Tag Archive: Brian Hart

Monkey’s Uncle

(Submitted by Skepticality listener Brian Hart)

I’m taking college level courses at UCLA to complete my education. I was sitting, an hour before class, and reading in our Anthropology book, a chapter about primates. I had no idea there were so many species around the globe. Anyway, one of the Old World species I had never heard of before, the Vervet Monkey, native to Africa, was mentioned in the book along with it’s picture. The chapter I was reading was about sexual reproduction, populations, groups, etc.

I closed the book and headed on to my Anthropology class and put George Hrab’s skeptical show, The Geologic Podcast, episode #383. In the amusing segment called, Interesting Fauna, Geo started talking about a species of primate and it’s mating habits. Can you guess which species? Yep, the Vervet Monkey.

I’ll be a Monkey’s Uncle (or, I share about 96% of my DNA with my Monkey Uncle)!

Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 254.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog ICBS Everywhere, and Insight at Skeptics Society.

It’s a cute story, but there is absolutely no way to calculate the odds of this happening. It’s highly likely that the author would read about vervet monkeys in an anthropology book, but the likelihood of the topic being discussed on a podcast is a pretty difficult thing to quantify. George is not an anthropologist, zoologist, or any other profession that would be expected to talk about primates. He is a musician by trade and his podcast is about science and skepticism. There are many potential topics for his show and while monkeys certainly aren’t a strange thing to discuss, it’s not exactly a commonly-discussed topic, either.

I think we just have to tip our hat to nature for this one and accept that this is one of those funny, unlikely coincidences that we just can’t quantify.

That and thank the coincidence gods or the opportunity for endless puns about monkeys.


(Submitted by Friend of the Blog and Skepticality listener Brian Hart)

As my wife and I turned on the TV to watch the latest episode of Nurse Jackie on Showtime, it was randomly on another channel.  The movie it was showing at that time was the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we switched over to Showtime.  The Nurse Jackie episode was called “Candyman”, and was about the death and funeral of the hospital’s news and candy vendor.  It featured the cast singing the song “Candy Man”.

Only one fly in this (chocolate?) ointment, that song only appeared on the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory back in 1971.  Who can possibly tie this coincidence together?

“The Candy Man can 
cause he mixes it with love 
and makes the world taste good”

Below are the extended notes for use in Skepticality Episode 237 provided Edward Clint.  Clint produces the Skeptic Ink Network and writes about Evolutionary Psychology, critical thinking and more at his blog Incredulous. He is presently a bioanthropology graduate student at UCLA studying evolutionary psychology.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary.

There might be more pop culture and media references to the beloved 1971 film than you realize. The classic Wonka film has had it’s fire rekindled after the advent of VHS home video, then with the DVD release, and again following the 2005 theatrical re-make (which does not include the song in question!) In fact besides Nurse Jackie, there are at least 17 different references, playings of the song, or parodies in recent media including films the Ice Age (2012 sequel), and TV shows including Futurama, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Gilmore Girls, and Malcolm in the Middle. The younger folks on the internet are also acutely aware of the Wonka image meme still widely used and circulated today.

Would it be considered a coincidence if you saw the movie playing after hearing a song by the band “Veruca Salt” on the radio or internet? The band is named after the rich, spoiled girl in the movie. How about when Wonka was quoted in the comedy classic Super Troopers? …The entire episode from The Office which revolved around Wonka’s “golden ticket” idea?

Still, Brian, the two references co-occurring and you just happening to see them seems pretty unlikely. Do you think it’s more unlikely than the runaway success of the film? A film about a creepy shut-in CEO using candy to lure a starving child into a “private tour” full of secret rooms, deadly machines, and fetish-geared pygmy slaves human-trafficked into his candy sweatshop? Maybe we’re better off not not knowing the odds, or what schnozzberries actually are.

(Submitted by Friend of the Blog, Brian Hart.)

Late last night, I heard that a friend, Eric Broze, had died.  I got onto the social media and shared my sorrow with my friends who knew Eric and his lovely wife, and now, sadly, widow, Rose Schwartz.

As an Atheist, I think he is gone forever, his light gone out and will not be rekindled.  It was nice to swap stories and reminisce about this good guy gone way too soon.

This morning, as I was cleaning up my office, I decided to listen to an episode of the podcast Ardent Atheist.  I wasn’t paying much attention as I chose an older show at random, I probably have about 15 backlogged shows that I have not yet heard.  I clicked on show # 133, from about 4 months ago and began to clean.  The hosts, Emery Emery and Heather Henderson announced that week’s guests, among them Eric Broze and Rose Schwartz.

If I were a religious man, I might think that this was Eric’s method of contacting me from the “Other Side”.  However, from my point of view, this is simply a coincidence, and it WAS nice to hear Eric’s voice once more.

My condolences to Rose, and goodbye to Eric.

[Editor: Thanks to Brian for this kind tribute to our dear friend. – Wendy]

(Submitted by Friend of the Blog, Brian Hart)

Not twins.

Not twins.

Haven’t we all heard the old saw that everyone has an exact double somewhere in the world? Lookalikes are a form of coincidence – coinciding features that make people look so much alike that they seem to be twins, except they  are unrelated. They are having a special experience, and as photographer Francois Brunelle articulates below, it is not that they look like a celebrity – they look just like someone else. Brian Hart submitted this article a few months ago, and I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. This is our gift to you – whatever holiday you are celebrating, or none, enjoy this special piece of photojournalism.

“Brunelle has studied the human face since he started out as a photographer in 1968, at the age of 18. He said he was ‘fascinated by the resemblance between look-alikes.’

‘It is not about looking like famous people,’ he said. ‘The project is about looking like other people.

‘The fact that two persons, totally unrelated to each other, sometimes born in different countries, share the same physical appearance is really the essence of (it).'” – from the article.


(Submitted by Friend of the Blog, Brian Hart)

My wife, Karen Hart, is a professional musician. Today, she met with JoEllen Lapidus to rehearse some Joni Mitchell songs for JoEllen’s upcoming album. JoEllen happens to be the woman who handcrafted all of Joni’s dulcimers back in the day.

Later, Karen and I went for lunch where she continued reading her book about women musicians from the late ’60s and early ’70s. She read aloud a passage about Joni’s birthday, November 7, 1943.

Today’s date? November 7, 2013.

Happy 70th, Joni!

And go round and round and round in the circle game.

[Editor: This is one of those coincidences that puts music in your head for a moment to enjoy. Visit Karen Hart’s website! – Wendy]


(Submitted by friend of the site, and our sound engineer, Brian Hart)

A while back I was listening to a George Hrab podcast, and he related a joke about bassoon players.


The joke itself is not too funny, the gist is that it is not a sexy or practical instrument to learn as a career choice in music.

The next day I randomly chose to listen to a 3 month-old WTF Podcast hosted by Marc Maron, this one featuring The Office’s Rainn (Dwight Shrute) Wilson.  A few minutes into the show Wilson mentioned that he played bassoon in High School.

In a Universe this large, and vast, and old, this must happen occasionally, bassooner or later.


 [EDITOR: This was submitted by Brian Hart. Brian submits a lot of our stories and is our producer and sound engineer for our podcast. It’s for this reason that we’ve chosen to post his story and not flog him publicly for his awful, awful pun.]


(Submitted by our friend of the blog, and our producer/sound engineer, Brian Hart)

I was in line at Costco, listening to a new episode of The Skeptics Guide To The Universe. My friend, Derek, was being interviewed on the show for the first time, and was discussing his investigation of a Swiss UFO cult.

He got to the part where he mentions the name Michael Horn, the American rep of this cult.  I looked in line ahead of me and saw a girl wearing this sweatshirt that says “Fear the Horn”.

I whipped out my camera phone and took this picture. Me so horny???

[EDITOR: The above story is presented unedited, and its puns do not represent the views of the TOMBC staff. Although we didn’t help any by perpetuating them in the title. We’re only human.]

Dancing With Dragons

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)

I was at Atlanta’s annual Dragon*Con in 2011, waiting in a very long line with about two thousand fans to see a viewing of the latest Doctor Who episode, which had not yet been shown in the U.S.  Dragon*Con has an estimated 40-50 thousand people who attend for the Labor Day weekend.  For about an hour we waited as fans came walking past, dressed in various Science Fiction and Fantasy-based costumes.  Some of these costumes are very elaborate, and always in good fun.

I befriended the people I was standing next to; there were a few Amy Ponds, a Princess Leia, various incarnations of The Doctor, and a pretty woman in a belly dancer outfit.  The belly dancer turned out the be a real belly dance teacher, named Lisa, with a very interesting and memorable story of how she started dancing and teaching. The line finally went in and we all went our separate ways inside the theater.

Poster of Lisa, the Belly Dancer

Two days later, we were visiting Asheville, NC, and walking through the charming downtown area.  In the window of a store, I saw a poster for belly dance lessons.  The teacher?  The same woman I had met in line in Atlanta, 160 miles away, in a crowd of thousands.

[EDITOR: Pssh, wearing your work uniform as a costume is SO cheating. Reminds me of the time I auditioned for the role of a Blockbuster (remember those?) employee for an episode of Entourage. When I arrived it turned out to be what we call a cattle call (TONS of actors for one role), and several of them arrived in their ACTUAL Blockbuster uniforms. But the joke was on them in the end. – Jarrett]

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)

“Oh, well, this would be one of those circumstances that people unfamiliar with the law of large numbers would call a coincidence.”

Coincidence and The Law of Large Numbers

Season1 | Episode 04 The Luminous Fish Effect | Scene 4 The full context:

Leonard: Okay. I’ll let you get back to fixing your eggs. Sheldon: I’m not just fixing my eggs … (waving spoon) … I’m fixing everyone’s eggs. Leonard: (bowing) And we all thank you. (Sheldon gathers his cooked eggs and sits on the couch. He lays out a journal next to him and takes a photograph of the journal before scribbling a note. He tastes the eggs and pauses a moment in contemplation.) Sheldon: (scribbling a new note) Use … new … eggs. Penny: (knocks on door and looks inside) Hi, hey. I’m running out to the market. Do you guys need anything? Sheldon: Oh, well this would be one of those circumstances that people unfamiliar with the law of large numbers would call a coincidence. Penny: I’m sorry? Sheldon: I need eggs. Four dozen should suffice. Penny: (uncertain) Four dozen?

Quote source: SheldonFAN.com

[EDITOR: I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, and particularly the way in which Dr. Cooper continually fights for accuracy, precision, truth, and knowledge, all while ensuring to alienate everyone around him as much as humanly possible, driving away everyone but his closest of friends; friends who remain by his side through thick and thin, but mostly only because of the strict written agreements binding them to do so. In this sense Dr. Cooper serves as a constant, incessant reminder of how NOT to do my job while making me laugh.]

Bunk or Buncombe?

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Brian Hart)

I was visiting Atlanta to do a panel discussion on education vs. debunking.  Prior to the panel, I started thinking about the word bunk and debunk and decided to find their original meanings.  A few minutes of Internet research told me that the word was derived from a region in North Carolina called Buncombe County.  A representative from that county in the 1820s named Felix Walker was known to ramble on with long and wearisome speeches for Buncombe.  In Washington, D.C.  the term, “you are full of Buncombe” became a common phrase.  Over the years the spelling changed to bunkum and the meaning morphed into “any kind of nonsense.”  I was able to bring this origin and meaning into the panel discussion that day.

Two days later, my wife and I drove to see her cousins in Asheville, North Carolina.  We arrived in the evening, and when I was talking about my panel and recounting the origin of Bunkum to the cousins, they all laughed and said, “Asheville is the seat of Buncombe County!”  The next day we walked over and took pictures of the courthouse, where the words  “Buncombe County Court House” are written in stone.

Brian Hart in front of the Bumcombe County Courthouse