Oh, yeah, I’m guilty of this

It is spiteful and immature, but I’ve done this: placed pseudoscience-y books in more appropriate sections of the library/bookstore.

I remember when Behe’s magnum opus came out, I would casually sneak it over to the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. Unfortunately, it would usually fit between Greg Bear and Greg Benford, so I always felt a twinge of remorse for subjecting Darwin’s Radio to Darwin’s Black Box.

The romantic comedies of John Philip Sousa

Just as I’m finally clearing my head from last week’s endless Stars and Stripes Forever-laden fireworks displays, over at the New Scientist’s wonderful Space Blog, Maggie McKee (by way of NPR) offers an historical note about the March King‘s other passion: writing. [link to post]

In addition to writing a march about the transit of venus, a relatively (by human terms) event where venus passes between the earth and the sun, Sousa apparently wrote a book about it, along with a few others, some fictional, some autobiographical and some both.

Sousa was a bit of a Venus afficianado, or more likely, he was caught up in all the hoopla surrounding the 1882 transit. These transits appear in groups of two transits, eight years apart, every hundred or so. The last one was in 2004, the next will be 2012.

Sousa’s Transit of Venus novel, is about a He-Man Woman Haters’ Club of divorcees who charter a cruise to Africa to watch the transit and forget about dames for a while. A young woman stows away and the men all jockey for her affection. As Mckee notes, it would likely make a swell romantic comedy, if you can leave the apparent misogyny aside (or perhaps a nautical In The Company of Men, if you’d like to jack the misogyny up a bit).

No luck in finding the book on Project Gutenberg, although it lists an autobiography and a novel, the Fifth String. Although I haven’t read it, I wouldn’t recommend it for casual reading. Edison’s Conquest of Mars, aside, pop lit of that pre-Hemingway era can be really tough to slog through.

Of local interest, to my fellow suburban Philthadelphians, is the (mostly busted) Willow Grove Park site, which hosts some information on John Philip Sousa’s tenure at the amusement park in Willow Grove. Yes, before it was a mall on a sea of macadam, WGP was an amusement park amid the lush rolling farmhills of the countryside. That’s why all the gaudy carosel horses are twisting above the fountain outside of Sears.

Bonus lame trivia: to gain acceptance while touring Europe, Sousa’s manager spread rumours that he was orginally from [your country here] at each stop on the tour, before emigrating to the U.S. The manager put the initials S.O. on Sousa’s luggage tags, purportedly for an ethnic-sounding name for each country he visited (Siegrfried Otz, for example)

A paleontologist visits the KY Creation Museum

Over at the National Center for Science Education, Daniel Phelps takes an exhaustive look at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, complete with evidence refuting evolution, ark construction, Adam and Eve diorama  and a section linking Darwin to the Columbine Massacre. Good show. [article link]

As you can expect, he doesn’t like the place much. Not only does it fail in presenting science, it generally fails as a museum:

The Anti-Museum was, obviously, not like most museums we had ever encountered. Even if one could ignore the egregious content it was interesting that the “museum” lacked several things one would expect to see in modern natural history museums. First, there was nothing in the museum that could be considered interactive. Most museums have hands on activities for kids and adults. Some are computerized and encourage the visitors to think for themselves about what they are seeing. The Anti-Museum, in contrast, leads the visitor on a definite path and if you disagree with it, well your status as a Christian is shaky at best. It is Ken Ham’s [founder of Answers in Genesis – Greg] way or the Highway to Hell.

Bummer.  It is is stupid, at least it could be entertaining. If you are ever in Kentucky and, out of morbid curiosity, feel the need to go to the Creation Museum, consider offsetting the harm your entrance fees will do by donating to NCSE.

Regarding Adam and Eve, Phelps notes the apparent controversy about Adam — their Adam, actor Eric Linden [Danger: stupid flash warning] owns the domain name BedroomAcrobat.com — and yanked a video of A&E from the display.  However, the folks over at that site deny that Linden is one of their “actors.” You can see a glimpse of his Adam performance here. Um, breathtaking.

More importantly, Phelps notes that Eve looks like Sarah Silverman. Awesome, like Jesus.

Read the whole thing (long).

Art Bell gets even weirder

I worked the night shift for a year when I was in college in the 1990s, during which time I became hooked on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast program. Bell was a black helicopter-type conspiracist until the Oklahoma City bombings, when that sort of thing became un-fashionable.

Keeping the conspiracy edge, he kept on with ghosts, UFOs and other strange phenomena. It was a great show. I mean, he was completely credulous with his guests and callers — and it worked. One moment, he’d agree with a caller that UFOs were aliens and the next, he’d agree with callers that UFOs were demons. Beautiful. It was just thing to listen to while filing papers at 3 a.m. or working on a term paper as the dawn began to break.

It was the perfect diagram of the fringe in the 90s : Art’s nonsense fueled the public’s fascination with the paranormal, which inspired the media, which, in turn reinforced the paranormalists viewpoint. Said differently, Art’s show was turned into the X-Files, which then served as further evidence for Art’s show.

Art made a mint off of it.

Less appealing was his personal life. When Art left his show for the first time in the late 90s (I belive, I’m going from memory), it happened while undergoing a horrible family crisis (his son was sexually assaulted by a teacher and had contracted HIV).

Not too long ago, his wife Ramona passed away, only for him to marry a young — really young, as in 30-40 years younger than Art — Filipina woman (Ramona was also Filipina, I believe) that he met over the Internet (natch).

He moved to the Phillipines, where she had his baby and he hosted the weekend edition of the radio show. Then they moved back to Pahrump, Nevada. He had another baby and has since, more or less, retired.

The soap opera gets weirder in the recent issue of Philly Weekly, where a mailroom manager at Philadelphia magazine named Vincent is revealed to be Art’s first son from a much-earlier, previously undisclosed, marriage. (This kid’s mom was Japanese — Art presumably met her, and began his Asian fetish, while he was stationed in Okinawa.)

Art abandoned Vincent, his mother and baby sister when poor Vincent was three. Years later, his sister tried to contact Art, during which time he pulled this cool move:

Later, when Minei turned 28, she says she sent a letter to Bell, who had by then achieved fame. He responded with a one-page letter. It reads: “Many years ago I spoke with your mom. She told me that you and [Vincent] had been adopted by the man who had married her. It seemed better to let your family remain undisturbed. She told me he was a wonderful man who was father to you and Michael … ”

He also sent a signed copy of his autobiography The Art of Talk. The inscription reads: “To Lisa, Here’s the ‘rest of the story.’”

Tacky bastard.

What gets me is that Bell abandons these kids (who were subsequently abused by an unnamed person, not Art) and he doesn’t consider it abandoning by any means.

Bell says, “I guess I wasn’t ready to apologize for something I didn’t know I had done. I’m not the kind of person who abandons people, and I didn’t think I had abandoned them.”

That’s just weird. My daughter’s two and — this isn’t about my ego here — but I can see she would be devastated if I left and never spoke to her again. She knows me. She loves me. She needs me. I’m not the greatest father in the world, I’m sure, but jeez, how could he had thought it wouldn’t matter?

That’s sociopathic, right there folks. I liked him better when I thought he was just a pandering douchebag, manipulating the gullible.


UPDATE: According to the wiki, he had a second Japanese wife before Ramona.  Not that there’s anything wrong with having a “type” — but this isn’t so much a type with this guy than it is a collection.

Quick Review: Dead Man’s Song (and a bit of Ghost Road Blues)

Technically, I still have a few pages left of Dead Man’s Song, but it is my lunch break, so I thought I’d throw in a quick review.

Ahem. In essence, damn you Jonathan Maberry, you did it to me again.

I read his first book, Ghost Road Blues, after paneling with him last November at Philcon, which I never really wrote about. I picked it up because Maberry was a genuinely nice guy at the panel and because it takes place in Bucks County, Pa., just around the corner, really.

Ghost Road Blues pissed me off about halfway through, because it dawned on me that he was setting me up for a sequel. There was a satisfying climax, of course, but I realized that I wouldn’t get the complete story in one book.

Of course, the same thing happened halfway through Dead Man’s Song, but I wasn’t so upset this time around. Maberry has me hooked, the bastard. (I would have known this was a trilogy if I had bothered to read his site before, but that’s doesn’t ease the hurt. *sniff*)

To summarize both books, 30 years ago something horrible happened in Pine Deep, a fictional BucksCo borough. The Bone Man, an intinerent blues man in the spirit (ha!) of Robert Johnson, killed the devil, but he didn’t finish the job and was lynched for his effort. He’s back, but so is this particular monster — and this monster has friends, lots of them.

Ghost Road Blues was the setup and Dead Man’s Song draws us in further. At times, a bit densely plotted, both books are very well written and full of great characters (good and bad) that you just want to keep reading.  If anything, there is almost — almost — too much going on in these books.  Everything stays on pace, but even though I just read the first one seven months ago, it took a while for everything to click back into place as I got into Dead Man’s Song — which made it so much the sweeter when it did click. There’s a lot going on, but not so much that it will bog you down.

I bought Dead Man’s Song on Thursday and haven’t been able to put it down. If I didn’t have obligations, parental or work, I would have finished it Friday morning.

Zombie enthusiasm aside, I’ve never been a huge horror fan. I read a few second hand King books that I enjoyed but didn’t love. I read a Koontz novel once. Once.

Inevitablly, reviewers compare Maberry to King, which is fine, but Maberry writes with many of King’s better attributes (ability to conjure a lingering dread and characterization, among them) and does without a few of Kings worse ones (the King bloat, mainly).

Above all, Maberry has shown himself to be a great storyteller. At the end of Ghost Road Blues, I sincerely didn’t know where he was going with all of this. In my world, that’s much higher praise than it sounds. He manages to wring the dreck out of some tired old tropes to rejuvinate them. By the end of Dead Man’s Song, I have an inkling of wear he’s going…and it creeps me the hell out.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t save this book for the beach. I love being creeped out by the seaside.

The quick verdict: Go out and buy Ghost Road Blues and Dead Man’s Song…just don’t read them right away, since you’ll have to wait until next summer for the final novel in the trilogy.

UPDATE: Finished the last five pages. Crap. I really look forward to Bad Moon Rising.


In celebration of Heinlein, a tribute to a master from a master. Spider Robinson eulogizes Robert A. Heinlein in 1980:

You can’t copyright ideas; you can only copyright specific arrangements of words. If you could copyright ideas, every living SF writer would be paying a substantial royalty to Robert Heinlein.

Also, from The Space Review, which has been running some great RAH commentary lately, a bit about Heinlein and the need for going to space: “We Must Ride The Lightning“.

What do you get when you combine the features of a squid with the fuctionality of an octopus…

…why, it’s the 2007 Octosquid.

Not a major scientific achievement, by any means, but a neat find that goes to show the riches the sea has hidden from us.

 But local scientists are nevertheless fascinated with the tentacled creature that was sucked up to the surface Tuesday by the 55-inch deep sea pipeline at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.

“It’s kind of an ‘octosquid,'” said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA at Keahole Point. “It’s got the body of a squid but the eight tentacles of an octopus.”

The foot-long “octosquid” was rescued alive from a filter at the end of the pipeline, which each minutes brings up to 5,000 gallons of 39-degree Fahrenheit sea water from a depth of 3,000 feet.

I know a guy who is a big believer in things like the Loch Ness Monster. Things like this — the discovery of new creatures — are all the evidence he needs that things like Nessie exist.

It is a little tough to explain the difference between a small cephalopod variant 3,000 feet below the Pacific and population of living dinosaurs in a 750 foot deep 20 square mile lake.

Still, octosquid is darn cute.