A JAPANESE PUPPET SHOW ON TV Bunraku is an ancient form of puppetry performed in the class

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A JAPANESE PUPPET SHOW ON TV Bunraku is an ancient form of puppetry performed in the classical Japanese theater. Almost-life-size doll figures are manipulated by skilled operators dressed in black, while the voices are provided by actors just off stage. Though the puppet operators can be plainly seen by the audience, they are ignored so that the narrative can be told and the theatrical effect can be maximized. It is an accepted convention. It now appears that the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) has created a modern version of Bunraku adapted to the television format. In this play, the puppet operators are the producers and directors, and the doll figures are the audience at home. Tonight, TBS broadcast its diligently edited program titled "Friday TV Star." While the audience at home ignored the manipulation they were being subjected to, a fictitious story was told by the puppeteers about my encounter with a "psychic" girl from Taiwan named Mai Takahashi. As Kubota Hiroshi, a Japanese skeptic who writes for the Ashai Shinbun, a Tokyo newspaper with a circulation of more than eight million, e-mailed me, "I cannot believe it. I was astonished! TBS changed and cut and did not broadcast the all-important scenes." The Asahi is one of the biggest newspapers in the world. Mr. Kubota called the "Weekly Asahi" magazine, published by the Asahi newspaper, and told them that TBS had been cheating in presenting this program the way they did. The narrater, said Mr. Kubota, told the TV audience that an overhead camera "failed to catch any trick of Miss Mai Takahashi." As Kubota commented, it is true that the hidden camera from above did not catch her cheating, but TBS said nothing about the camera behind her. That camera clearly showed Takahashi opening and peeking at the targets, and the audience saw and commented on that fact as she performed the trick. Also, reports Mr. Kubota, TBS edited out all the comments of Mr. Aikawa, an older and very respected TV host who presided at the demonstration. He was very aware of the moves of Takahashi, and we discussed the matter. Mr. Aikawa was unwittingly made into a man-in- black by TBS. My involvement in this program was misrepresented. The impression was given that the TBS crew happened upon me in Las Vegas, and that I asked them to find me a genuine psychic so that I could test that person when I visited Japan. No so. By the time we taped in Las Vegas, I had already met and tested Takahashi (in November, 1995) and I signed a second contract to do so again in Tokyo, in March. Miss. Kido (one of the hosts of the show) writes Mr. Kubota, said, "Starting last November, we began to look for a true psychic and at last we found the girl, Miss Mai." Mr. Kubota comments, "I believe that they changed the cause and effect!" I will say this to the Tokyo Broadcasting System: The Japanese people cannot be treated like little children who believe everything told to them. Mai Takahashi was caught cheating, doing a simple conjuring trick that was revealed by the cameras. When I tightened up the conditions so that she could not do her trick, it failed. I challenge TBS to produce the videotape that was recorded from the hand-held mobile camera, the videotape that was not used by TBS and which clearly revealed the trick. Until TBS does this, the Japanese public remains deceived, and I personally have lost any trust I had of the producers and directors. I think that the Newton magazine, the Asahi newspaper, and the scientists and other skeptics in Japan who are also enraged at this affront, will agree with me. This was an example of disrespect for the TV audience, who are not informed of what actually took place, but are given what the TV producers want to give them -- a children's story that is easily digested, but is not true. James Randi The James Randi Educational Foundation. ************************************************** ** PROVIDED FOR YOUR REFERENCE BY THE MODERATOR ** ************************************************** Requests to be added to or deleted from the randi-hotline mailing list, must be sent to the service address: Internet: randi-hotline-request@ssr.com PLEASE BE PATIENT. All requests are processed before each new mailing to the list and these can be widely spaced. You *will* be added if your request was sent to the correct address. Mail to James Randi can be sent to: Internet: randi-hotline@ssr.com The Amazing One reads all mail and will generally respond eventually. This can change with growing volume, of course... 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