The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Last night I watched a few episodes of Penn and Teller's Bullshit. In case you haven't heard of it, it's an informative and humorous program: picture Mythbusters with passionate cursing and, instead of urban myths, societal/political/religious myths.

The duo attempt to expose the bullshit (hence the title) of certain practices, etc. Topics range from the predictable Bible bashing to the more original and interesting environmental hysteria. has some episodes, though I don't know what proportion these ones represent.

One particular episodes was especially enlightening for me: recycling. Yup, that's right: recycling is, to a certain extent, bullshit. Turns out it costs a whole lot more and, in some cases, is actually detrimental. They cite the piece, "Eight Great Myths of Recycling," along with its author as corroborating evidence. If nothing else, this piece should be a great icebreaker at cocktail parties.

Their piece on environmental hysteria was also very informative. Not only are most radical "environmentalists" clueless potheads, but they have spread much misinformation, probably in an attempt to be heard. Did you know, for instance, that there are more trees in the world now than eighty years ago? Did you also know that, contrary to popular belief, landfills are not running out? It would merely take a 100 square mile landfill to contain all the trash the U.S. will produce in the next century. Turns out that what we were told about recycling as kids turns out to be false.

At times it seemed to me that the show is espousing a conservative ideology, but there is definite evidence to the contrary: the show, after all, bashes the Bible and the notion that prostitution should be illegal, so the underlying politics of the show, if any, is difficult to pin down.

Like Mythbusters, their modus operandi is hardly beyond reproach. In one episode, for instance, they debunk conspiracy theories, such as the famous 9/11 one, the Kennedy assasination, and the Moon landing. What bothered me is that I have seen respectable and credible people question the standard moon landing narrative, but Bullshit turns to one rural American wackjob as a representative of the theory that the moon landing was faked. That's hardly balanced.


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