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.

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.

Joyce Carol Oates and the Vortex of American Violence

Joyce Carol Oates just put this brilliant comment on Twitter:

all we ever hear is NRA. who exactly are the gun manufacturers whose merchandise is being peddled? whose guns are killing citizens, thousands a year? CEO’s certainly have names. the anonymity of NRA gives it a spurious aura, like “act of God.” blood on the hands of–exactly whom?

 She has the most profound understanding I know of American violence, its cover-up, and its eerie connection to a current of Edgar Allen Poe/H.P. Lovecraft that runs through the country.
If you haven’t read her incredible 1966 story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” you must.

It is a masterpiece beyond compare.

The Frail of Comics Is a Fail

Because I bought a rare comic that is physically almost like a regular-issue comic book (Kramers Ergot, Volume One Issue Two, if you must know), I was stunned by the realization that I had not acquired a normal-format comic book in, well, several years anyway.

The fragility of comic books is a key part of their history, of course. Before the collectors’ market really took off in the ’70s, the artists and publishers and sellers all assumed that nobody would want the pop-junk after a month and the unsold issues were destroyed. That’s why, as a general rule, the older something is, the rarer it is. (Sheer number of outlets contributed to more issues of later comics being available.)

I liked using my comic-book collection — reading them, that is. I never picked up anything because it was marketed as a collectible. And I treated comics like regular books — you don’t get them wet or dirty and you keep them away from direct sun, but otherwise just keep them in order.

This business of the cardboard backing and the plastic bag sealed with tape drives me banay-nays. Makes the comic into an investment, not a source of pleasure. So the solution for me is serious paperback or hardback anthologies, which I’m glad to see are around for more titles than ever.

I do have one investment-collection. Years ago, when I took my hundreds of ’60s Marvel comics out of storage I discovered (with a flinch) that they meant nothing to me — I had absorbed them and somehow the shoddy movies had spoiled them for me  in some fundamental way.  But I’m actually glad I have failed to set up a way to sell them all at once (which is the only way I would do it) … because the price estimates keep going up and up and up …