Stephen Speicher

Penn & Teller: Bulls#*t!

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13 posts in this topic

This show appears on the Showtime pay network, which I don't get. But I have been a Penn & Teller fan for many years, and I subscribe to their announcement mailing list, which is where I first heard of the show. Yesterday I found the show's season two DVDs for rent at my local Blockbuster, and I brought home volume one.

P&T are known mostly for their magic act, but they are also long-time antagonists of, well, B.S. in any form (one of their best friends is James Randi, who is notable for exposing psychic fraud, among other things). They're reality-oriented, though not obviously philosophically grounded. In the show, they take on various topics and expose the lies, dangers, irrationality, and foolishness of various individuals and organizations. While it's at least as much entertainment as anything else, they do a good job, especially using concretes to make a point.

On the DVD I rented, there are four episodes. The best of the four is the PETA episode. PETA, and "animal rights" activists in general, are shown to be the dangerous nut-jobs that they really are. And P&T don't hold back (well, Penn doesn't, anyway - if you're familiar with their act you know that Teller never speaks). In places like THE FORUM, we address things calmly, philosophically, and in general unemotionally. Penn, on the other hand, lets loose with the kind of things that I, if no one else, would really like to spew once in a while about the bastards we oppose.

At one point, one of the activists they interview for the episode says "I think that violence and non-violence are not moral principles, they're tactics." Penn, wearing, as is Teller, nothing but leather, shouts (in narration), "WHAT?" Then they run the quote again. Penn follows with "SWEET EVIL JESUS! What did he say?" and they run the quote again to emphasize the insanity, followed again by Penn, "'Ethical' my achin' ass!" You laugh because it's freeing and cathartic to hear. But it's nonetheless true. And, at least in the PETA episode, they also present solid evidence that the group is a real danger (such as its financial ties to the domestic terrorist group Animal Liberation Front).

The other episodes on this particular DVD vary in quality, the strongest dealing with the "war on drugs," the weakest dealing with love. I plan to see the rest of the series, both because I am a fan of the duo and because I think they have something worthwhile to say.

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I own the DVD set, and the quality of the shows does vary, but at their best Penn & Teller are a hilarious cathartic release. I highly recommend it.

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Highly recommended. It's refreshing to see a TV show which debunks the various myths which are perpetuated by psuedoscience. Penn and Teller successfully add humor at appropriate places and tell it like it is, to the disdain of their critics.

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Fans of this show may also enjoy "Mythbusters."

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PIZ - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

This is something I would have normally passed over in Blockbuster. Thanks to your recommendation I rented all 3 discs of the 2nd season. I enjoyed it tremendously! Thanks for the suggestion. Now I am search of the 1st season to buy/rent. This forum has paid for itself already!!

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PIZ - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

This is something I would have normally passed over in Blockbuster. Thanks to your recommendation I rented all 3 discs of the 2nd season. I enjoyed it tremendously! Thanks  for the suggestion. Now I am search of  the 1st season to buy/rent. This forum has paid for itself already!!

That's why we pay PIZ the big bucks for his reviews! :excl:

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They're reality-oriented, though not obviously philosophically grounded.

In the PETA episode they (Penn :excl: ) said, "In a battle between crazies it is the crazier that wins". This struck me as a uniquely Ayn Rand expression, so I cannot help but believe that they are familair with Ayn Rand. Also the opening sequence shows many dollar sign symbols, with Penn showing respect and approval for wealth and the dollar sign.

While it's at least as much entertainment as anything else, they do a good job, especially using concretes to make a point.

In my opinion, their shows are as good (in terms of quaility of research) as any of the supposedly serious, "60 minutes" broadcasts.

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That's why we pay PIZ the big bucks for his reviews!  :excl:

Yes, and thank you for agreeing to double my salary. :)

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In the PETA episode they (Penn  :)  ) said, "In a battle between crazies it is the crazier that wins". This struck me as a uniquely Ayn Rand expression, so I cannot help but believe that they are familair with Ayn Rand. Also the opening sequence shows many dollar sign symbols,  with Penn showing respect and approval for wealth and the dollar sign.

I believe I read somewhere that they are Libertarian so they may have a passing familiarity with Ayn Rand.

BTW, if you have Showtime, the third season premieres April 25th at 11:00 p.m.

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I just watched the second season on DVD and it is highly, highly recommended. I have a new favorite show. There are some things they say that aren't "pure" from an Objectivist standard, but a show that is probably 90% in tune with your values is way better than about anything else offered. Besides the general no-nonsense rationality of the show, there's also a LOT of funny stuff mixed in. I still can't get out of my head how funny it was when Penn was yelling at a Chiwuwua (or however you spell it) in one of the episodes. It was the funniest thing I've ever saw. I had to play it back a few times :)

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Last night's episode was on CIRCUMCISION. Horrifying yet engrossing. They showed what the process actually is, the origins of the practice, the arguments pro and con, possible methods of reversing the surgery, and the consequences of the surgery.

(WARNING: DETAILS ARE A BIT GRAPHIC)

The big points made:

Essentially there is no medical reason for this barbaric practice. Claims of reduced rates of STDs or urinary tract infections are false; rates for both cut and uncut men are about the same. The only potentially beneficial medical effect was for HIV rates, but while some studies support this claim, others counter it.

The practice goes back through the centuries to Judaism, but in America did not gain widespread acceptance until the mid-19th century. It was then touted as a "cure" (or at least treatment) for masturbation. The theory was that by de-sensitizing(!) the penis, little boys would be less likely to play with themselves.

While the scourge of female circumcisions in Africa get occasional moral denouncements from the West, male circumcision is largely ignored.

Why does it persist today? Conformity. Some parents don't want their sons to feel embarrassed for standing out from the crowd; some women think an uncircumcized penis is gross; some doctors perform the surgery out of habit, as if questioning the surgery were akin to wondering if the sun would rise the next day; some even recommend it for AESTHETIC reasons. (Holy cow! We're now at the stage of forcing newborns to mandatory cosmetic surgery?!?!?!)

So what's the big deal? It's just useless skin cut off, right?

WRONG! First, the foreskin keeps the glans protected from the outside elements, so that it remains an internal organ. Second, the nerve cells are tightly clustered and exremely sensitive, so that removal of the foreskin desensitizes the penis, thereby reducing the capacity for male sexual pleasure. Third, it reduces the size of the penis, reducing his partner's potential pleasure. Fourth, the extra skin around the shaft acts as a gentle sheath, enhancing the pleasure for both partners.

...

Okay, so this post is not so much about the series as about the topic of one episode, but dadgummit, the show can really get a reaction from me. How frustrating it is to live in a world full of unthinking secondhanders who would GLADLY inflict such horrors upon themselves or their sons... and when the facts are GLARINGLY OBVIOUS to anyone who takes a little time to investigate.

Not as funny as some of their episodes, but definitely fascinating and evocative.

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I am a fan of Penn & Teller. Caught their live act a couple of years ago in Las Vegas, which I highly reccommend. I don't get Showtime, but I do believe I will have to check out this series on DVD. Thanks.

Infant circumcision is positively horrifying. Sadly, most people in the US give it very little thought. Even rational people who want the best for their children. It's cosmetic surgery at best and genital mutilation at worst. The justifications I've seen for it are absolutely unreal.

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