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Episode 82 - Grab Bag 2018

Squaring the Strange

Release Date: 01/04/2019

Episode 161 - Magician Roundtable! show art Episode 161 - Magician Roundtable!

Squaring the Strange

First Tim Mendham from the Australian Skeptics pops in for a quick visit, then we sit down for a discussion with Vegas magicians Matt Donnelly, R.J. Owens, and Vinny Grosso. We learn about things like gospel magic; how they work "woo" like tarot or ESP into their acts; accidental interviews with James Randi; magic and morality; applying entertainment to skepticism; paranormal retroengineering; and the guilty pleasure of fooling an audience into believing--momentarily--that you have magical powers.  

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Episode 160 - The Entity with Kenny Biddle show art Episode 160 - The Entity with Kenny Biddle

Squaring the Strange

We meet up with investigator and photographic ghost evidence enthusiast Kenny Biddle to discuss The Entity -- a 1982 horror movie in the tradition of the 1970s and 1980s "based on a true story" fare. Content warning: we discuss a real, confirmed sexual assault briefly in the opener and then a purported supernatural sexual assault as depicted in the film. The Entity has a number of angles that teach lessons on how NOT to do a ghost investigation, and Ben and Kenny have a bit of a time picking through them.

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Ep. 159 - Havana Syndrome with Robert Bartholomew show art Ep. 159 - Havana Syndrome with Robert Bartholomew

Squaring the Strange

We all have a few skeptical nuggets to chat about this week, from zebras to the healing power of Satan worship to dangerous rumors. Then we are joined by Robert Bartholomew, mass hysteria expert and author of the book "Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria." He compares the current phenomenon to sociogenic illnesses of the past and then dissects some specifics that the press and the government got wrong.

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Episode 158 - Magic Cards: Decks of Divination and Deception show art Episode 158 - Magic Cards: Decks of Divination and Deception

Squaring the Strange

We begin on somber note, with the passing of friend and contributor Erik Kristopher Myers. Then we look at cards, and how they've been used to foretell, trick, amaze, deceive, and swindle. Learn how racism was "in the cards" for fortune tellers in the early 20th century, and how Tarot isn't as ancient as it seems. We discuss the rise and fall of Zener cards, and how quickly people adapted playing cards to trickery. And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pops up more than once as we weave our way through card history!

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Episode 157 - The Aztec UFO Crash with Dave Thomas show art Episode 157 - The Aztec UFO Crash with Dave Thomas

Squaring the Strange

First, we are skeptical of the media representations of vaccination "mandates," as well as chiropractors who believe spinally induced immunity can ward off covid. Then we're joined by Dave Thomas of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) to talk about Roswell's lesser-known cousin, the Aztec "Saucer Swindle." It has everything: greedy con men, gullible pulp authors and investors, rigged "doodlebug" gizmos, an intrepid reporter who knows some sleight-of-hand, and a trio of magnetic ships from Venus!

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Episode 156 - Thylacines with Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone show art Episode 156 - Thylacines with Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone

Squaring the Strange

Folklorist Daisy Ahlstone shares some facts, folklore, and even furry art celebrating the thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger. Declared extinct in the 20th century, this creature exists now somewhere between relic and cryptid. It's image went through a complete overhaul, at one time feared and hunted by colonists, yet now revered and domesticated through artwork and role-playing. Ahlstone discusses the commodification of the species, from hunting bounties to gaffed specimens to logos and tourism.

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Episode 155 - The Soothing Sounds of Woo: Vibrational and Sound Healing show art Episode 155 - The Soothing Sounds of Woo: Vibrational and Sound Healing

Squaring the Strange

We explore the somewhat recent trend of trying to heal, calm, or "raise the vibrations" of human beings by means of sound therapy. While sound does have some real medical applications, there's also a concert of woo awaiting the unwary consumer. From singing bowls to tuning forks, it's a web of conflicting benefits, sketchy profit streams, and turgid pseudoscientific jargon that made even Ben's head hurt a little. (But we played some harmonic quantum vibrations to raise his energy and he feels better now.)

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Episode 154 - Fishy, Fraudulent Food show art Episode 154 - Fishy, Fraudulent Food

Squaring the Strange

We examine a history of food fraud stretching back to ancient Rome and continuing today in markets and restaurants everywhere. From honey to virgin olive oil to horse meat, there's a consistent push to bump up profits with a pinch of adulteration and a tablespoon of substitution, especially in the seafood industry. We are joined by D.G. Webster, author of two books on the economics and governance of the seafood chain. Dr. Webster can untangle the nuances of what drives such fraud as well as who it harms.

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Episode 153 - Brian Regal Talks Pseudoscience and Pseudohistory show art Episode 153 - Brian Regal Talks Pseudoscience and Pseudohistory

Squaring the Strange

After some thoughts on the resurgence of dowsing, we sit down with Professor Brian Regal once more, this time to talk about his encyclopedia of pseudoscience. Regal brings his experience teaching critical thinking and history to bear on the topic, and we look at how confirmation bias leads to weaponizing fringe theories.

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Episode 152 - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot: Spontaneous Human Combustion show art Episode 152 - Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot: Spontaneous Human Combustion

Squaring the Strange

We tackle one of the grand old traditions in weirdness--spontaneous human combustion (SHC), the phenomenon wherein your loved one goes POOF so quickly and inexplicably that little is left but a pile of ash and some extremities. Ben discusses the heyday of these strange deaths and what they all had in common. We go over some purported cases and some folkloric fabrication, and Celestia looks up some 19-century skirts to see why fashion may have played a part in the cultural memories that solidified into SHC.

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More Episodes

Ben, Celestia, and Pascual take a romp through a bunch of 2018's more memorable skeptical moments. From a new iteration of the Mechanical Turk to deadly rumors in India to a resurgence of Geocentrism, there's plenty to go around. We go over some of the more notable passings, and Ben lists some of his favorite episodes from the past year.