Monday, 17 September 2012

The Pod Delusion's birthday party

Welcome to Conway Hall, in London, home of the South Place Ethical Society.  From the outside the building looks like a small non-conformist church.  'Tardis-like', it seems to be much bigger inside than out.  Over the stage is the slogan "To Thine Own Self be True".

Conway Hall - for the Pod Delusion's 3rd birthday party.
Conway Hall - for the Pod Delusion's birthday party.

After the march for a secular Europe, it was quite a short walk to Red Lion Square to reach the venue for a 'birthday party'.  The Pod Delusion has gathered a good audience these days, and a couple of hundred of us were in London to attend the live event.  I joked to one of the organisers of the march that he should have extended it to reach Conway Hall, because so many of the people had ended up here after finding suitable 'refreshments' along the way.

We were told that there would be an opportunity for questions after each segment, and threatened with James O'Malley's holiday photos if we were not able to fill the time available.  A lively participative audience ensured that there was little risk of that happening, but he wasn't able to resist the temptation to tell us a 'programmer's joke'  

A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant walked into a bar . . .pub . . tavern . . . inn . . .

Ha ha! The first half of the event got off to a good start.  Liz Lutgendorf gave us an entertaining history of Conway Hall.  Then Guardian Blogger Martin Robbins explained "Why The Daily Mail Is Evil!".  This really was the low point of the event.  Much as I love to ridicule 'The Daily Fail,' any attempt to rouse to audience to chant anything about the miserable rag was embarrassingly pathetic.  Bad form Robbins!  And to be honest, all your ranting about Suri Cruz might have been a good point but it was just boring.

Then Drew Rae offered us a "Risk Assessment for the Apocalypse!" (in which he committed the classic risk assessor's faux pas of confusing a hazard and a risk) and fire scientist Claire Benson (@pyroclaire) managed not to burn down Conway Hall with an interesting demonstration of spectroscopy! (I'm not completely convinced that a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher is the appropriate one for a methylated spirits fire.  Fortunately Liz didn't have to use it.)

After the interval things got even better.  Deborah Hyde (aka Jourdemayne, author of Jourdemayne's blog and Editor of the Skeptic Magazine) got us off to a really good start with "Psychology of the Supernatural!", including an explanation of the origin of the meme of driving a stake through the heart of a vampire.  Deborah was THE star of the show. 

@KateRussell then gave us some interesting insights about the growth of the internet, with a warning to bloggers to avoid making unnecessary links to unindexable, data-hungry, subterfuge-laden and often unreliable infographics.  (Or at least, remember to use the no-follow tag if you must make a link, ensuring that the subterfuge of the SEO-savvy authors is defeated).

Alom Shaha's 'magic show' kept us entertained for a while too.  It isn't completely obvious that he would make it as a professional magician, but he could get away with doing kids parties . . . and birthday parties for us 'adult-kids'.  (I would warn him that the eight year old grandson of my friend in the audience possesses his eight-of-clubs trick!  As if he doesn't already know that.)  The main point was that he is a great speaker and has an enviable sense of humour and he entertained the audience, using technology as well as 'conventional' magical props.  The greatest shame was that he had a bottle of white wine for one of the tricks.  Why?  Because there was no white wine left at the bar in the interval and I would have enjoyed a glass of it!

Helen Arney, whose 'Voice of an Angle' joke was hardly noticed by the majority, then completed the evening very nicely.

After the March for a Secular Europe in the afternoon, this was the conclusion of a great day out.  I'm looking forward to the fourth birthday party, and hoping to help The Pod Delusion out with a feature about Fusion in the next year.  More on that another day.


1 comment:

dobson said...

I'm sort of glad I did not offer to speak - it seems like the standard was very high and one of my stupid solo-stints might not have gone down so well! ;-)