Sunday 17 October 2010

TAM London — day two summary

Less of a rush this morning, so had time for coffee and some pastries masquerading as breakfast. Got a good position a couple of rows behind where I was yesterday, with what I hoped would be a clear view to the lectern for photographs. Up on screen we were treated to an image of a well known "indefatigable cornish git" — Yea doth Crispian Jago now have his own Skeptic Trumps card (though when I saw him at lunchtime he appeared to have deliberately changed his appearance from that portrayed in Neil Davies' caricature).

Richard Wiseman introduced science writer Marcus Chown, who went down (or is that up?) his list of Ten Bonkers Things About the Universe, bookended with cosmological audio-visuals (Elton John, David Bowie).

Next came JREF president DJ Grothe with his take on the skeptical movement, both globally and regionally, also focussing on the moral imperatives of skepticism, where he briefly referenced Sam Harris's new book (which I have with me this weekend).

The Technology and New Media panel, expertly moderated by Rebecca Watson, comprised TV reporter Kate Russell, writer Gia Milinovich, blogger and journalist Martin Robbins (aka the Lay Scientist), and Little Atoms host Neil Denny. Much discussion ensued, some of it about the difference between new and old media.

Rebecca Watson also hosted the next item, a conversation with writer and artist Melinda Gebbie about her collaboration with Alan Moore in producing erotic comic-book Lost Girls. Interesting, certainly, but one can't help wondering what it has to do with skepticism. There was also a Q & A session.

Stephen Fry appeared on video, interviewed by Tim Minchin. Interesting and philosophical — philological even.

Lunch was slightly more relaxed than yesterday (at least for me, probably because I knew what to expect). Then we had Graham Linehan in conversation with Jon Ronson (making yet another unscheduled appearance at TAM London 2010). Discussion of Graham Linehan's oeuvre in TV and his use of Twitter.

PZ Myers continued to entrench his position as the world's most aggressive atheist, despite never having thrown a punch (let alone a bomb) in the direction of true believers and other purveyors of nonsense. Ridicule followed by constructive criticism appears to be his formula — purposeful (rather than gratuitous) obnoxiousness.

After coffee Alan Moore challenged our credulity by claiming he was a rationalist who worshipped a serpentine sock puppet, and challenged my own concentration by reading a long poem. Then it was back to the discussion format as he was interviewed by Neil Denny and Josie Long.

TAM London was wrapped up with thanks from the man himself, James Randi.

It was definitely a different TAM from last year, with a noticeable shift to the godless side of skepticism (not that I have any objection to such a shift myself, though I suspect it may disconcert some), and more use of the informal discussion format rather than just individual presentations.

It was with a head buzzing full of TAM that I headed out for something to eat prior to the aftershow party at the Monarch in Chalk Farm.

(As with yesterday's post, links and a few refinements will follow. I hope to be covering most of the individual speakers in more detail as subsequent posts.)