 years ago. That was my first peek into skepticism, but I had no idea that was what it was called. Then, about 2 years ago, I discovered SGU, and I understood that this was as close to my idealogy any anything else that I’ve ever heard or seen. Since then I’ve learned that Randi is essentially our Rome, for no matter which road one starts on with regard one’s own skeptical voyage, eventually one must come to understand the importance of this man, eventually your road leads to Randi.

    Happy birthday, Sir.

  12. Randi was instrumental in helping me slip the bands of religious superstition.

    He should only live another eighty years, casting his Net of Reason into the Sea of Irrationality, that many more might be rescued.

    Randi, thy Reason is to me
    Like those Nicèan barks of yore
    That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
    The weary way-worn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

    On irrational seas long wont to roam,
    Thy silver hair, thy fearsome gaze,
    Thy ready wit have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece,
    And the grandeur that was Rome. 10

    Lo, in yon brilliant window-niche
    How statue-like I see thee stand,
    The agate lamp within thy hand,
    Ah! Knowledge, from the regions which
    Are holy land!

    Sorry for butchering E.A. Poe

  13. I still recall the night that I heard Randi on “Hour 25” on KPFK in Los Angeles. One of the Many things I need to thank Harlan Ellison (the shows host at the time) for , if I ever see him again. (cliche alert) That night literally change my life and I make no bones about it. (double cliche).

    And hey! I’m only five foot six myself!

  14. I am old enough to have seen Randi, Johnny, and Sagan in first run. Uri, too, I suppose. As a young, semi-closeted skeptic, I was thrilled to see these people on network TV! My first Sagan read was “Dragons of Eden,” First Edition, 1977. In fact, Sagan was plugging the book on Carson when I first saw him. Sagan was science, but Randi was anti-woo, and very much needed.

    These people and their actions were early parts of my quest, but I never could have envisioned the lasting impact they have had on so many others. I consider myself and much of this community to be the children of Randi, Sagan, and Johnny. [Tell me, where would we have been without Johnny?] The current generation is quite numerous and in a great position to carry this movement forward. Yes, Happy Birthday, Randi! Many thanks, and much admiration.

  15. If only I could travel back through time to Randi’s birthday on MY birthday, I could semi-paradoxically share my birthday with Randi IN THE SAME ROOM. Awesome. Then I could kill off my grandfather and cease to exist as a happy man.

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