APn 10/18 0000 AP on TV-Amazing Randi Copyright, 1993. The Associated Press. All rights re

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APn 10/18 0000 AP on TV-Amazing Randi Copyright, 1993. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. By SCOTT WILLIAMS AP Television Writer NEW YORK (AP) -- The Amazing Randi, first name James, really is rather amazing. "Magicians used to be `Professor' or `the Great,' " said Randi, a compact, energetic cherub with a bushy white beard and eyes that miss nothing. "I thought it sounded better than `Professor.' And I wasn't great. I was amazing. Always have been. But I've never really been great," he said. "I've only been amazing. But I'm very good at amazing." A superb magician, writer, lecturer and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, Randi has devoted the past 25 years to investigating -- and debunking -- psychics, quacks and various supernatural frauds. On Tuesday night, Randi shows his stuff on PBS in "Secrets of the Psychics" for the "Nova" science series, traveling to Moscow to check out some of the silliest and saddest hokum that Russian psychics can devise. "An actor goes out on the stage and does Mark Twain," Randi explained. "But he wouldn't tell you he IS Mark Twain. That would insult your intelligence. "But there are guys who'll cast a horoscope for you and tell you that it's true. And there will be guys who'll bend a spoon or a key for you and say that it's powers from heaven." To illustrate his point, Randi performs the utterly impossible feat of reading the faces of two cards sealed in an envelope. It's a great trick, but he has to perform something like it every time he lectures about psychic hooey. "Don't think it's the stupid, uneducated, unsophisticated people -- the peasants -- who fall for this. Oh, they'll fall for it, too. But it's the sophisticated people with huge laboratories ... who get fooled." Randi's career hasn't been all card tricks. His efforts to demystify the spoon-bending Uri Geller elicited a series of libel lawsuits from the Israeli psychic. Defending himself in those legal actions ("They've all been thrown out of court or won -- by me," Randi notes) chewed up most of his "genius" grant. "I'm not complaining," he said. "I took on this territory. I had my eyes open. I knew what could happen. And bang, it happened. So I've got to fight the good fight. I don't run." Randi took "Nova" to Russia because during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was rumored to be rife with psychics and other wild talents. With the demise of communism, Russian belief in the supernatural has flourished. Randi began his investigation at Moscow's respected Institute of the Brain, where scientists had reported a psychic's ability to influence the brain activity and blood pressure of another person. Their findings didn't hold up after Randi's double blind experiment isolated the experimenters from the effect they were looking for. "Scientists," Randi observed, "have an uncanny ability to find what they're looking for -- whether it's there or not." If Randi is harshest on faith healers and psychic surgeons, it's because he's dealt with the spiritually "healed." His voice tightens when he talks about one of those interviews: "You know that it's a dead man sitting in front of you. Just the spark of life. He's as gray as that rug. And he says, `No, no, God has saved me. I don't have to go to the hospital any more,' " he said. "And you know that within hours of your leaving, they put him in a body bag." Randi also interviews two rather sweet, matronly women whose psychic powers let them analyse a personality in detail simply by looking at their subject's photograph. Randi provides them with a picture of serial killer Ted Bundy, and they come a cropper. It's comical, too, when when Randi visits a private Moscow health clinic, where psychics treat illness with "bio-energy" and psychically "charged" water, which Randi tries, unsuccessfully, to test. "All of my life I have been faced with these things," he said. "They say, `This is going to be a great test.' Right up to the last minute. Then they say, `By the way, this is Thursday. It never works on a Thursday.' " ================================================================= The Soviets allowed a great deal of publicity to leak our about their psychics. As if they were trying to show they were on the forefront of research. As a consequence, many Westerners bought these stories as confirmation of their own psychic beliefs. I think it did serve some purpose for Randi to show that these stories are probably BS. As to the Geller stuff, I think it was Randi's way of introducing himself to those who didn't know who he was. I especially liked the Tonight Show segment where Geller was unable to perform when he had no control over the props; I had completely forgotten about it, even though I saw it first time around. (I had also forgotten how we dressed and wore our hair back then)> Randi was careful to point out that he can never prove psychic phenomena don't exist, only to show that so far they have never been demonstrated and its probability of existing is very small. Unfortunately, this is the little trapdoor that lets in the whole psychic/new age manifestation for those who simply don't get it.

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