Storm the Fort

I’m reposting this five-year-old entry because I happened to see that the complete works of Charles Fort are now available online (see link at end of post).

 

Just to prove I’m more than a big, steaming plate of obnoxious noodles, here’s a quick rundown of what I would consider a basic (if now rather dated) library of pseudoscience/paranormal phenomena overviews — with a strong slant toward the skeptical. (I’m probably missing a couple of key titles in my haste.)

Charles Fort, The Complete Books of Charles Fort
From 1919 to the early ’30s, British Museum and NY Public Library gnome Charles Fort invented the modern concept of the uncanny/unexplained event. In a dry, wry, sprightly newspaperish style he chronicles rains of fishes, rains of blood, weird noises from the earth, secret passages beneath continents, odd giant patterns in the sea and so forth and so forth. His tone is tongue-in-cheeky most of the time, with the occasion flash of “who knows — maybe so.” Sample a few passages in a store or online. If you like him, you’ll really like him.

Jerome Clark, Unexplained!
Clark is the great modernized, popularizer of Fort principles. Too credulous and gee-whiz, he nevertheless knows all parts of the field and is well worth reading as a survey.

The Fringes of Reason — A Whole Earth Catalog.
This thing is dedicated to fun and you can get it for peanuts on line. Lot of kicky writers and the subtitle says it all: “A Field Guide to New Age Frontiers, Unusual Beliefs & Eccentric Sciences” Includes guides to much other lit and sly essays about, for example, how meteors were once considered utterly impossible …. scientifically.

Various, Science and the Paranormal
Wide-ranging and nicely organized collection of essays from the usual hard-asses like Martin Gardner, Issac Asimov, Carl Sagan, James Randi, etc.

speaking of which —

Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science
The grandaddy of debunking books. Again, reading a couple pages will tell you if you need this on the shelf or not. If you find Gardner too stuck in the mundane mud —

Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival
Ol’ dead ‘n’ gone Terry McKenna certainly is not. This is a loopy ramble-tamble of all the connections between psychedelics and the unseen world and the unknown mind that processes them both. You’ve never read anything like. On the other hand, the foreword is by Tom Robbins and that may tell you you don’t want to read anything like it.

Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things
Probably more relevant than when I read it almost 10 years ago. This is, at bottom, a book about the pervasive appeal of the irrational (to fear, to ego, to career advancement) in the modern world. Very sharp on Holocaust Denial, Creationists, and the limits of intellectuals (hey, just because you’re certifiably smart doesn’t mean you’re smart about everything).

Robert Park, Voodoo Science: the Road from Foolishness to Fraud
This overlooked book details how honest intentions in research and curiosity can become twisted into anxiety- and venality-driven BS. Especially important in this science-uncertain time.

More Fort info and link to works at end of entry.

Go Roma in Cambridge

(I know — what is this guy doing? turning into Bourdain?) The finest Italian food I have ever tasted in Cambridge is now at Sulmona Restaurant .

D had porchetta presented as a steak, with lovely roasted vegetables and the creamiest polenta imaginable. The Traditional Lamb Skewers were neither fatty nor dry and I believe US stock — you get six of them and it’s a fine deal. (They are pictured on the “About Us” page — that yummy roasted lemon!) Last week I had a fine Tricolori salad at another new joint, but the one at Sulmona made it look chintzy and clumsy: proper small chunks of Gorgonzola (not mere crumbles) and a very fresh mix of greens and onions (how do they get veggies like this at this time of year?). Knowledgeable, utterly sensitive staff. Even the booth seats were delightful. Sulmona is gonna be mobbed, but you have to squeeze in somehow. The area has needed exactly this for a long time.

A Little Reflection on the Foolishness (and Jagged Anxiety) of Youth

A couple times a year, when I’m brushing my teeth, I reflect on my missing upper molar on the right (only one not there), and how much it reflects foolish immaturity and cruel fate.

As a kid, I did not have a single cavity. Yes, not one. A good dentist filled in crevasses in my molars to prevent cavities (which I have since learned is indeed an accepted practice, not a way to get some money from Mr. Perfect Ivories). But, in line with the louche personal habits of hippie/punk youts, I idiotically stopped taking care of my teeth in my 20s, assuming for some mystical reason that I was immune from decay. This was insanely childish. I had a good dentist in Missoula and on my last visit before the move to Boston, which I assumed would be the routine “yuck your teeth are dirty but no problems, ” I was informed I had a cavity in that molar.

Now I had trouble. No dentist in MA. No health insurance, either. So I let it fester until I got the one and only toothache of my life and took every nickle I had for a month and visited a dentist recommended by fellow workers. Nice guy. Kindly told me what I had done was foolish and unnecessary. Painlessly put in a huge filling. Later it became a  crown. Decade or so after that, cracked down on an evil olive pit in a loaf and that was the end of the tooth.

All I had to do was not be an oral slob 45 years ago. So I’m smart as an oldster. The advice to smooth-faces? Dress like a bum and clean like a queen.

R.I.P. Milos Foreman

I agree with the nay-sayers about Cuckoo’s Nest in that Nicholson is terrible in the top-hero role (unfortunately, James Dean was dead) and agree with the plus-note people that Louise Fletcher redeems the foul, dated sexism of the concept of Nurse Rached. (Kidz, it was this: stuffy, norm-obsessed, perfectly domesticated women were holding freed spirits and wild men back. Like they had that power.)

So I gotta get on the bus again.

But gotta admit those were interesting times.

 

PS: “An Elvis Reminder”

Just a thought — a year that includes outstanding albums from deluxe veterans Yo La Tengo, Amy Rigby and John Prine underscores the waste and tragedy of Elvis stuck in unknown territory and pushed down the wrong path. Then gone, gone, gone.

I pray the Graceland footage includes the rooms they don’t allow tourists to visit. The place is an unmatched decorator-timescramble.

David Bonetti, Part Four

Since David moved back to Boston, I most regularly encountered him at the Farmers’ Market (a classy one) that happened about a block from his place. We ran into each other once, maybe twice, a season ( he was able to come earlier than I was). But it would always be a highlight of all my visits because David would aesthetically evaluate the displays, the offerings, the sellers, the crowd, and whatever art he had seen recently, with an emphasis on plugs for what was out there. David was by far the finest part of the harvest those days, never to happen again.