The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘television’

In a Sign of the Apocalypse, Jenny McCarthy Gets a TV Show

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 14, 2010

Wow… this is bad news, folks.  Uber anti-vaccine loon Jenny “Body Count” McCarthy is getting her own television show thanks to Oprah Winfrey.  We should all be on the lookout, because I think if we thought that McCarthy’s whacky alt-med, anti-vax, and just plain goofy views on medical science in general were getting a lot of press, just wait until her TV show hits the airwaves.  Ugh…

June 14, 2010, 12:19 PM EST

WENN

Jenny McCarthy is set to follow in the footsteps of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey after signing a deal to develop her own TV series with the media mogul.

The Playboy model-turned-actress has landed a development deal with Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.

Harpo executives have not elaborated on the content of McCarthy’s series, but they insist it won’t be in a similar format to the TV star’s current chat show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which will go off the air next year.

Executives have yet to confirm if McCarthy’s series will launch on Winfrey’s new TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

A Harpo spokeswoman tells the New York Post, “We do not have anyone taking over for Oprah. We do have a development deal with Jenny McCarthy. We are exploring possibilities across a number of platforms.”

In response to Oprah’s utterly dumbfounding decision to grant McCarthy this broader platform to spread her nonsense, I can only say…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Psychic Gary Spivey Mega-Fail on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 4, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me how psychics and their ilk manage to persist, despite numerous moments of spectacular fail – such is the nature of cognitive dissonance with the psychics & their followers.  Well, at least we can have a little fun with it… A few days ago (on March 31st), just for a little bit of skeptical fun, Jimmy Kimmel had a psychic named Gary Spivey on his show to make a series of Final Four picks for the NCAA tournament.  Of course, as Kimmel outlines in his opening remarks, most of these games had already taken place, and some of the “teams” (such as Balboa and Flanders) don’t even exist!  Watch as master psychic Gary Spivey makes his predictions…

That’s pretty damn funny, if you ask me.  I will give Gary Spivey one thing, however: he’s got the most wicked-cool looking hairdo EVER!!! 🙂

Message to Gary Spivey…

Posted in humor, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

William Shatner Sets Phasers for “Debunk” and PWNs John Edward

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 16, 2010

During my random Friday-night web surfing, I stumbled across this little gem that I had to share.  William Shatner (who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek) is interviewing psychic charlatan John Edward on his show “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” and definitely had his phasers set for “debunk”.  Check these clips out! 😀

“Is it possible you’re psychotic, not psychic?”

“John, it’s woo woo.”

Mr. Shatner, this one’s for you!!!

Posted in humor, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 9, 2009

Happy Carl Sagan Day… or, to be more accurate, belated Carl Sagan Day 🙂

November 7th is the birthday of that great communicator of science & skepticism, Carl Sagan.  In a time when many of his fellow scientists were loath to communicate directly with the public, Sagan was a unique link between the scientific community and the general populace.  He communicated the power, joy, and importance of science to us through lectures, books, and television.  In particular, I think I can honestly say that an entire generation of scientists were inspired by Carl Sagan’s book and television series Cosmos (which aired in 1980) – I count myself among them. Were it not for the inspiration provided to me in my teenage years by my beat-up copy of the book Cosmos, I may have never pursued a career in science…

The unforgettable introduction to Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean is available on Youtube…

And a recently auto-tuned remix of Carl Sagan’s dialog from Cosmos, called “A Glorious Dawn (featuring Stephen Hawking)”, is also available on Youtube.  Check it out…

**Note: You can download your own copy of “A Glorious Dawn” from its creator’s website – SymphonyofScience.com
– where there are many other cool videos & music files available.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in scientific method, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jay Leno Sticks It to Sylvia Browne — On Live TV

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 5, 2009

On Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, psychic Sylvia Browne made a surprise guest appearance on The Jay Leno Show. This is very surprising, seeing as how Leno is a definite skeptic when it comes to psychics & their woo (he coined the now famous phrase “Why don’t you ever see this headline: ‘Psychic Wins Lottery‘?”).  So why was Browne there in the first place?

What happened is that his show has a segment called Earn Your Plug, whereby celebrities who wish to have their TV show or movie plugged have to do something on the show to merit the advertising.  Well, last night the celebs were Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat of the movie “Paranormal Activity”, and for the Earn Your Plug segment they decided to surprise Leno by having Sylvia Browne give him a reading.  See for yourself how it went…

Jay Leno vs. Sylvia Browne

Right off the bat, Leno was completely blindsided by the fact that a psychic like Browne was even on his show.  Notice how he makes the crack at the beginning of the reading about replacing some employees in the near future; something tells me that this is one prediction which is likely to come true.  Had he known that Featherston & Sloat had wanted to bring Browne onto the show, Leno would have likely stopped it from happening.

In addition, I want to point something else out that Leno did – he was openly, though playfully (his show is about entertainment, after all), skeptical of what Browne was attempting to do.  Whenever she made a claim, rather than allow her to prattle on and on with all manner of nonsensical “predictions” (often known as cold reading), he would stop her and challenge her on specific points.  It is also worth noting how she reacted to Leno not simply believing what she said or at least playing along with her: she got angry with him.  She didn’t get screaming mad, but watching her demeanor and body language speaks volumes about how upset she was that he even dared to question her supposed divine prowess (she did claim, after all, that her “abilities” were “from God”).  Essentially, she was doing little more than making a blatant argument from authority in this regard, and it was painfully (for her) obvious that Leno wasn’t having any of it.

I think a good example was this exchange:

Browne: “Do you know how many people over the years have told me that I’m wrong about something, but came back later to tell me that I was right?”

Leno: “No. How many?”

In the end, I think that while it was a negative that a psychic scumbag like Sylvia Browne even got onto Leno’s show in the first place, Leno himself turned it into a more positive experience by not treating her seriously & acting openly skeptical and asking questions.  The result was, in my opinion, that by the end of the reading – which was mercifully short – the vast majority of the audience was laughing at Ms. Browne and not with her.  And if there’s anyone who deserves to be laughed at, it is Sylvia Browne and her ilk.

Good move, Jay, for educating people on how to deal with such supernatural claims.  Johnny Carson would be proud of you 🙂

Posted in psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Some Humor: Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2009

As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post – Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash – I just had to pass along this little gem.

I just saw a couple of really funny clips over at the Daily Show website regarding the swine flu. One clip does some gentle lampooning of various media outlets for the manner in which they’re reporting on the subject, while the other clip does a great job poking fun at the conspiracy theorists running rampant on the topic.  Enjoy!  🙂

Lampooning the Media

last-100-days-part-11

And the next – and in my opinion much more funny – clip poking fun at those whacky CT-woosters…

Conspiracy Theorists vs. Evidence-Based Journalism… Who Shall Win?

last-100-days-part-2

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Psychics on CBS News: Epic Fail

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2009

**Note: For more background on this topic, see previous posts Psychic Failure in Investment Scams and Psychic Parasites.

I just watched a fluff-piece on CBS News, and I think you’ll just have to watch it for yourself before reading my comments on it…

Notice, in the reporting there was not one hint of skepticism about these self-proclaimed psychics and their woo. Even worse, there was a hint of argument from popularity in that report where the reporter stated that in these tough economic times even more and more people are going to psychics for advice – with the implication that if more people are doing it, then there must be something to it.

Save your money, folks. Whether or not they truly believe in their powers, psychics are just pseudoscientific woo-mongers… this phenomenon is nothing more than a mixture of cold reading by the psychic & wishful thinking on the part of the person seeking advice (and sometimes by the psychic themselves).

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Posted in economics, media woo, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Damn Lies & Statistics: Who’s Counting?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 18, 2009

In the United States, tax day (April 15th) has just passed, and this year we had a rather interesting series of anti-tax events organized by Fox News called “Tea Parties”. The organizers of these events were, at one point, estimating perhaps millions of people in attendance.

fox news tea party

To me, the interesting thing about events like this is the numbers of people that are reported to have attended. In an attempt to apply a version of the argument from popularity, organizers of such events will tend to over-estimate attendance while those in opposition to such events usually try to downplay those same numbers.

Sometimes, when we see polls or statistics being reported in the media or by some interest group, the numbers are presented to us as what Dr. Joel Best (author of “Damned Lies & Statistics”) refers to as “little nuggets of truth”. However, a deeper analysis of such reports often presents a very different picture.

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Posted in mathematics, media woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Media Math

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 24, 2009

I saw this over at Wheat-dogg’s world, and I simply had to share it 😀

media math

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Financial Crisis & Business Skepticism

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2009

The news about the economy is, by most accounts, pretty dismal these days. As time goes on, we are finding out about more an more shady deals on Wall Street and even outright fraud – think Bernard Madoff. How did we get caught up in this hysteria of wishful thinking that drove an insane economic bubble which ultimately burst so badly?

I’m no economist, and I don’t like to write about economics, but I wanted to take a moment or two to give a shout-out to someone who is applying skepticism & critical thinking to these questions – Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show 😀

In the last week, Jon Stewart has very publicly and vocally taken those financial reporters, networks, and commentators – such as CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer – to task for failing to apply their own skepticism & critical thinking to the situation. And in the end, when dealing in business and/or investing, it boils down to that old adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

I want to share two video clips of Jon Stewart laying the skeptical smackdown on CNBC for failing to apply critical thinking to these issues. The first is a broadcast from The Daily Show earlier in the week where Stewart criticizes CNBC for giving sloppy or shady financial advice…

stewart vs cnbc

The second video is an interview between Stewart and Cramer as they discuss what went wrong and the business media’s responsibility to be more willing to ask tough questions and follow through…

stewart vs cramer

I have to agree with Stewart. While it is incumbent upon all of us to apply our critical thinking skills to issues of business & finance, at some point we depend upon the business media outlets, like CNBC, to provide us with trustworthy information. Let us hope we’ve all learned this painful lesson well.

Posted in economics, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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