Saturday, June 28, 2008

Skepticism, Humor and Folklore: I become a folk hero!

Sometime ago (1999-ish), Stephanie Hall, a PhD folklorist with the Library of Congress, discovered our on-line skeptics newsletter, The Why Files. The Why Files had a lot of humor in it, and as years went on an increasing amount of it was directed at organized skepticism and its worst excesses. Stephanie Hall noted this and she also noted that we were not alone.

One result of this was the following paper:

Folklore and the Rise of Moderation Among Organized Skeptics


Enjoy,

Peter Huston

Heavy company.

As stated the purpose of this blog is to share ideas and to publicize my so-called writing career. Should it at times appear self-indulgent, well, caveat emptor.

Stumbled across this today:

http://andrewlias.blogspot.com/2007/09/fermi-paradox-further-reading.html


It includes me in the same categories as Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer. I admire the late Carl Sagan very much. He was a great educator, science promoter and writer.

As for Shermer, years ago, before burn out set in, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Shermer and contributed eagerly and without pay to his magazine. Actually, I suppose one could say that Shermer, like so many others, was one of the factors that contributed to the burn out. At first, I supported him eagerly, as Shermer, unlike the folks at CSICOP, treated local skeptics groups and their officers with respect and was more skilled than CSICOP at public-relations and media-use, an area where CSICOP often seems to embarrass itself.

I actually had lunch with him once but he consistently spent the time trying to get me to write unpaid articles for him and encouraged me to abandon the project I was involved in at the time. (A true crime project that fell through that involved Asian-American gangs and one gang in particular.) I found this discouraging, but part of a pattern.

As time went on, it became obvious that Shermer uses people and does not value their time. His magazine prints lies, and then does not offer corrections or retractions, except in extreme cases and only after much nagging. (He's done this at least twice and in both cases it made people I know and care about, people actively involved in the skeptics movement at the time, look bad and he did not even care.) He uses his platform as "media science guy" to issue tirades about things he knows nothing about and his attitude and expertise in the area of theology are at the childishly simplistic level of many skeptics (and college sophmores) who assume that all religious belief is easily disprovable and inherently unsophisticed, particularly Western religions and Christianity in particular. (Some of these people, for instance, assume that all Christians believe the Book of Revelation to be actual prophecy sent by God instead of a historical document that was written in a particular time by particular people for a particular, motivational purpose.)

Shermer is a typical Los Angeles resident, and like many in that area, in my opinion is driven more by a desire to appear on TV than any sort of integrity.

Friday, June 27, 2008

MCCain gets Hanoi Hilton jailer endorsement.

Some people say I have a strange view on the world. With news like this, how could I not? I confess I laughed several times while reading.

For those interested, although at the moment I prefer Obama, I think McCain would be a fairly good president too. I could not stand the thought of Hilary Clinton running the country.

Peter Huston
===

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080627/ap_on_re_as/vietnam_mccain_s_jailer&printer=1;_ylt=AoCudexBsP9Bthoie5CG0iv9xg8F

'Hanoi Hilton' jailer says he'd vote for McCain

By MARGIE MASON, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes ago

John McCain has an unusual endorsement — from the Vietnamese jailer who says he held him captive for about five years as a POW and now considers him a friend.

"If I were an American voter, I would vote for Mr. John McCain," Tran Trong Duyet said Friday, sitting in his living room in the northern city of Haiphong, surrounded by black-and-white photos of a much younger version of himself and former Vietnam War prisoners.

At the same time, he denies prisoners of war were tortured. Despite detailed POW accounts and physical wounds, Duyet claims the presumed Republican presidential nominee made up beatings and solitary confinement in an attempt to win votes.

His statements seem to echo the communist leadership's overall line on America: It insists the torture claims are fabricated, but that Vietnam now considers the U.S. a friend and wants to lay the past to rest. Duyet said one of the reasons he likes McCain for president is the candidate's willingness to forgive and look to the future.

Duyet, 75, grew testy during the interview when repeatedly questioned about torture and why so many other former POWs say they too were mistreated. He preferred to talk about McCain as an old buddy.

His photo collection doesn't include one of him with POW McCain, and he said they have not met on any of McCain's postwar visits to Vietnam. But Duyet said he often met the young Navy pilot when off duty, that McCain would correct his English, and that he had a great sense of humor. And although they never saw eye-to-eye on the war that killed some 58,000 Americans and up to 3 million Vietnamese, he said they listened to each others' views.

"He's tough, has extreme political views and is very conservative," Duyet said. "He's very loyal to the U.S. military, to his beliefs and to his country. In all of our debates, he never admitted that the war was a mistake."

Duyet also talked about prisoner volleyball games and said the captives were fed the same meals as average wartime Vietnamese in Hanoi. The same propaganda is depicted in photos of smiling American POWs displayed at the Hoa Lo prison, now a museum for tourists.

McCain spent 5 1/2 years behind bars in Hanoi. His flight suit and parachute were recently added to the museum display, which includes a recording of bombs falling and air raid sirens shrieking.

McCain still bears the evidence of his wounds and has described being repeatedly bound and beaten by his captors. After his plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile during a bombing mission over Hanoi in 1967, McCain ejected and suffered a broken leg, two broken arms, and was briefly knocked unconscious. The Vietnamese mob who found him smashed his shoulder and he was bayoneted.

He says medical attention was delayed in an attempt to get him to reveal information and he was held in solitary confinement for over two years.

Other former POWs also say they were tortured by communist forces at the jail, and many say they still suffer physical pain from it.

"They are liars. What they said is not true," said Duyet, who was a jailer at Hoa Lo from 1968 until the POW release in 1973, serving as prison chief the last three years. Duyet claimed McCain "invented that story that he was tortured and beaten to win votes."

Asked for a response, the McCain campaign referred The Associated Press to Orson Swindle, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who was imprisoned with McCain. Swindle said Duyet "has no credibility on every utterance he makes."

"For him to say that no one was tortured, he's a damn liar, and the history books in the aftermath of Vietnam were replete with stories of what prisoners went through. I've got friends that died up there from torture."

"He says John McCain would make a great president. How the hell does he know? He has absolutely no credibility," Swindle added.

McCain has returned to Vietnam several times and visited what's left of the old prison, whose pilots' section has been replaced by a gleaming high-rise of offices, apartments and shops.

McCain was instrumental in pushing for normal relations between the two former foes, and the friendship was highlighted by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's trip to see President Bush at the White House on Wednesday.

McCain's wife, Cindy, was in southern Vietnam last week doing charity work. She said if her husband wins the election the couple would delight in paying a presidential visit to the country.

If that happens, Duyet said, "I hope to meet with him again as two old friends. At that time, I would toast to congratulate him as U.S. president.

"We would talk about the future, and we would not talk about the past."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I remain cool, always.

Alas! Although its a never ending battle I struggle to remain cool.
As an artist, as a writer, I remain convinced on a subconscious level that I must be surrounded by truly cool music so that the creativity will rub off and inspire.
Today I listen to Cat Power, Jukebox. (I love their cover of "New York" --sounds just like a piece of the soundtrack from an Andrew Vacchs novel.) Lately I've also found myself entranced by Thao Nguyen and the Get Down, Stay Down with their cheerful jaunt entitled "Swimming Pools" off of the album "We brave bee stings and all." A silly song, it's about a group of little girls who see themselves as heroic and powerful due to their escapades at the local swimming pool. --"We don't dive, we cannonball!"
Well, good for you. The world needs more people who cannonball when others would merely dive.

Part Four: Skepticism: skeptics appeal and skeptics burn out.

In my last installment of this sweeping essay, I made some very sweeping statements to the effect that most so-called paranormal claims do not stand up to intense, logical scrutiny.

Clearly, this is a very important statement. Quite frankly, if it's true I'm being intelligent, logical and insightful. If it's not true, then I am being dismissive, unintelligent, and perhaps even bigoted. Unfortunately, its not an easy statement to just easily prove or disprove, especially in a few brief paragraphs.

Therefore let me just show an example, perhaps I'll add others. One of my favorite skeptics books is Lawrence David Kusche's "The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved." There are several reasons I like it.

First, Kusche began his investigation as a small plane pilot and librarian who became curious about the Bermuda Triangle mystery due to frequent requests at the library where he worked for materials on the subject. He did not seem to have an axe to grind.

Second, he explains the steps he takes to investigate fairly carefully as he digs into the claims one by one. His investigative techniques are thorough but easily followed.

Third, you can find the book relatively easily and cheaply. Please note that although the current edition is published by Prometheus Books, a prominent skeptics book publisher with links to organized skepticism, the original edition was not.

Should you wish a copy one source is through Amazon.com or their network of second hand book sellers.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=kusche+triangle&x=0&y=0


After reading this book you will discover why, despite large amounts of tabloid, paperback and docudrama of the week TV specials, the US Navy and Lloyds of London still do not give the Bermuda Triangle much attention. Essentially, what one discovers through reading this books is that despite sensationalized attention to the claims, despite frequent repetition of the most dramatic claims, when looked at carefully and methodically what one finds in this case, as in many others, is that a lot of bad evidence does not make up for a lack of good evidence when it comes time to take the claim seriously and look deeply.

Because I believe that this is the pattern with not just the Bermuda Triangle, as Kusche illustrates, but with most so-called paranormal claims, I am therefore, by some definitions of the term, a skeptic.

More later.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Part Three: Skepticism: skeptics appeal and skeptics burn out.

In part one, I basically argued that for most members of American society, exposure to and an open mind to paranormal claims of various is the normal state of affairs. To most Americans, perhaps most humans in general, the skeptic point-of-view is seen as an extreme point of view, far outside the mainstream.

In part two I basically argued that for most of us to become skeptics we must have some interest in the subject of what are loosely grouped together as "paranormal beliefs." If we are not interested in these subjects, how can we look at them deeply enough to develop an informed opinion.

Here, in part three and four, I intend to argue that not only must one develop an interest in these subjects, but you must have the analytical tools and research abilities to dig deeply enough to get at the truth of the matter. Now make no bones about it and say what you wish, at this point I'll make it clear that it is my belief that, like it or not, nine times out of ten, in the realm of what are loosely clumped together as paranormal beliefs the skeptics point of view is the correct one. I do not, for instance, believe that spaceships are visitng earth and abducting people. I do not believe the Bermuda Triangle has a particularly high rate of mysterious disappearances of ships and plans. I do not believe in ghosts or psychic powers, although, I confess, sometimes I think the world would be a more interesting place if such things were true.

But why? What does this mean? If one wishes, one can after all find a great deal of evidence for these things. Taking UFO claims, for example, there are huge numners of websites that discuss and present arguments in favor of UFO beliefs. Surely, that's a lot of evidence.

Yes, it is a lot of evidence, but it is not good quality evidence.

Let me ask the following questions:

1. Is there any museum exhibit anywhere that includes actual, indisputed evidence of visitors from space?

2. Are there any college classes that teach about UFOs and if so what do they use for a syllabus?

3. How much time and energy does the US government publicly spend on the matter of UFOs?

4. What are the three best pieces of physical evidence of UFO sightings?

5. What were the attendance numbers at some of the most important recent UFO gatherings?

6. How much new evidence, versus recycling of old evidence and old claims, in the field of Ufology is presented each week via the internet?

7. Is there anyone out there who makes their living, full time, as a UFO expert?

And please note, number seven. One of the ironies of the UFO field is that the prominent believers and the prominent skeptics both tend to hurl accusations of mercenary motivation at each other while screaming about the poverty and sacrifice they make to ensure that the truth gets out about this field.

In summary, I believe that there is very little quality evidence behind UFO claims, or for that matter, most so-called 'paranormal claims" in general.

I feel that if one digs into the actual claims themselves, this becomes apparent.

Perhaps I should argue this further, yet it's been done elsewhere both more deeply and better.

What I'm saying is that if one wishes to look into these claims deeply one will soon see that quantity or frequency of claims is often mistaken for an actual quality of evidence.

More later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Part Two: Skepticism: skeptics appeal and skeptics burn out.

In the previous segment of this loosely written, multi-part essay, I said that growing up in America it is difficult not to be exposed to paranormal claims of various kinds. I also argued that we are socialized to keep an open mind to these claims. Furthermore, I said that unless one has looked into these claims deeply and logically, there really is no sound reason to dismiss them entirely.

But let's turn around for a second. In the previous section I wrote: "we've all heard some reports of UFO or ghost sightings, use of allegedly psychic means to obtain seemingly unobtainable information or strange places where ships and planes disappear without a trace or where visitors catch fleeing glimpses of hairy, ape-men like creatures or sea serpents."

How is the typical man or woman, or even boy or girl, in the street supposed to question these claims? Why should they?

Some might argue that scientists do not believe them. Yet I could argue that one could easily find a scientist here and there, or at least some other form of "expert," who does. Furthermore, why should we care what scientists think?

Years ago on one of the skeptics e-mail lists there was a Filipino gentleman who provoked a mass outcry by posting "To become an atheist, one first has to be religious enough to question the prevailing religion of your society." Many of the atheists on the list found this offensive and did not like him referring to them as religious. Yet I agree with it wholeheartedly. Before one can question any belief that society has thrust upon you, one must have enough interest in the matter covered by the belief to examine it deeply and independently.

Therefore I'd argue that, at least in my case, before one can discard a societally normal belief in the paranormal or other unusual claims, one must have enough interest in the subject of these beliefs to be willing to examine these beliefs independently and deeply. At least that was the case for me.

More later.

MANSWERS update: Stay tuned until September.

I've just spoken to the folks at Manswers, and it seems I was misinformed when I said to watch for me in June. Now, it seems, the segment will air instead sometimes in September.

If you think this makes you nervous, just think how I feel.

Fiction release: "Slave Pits of Bey Su."

I write fiction and non-fiction although I've had more success with the non-fiction. Nevertheless, a new short story by yours truly has just been released in "Seal of the Imperium," a relatively new Tekumel fanzine.

Tekumel is a science fantasy world developed by Professor M.A.R.Barker and first shared with the public in the classic role-playing game, "Empire of the Petal Throne." Essentially Tekumel is a lost star colony that has become trapped in a pocket dimension where the laws of physics work a bit differently than ours, enabling some humans to occasionally warp the fabric of reality, and powerful, extra-planar beings to masquerade as Gods. Set in the far future, it has been millenia since humans have come to Tekumel, and in that time they have not only forgotten their true origins, they have also lost much of their technology and developed several elaborate, hierarchical, tradition bound civilizations. On this different, yet very old, world, humans struggle not only with each other and the native life forms, but also with the descendants of countless plant and animal species from several alien worlds that came here with them,

Unlike most fantasy worlds that I've discovered, I've found that my appreciation and interest in Tekumel has grown over the years, especially as my knowledge of history, anthropology and other cultures has expanded.

It was fun using my writing skills to contribute to the Tekumel mythos and I hope to do so again some day in the future.

For more information on Tekumel, see http://www.tekumel.com/

To order the "Seal of the Imperium," see
http://www.tekumel.com/tita/

Sunday, June 22, 2008

China lady cop gets promoted after breastfeeding quake babies.

I just thought this was interesting and decided to share.

Peter Huston
===

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080622/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_china_quake_promotion&printer=1;_ylt=AgMkIl_9D4IOZpveGb_2d6uek3QF


China cop promoted for breastfeeding quake babies

Sat Jun 21, 10:32 PM ET

A Chinese policewoman who breastfed babies orphaned during last month's earthquake has been given a better job, prompting online protests that promotions should be awarded on merit, not merely for good deeds.

Jiang Xiaojuan, 30, left her own baby with her parents and took part in the disaster relief work, breastfeeding nine babies, earning her the nickname of "the police mum" in the press.

She has since been awarded titles of "hero and model police officer" and "excellent member of the Communist Party", was appointed to the Communist Party of China Committee of the Jiangyou Public Security Bureau and became the bureau's vice commissar, Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

Jiangyou, population 850,000, is a city near the epicentre of the May 12 Sichuan quake which killed more than 69,000 people with thousands still missing.

"Many people voiced objections when the Jiangyou government sought public opinion after making the promotion," Xinhua said. "They said an official position should not be used to promote a moral model."

There were also supporters of Jiang's promotion, saying that what she did showed she was a good public servant.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Valerie Lee)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

They faked their own deaths!

One of those odd, little subjects that catches my attention are people who qattempt to fake their own deaths. Of course, it only makes sense that I only hear of the one's who fail at this process, but it's interesting nevertheless.

It throws a spin on all those "He's (insert name of recently deceased celebrity) isn't really dead. He's just faked his own death" stories that you hear.

Last case I ran across was that of Hypatia Lee, 1980s porn star who sought to fake her own death, perhaps to raise the process on her own fan memorablia.

For thos interested, I present . . .


http://www.kxan.com/Global/story.asp?S=8532805


County DA protests parole in grave-robbing insurance scam

Posted: June 20, 2008 05:16 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley is protesting the parole of a woman imprisoned for her involvement in an insurance fraud scheme with her husband.

Molly Daniels, 25, was sentenced in May 2005 to 20 years in prison for insurance fraud and 10 years in prison for hindering apprehension of her husband, Clayton Wayne Daniels, 27.

"This criminal robbed a grave to create a cover for her sex offender husband," Bradley said in a press release. "Any early release is too soon."

On June 18, 2004, the Daniels' burning car was discovered off an embankment in Burnet County. A body found inside the vehicle had been burned beyond recognition, but Molly Daniels identified her husband's shoes in the car.

A memorial service for Clayton Daniels was soon held, and Molly Daniels claimed her husband had died in a fiery car accident in an effort to collect on his $110,000 life insurance policy.

Yet DNA samples collected from the charred body and Clayton Daniels' mother proved otherwise.

That led law enforcement to set up surveillance on Molly Daniels, who they observed with a new boyfriend known as "Jake." As it turned out, Jake was actually Clayton Daniels with dyed black hair.

Upon further examination, the charred body in the car was that of Charlotte Davis, an 81-year-old Burnet woman, who had been dug up from a cemetery and placed in the Daniels' car before it was set ablaze and then pushed down an embankment.

Read more about the case from this Williamson County press release.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Manswers appearance 3

It's been a few weeks and I still haven't appeared on the MANSwers show on SPIKE TV, despite having been flown to Los Angeles and filmed for an upcoming appearance. They told me that I would appear in a segment that would air in June and that they would notify me before it aired. Now comes the wait and see part, always one of the toughest periods of any project.

What was it like being filmed for MANSwers?

First, there was some back and forth by phone and e-mail about whether they wished to use me, or could use me and if I wished to appear on their show. As they'd caught me at a time when I was eager and willing to do something exciting, even if potentially embarrassing, I was quite anxious to go. A friend of mine, another author and a more serious straight-laced gentleman than myself discouraged me, but as I ahd just read the recent 30th aniversary of Punk Rock issue of MOJO magazine, ensuring that my views on creativity were linked yet again with the notion of performing tasteless acts in public, I was quite anxious to take advantage of a rare chance to discuss the sale of human bodies on national television.

Ticket arrangement were made and thus it was that I drove to the local airport, found a ticket waiting and soo set off for Los Angeles, the land of television. For those interested, on the way I read Neil STephenson's "Snow Crash" and enjoyed it greatly.

Upon arrival at the LAX airport, I was met by a man named Scott who was holding a cardboard sign iwth my name on it. This, in itself, was an interesting experien ce for me. Scott had some paperwork for me to sign and gave me some spending money for my trip. Scott, like everyone else I met involved with MANSwers, was young, white, American and trying to launch a career in film or television. The show hires people on a seasonal or temporary basis and although the workers work long hours, they are also pleased with the flexibility that comes with this sort of job. They are given time off should an audition or other career-advangcement opportunity come along, although they seemed to be too young to worry about stability in their lives quite yet.

Scott drove me to the hotel which was in Hollywood and up on a hill. Los Angeles is a very strange city, a long endless sprawl of interlocking urban and suburban areas that follow highways and water sources resulting in a large bloated spider-webbing sort of shape. The society is, like that in New York City, more hierarchial than in smaller places, but it lacks traditions of the east. Furthermore, the economy and local energy often comes from the media industry, such as films and television. To my mind, and this is clearly somewhat impressionistic, one result of this is that when I'e had contact with Los Angeles, the society is hedonistic, superficial, and much discussion from the people centers around contacts with people who are viewed as on some level as being more significant than themselves. For instance, should one see a celebrity in a diner, that's an event to be remembered and shared for a long time to come.

The hotel room that the MANSswers people selected was very nice, much more expensive than anything I would have selected for myself, and the bed was a large double bed with half a dozen or more pillows. I soon asked the staff to remove the tray with all the over-priced fattening snacks and candy, and soon set my mind to the next task, finding dinner. Since I was in Los Angeles, California, I was hoping to find some Mexican food. Clearly the Mexican food in Los Angeles was likely to be better than the Mexican food at home in Schenectady.

NEXT TIME: Quest for Sustenance.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Part One: Skepticism: skeptics appeal and skeptics burn out.

Why skepticism? Why skeptics burn out?

Growing up in American society, it's inescapable that most of us have some exposure to claims of paranormal, "unexplained" or supernatural phenomenon. For instance, we've all heard some reports of UFO or ghost sightings, use of allegedly psychic means to obtain seemingly unobtainable information or strange places where ships and planes disappear without a trace or where visitors catch fleeing glimpses of hairy, ape-men like creatures or sea serpents. We've all been exposed to these reports, sometimes through the media, sometimes through friends or acquaintances.

Like most people, growing up I was under the impression that with all these reports, some from clearly honest people, there must be something to some of them, even if some specific cases were patently absurd. After all, we are often told that it is closed minded to dismiss such things as unfounded without proof.

Therefore, I don't think there's anything too strange about people who have some degree of interest and acceptance of these claims. There is after all, a spectrum of such belief. At one end there is enthusiastic disbelief. At the other end is eager enthusiastic disbelief. In the middle lie several states, including the relatively passive, uninterested acceptance of the possibility of several things that one has heard about but either has never really taken the time to explore or else has never really felt knowledgeable about how to explore.

Therefore many healthy, sane, intelligent people in our society have some degree of acceptance or belief in things that could loosely be lumped together under the umbrella terms of "paranormal or supernatural phenomena."

However, I also believe that when one digs deeper into these claims, using the proper analytical tools, certain patterns emerge and through familiarity with these patterns one can get a clearer picture of what is and is not likely to be true among the many interesting claimed phenomena that surround us as we live our lives.

In upcoming entries, I hope to expand on this, and, ultimately, describe the journey from fanatical skeptic to burned out skeptic.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chinese history/ skepticism: Gavin Menzies new book!

When I started this blog, I expected to spend more time writing about skepticism.

After all, that's the first field where I got any real attention as a writer; Two books, a heap of articles and book reviews, radio and TV appearances, frequent newsletter columns and multiple translations. All in all, I had a good run as a skeptic, before burn out, very serious burn out, set in, and why and how that happened is a topic I'll have to write about some other day.

Meanwhile, one of the few topics in skepticism that I continue to show occasional interest in is Gavin Menzies' claims that the Chinese not only discovered America, both North and South, in the early 15th century. but also discovered Australia, Antarctica and most everywhere else that could have possibly been discovered, while at it. In fact, if Gavin Menzies' Von Danikenesque logic is to be believed, evidence of early Chinese explorers is all around us if one only knows where to look and how to interpret the signs.

For those who are interested, Gavin Menzies has now released a new book that expands on his previous claims, arguing that the Chinese produced the Rennaissance.

http://www.amazon.com/1434-Magnificent-Chinese-Ignited-Renaissance/dp/0061492175/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213205533&sr=8-1


And, yes, as some will note, I haven't offered the least bit of evidence here, so far, that his claims are not true. And to those who do believe these claims, I am quite certain that I appear closed minded and dismissive. Should interest warrant, perhaps I will someday expound in these pages on the problems in these books in a more discursive, explanatory manner that is more informative to those who lack a background in either skepticism or Chinese history. In the meantime, it's probably enough to say that Gavin Menzies' arguments are very big and wide in scope and soon outstrip the evidence that he provides for them. Scholars do take new finds seriously if there is evidence for them, but Menzies does not provide any evidence or substantiated facts that are new. (In fact, a large portion of his claims are based on factually incorrect statements and premises.) What Menzies does, instead, is take old evidence and interpret it in a very strange, illogical manner using a very strong preconceived bias. And he offers scholars little compelling reason to follow him in these interpretations.

Furthermore, claims of pre-Colombian contact with the Americas, be they by Africans, Europeans, Asians or others are nothing new (In fact, I've seen Chinese claim of pre-Colombian, Chinese contact with the Americas multiple times, but these claims tend to put the contact at different times and contradict each other.) Aside from the Vikings, there is no strong evidence to support these claims and evidence to argue that they did not. (i.e. the natives of the Americas clearly had not been exposed to smallpox, although smallpox was endemic in China during the early 15th century, the time during which Menzies claims contact was made between the Americas and China.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Asian pop music: 一個人 MV 簡短版

I enjoy this song.

Sandy Lam, "Yi ge ren" ("a person"), a cover with new lyrics of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle.":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s8z6cVSKLU&feature=related

Canadian comedy clip: Best Taiwanese parliament fights of all time.

Hooooooo boy. I lived four years of my life (so far) in this place, and at times it can get surreal.

From Canada let me present"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_-Eigd7RbU&feature=related

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dead stuff: Kurt Cobain's ashes disappear.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, . . .

No comment.
===

http://www.hecklerspray.com/kurt-cobains-remains-toddle-off-for-a-jolly-summer-holiday/200814469.php

Kurt Cobain’s Remains Toddle Off For A Jolly Summer Holiday

June 2nd, 2008 at 11:00 by Matthew Laidlow

When we found out that Kurt Cobain’s remains had been nicked, we immediately jumped to one conclusion - that his husky ex-wife Courtney Love had to be involved.

Surely you can imagine her grave robbing at 3am whilst the rain lashes down? With a cigarette firmly shoved in her cakehole, she’ll scream to any passing squirrels “he’s mine all mine, they blamed me for his death. But they’re wrong! I’ll take him back where he belongs”. You can’t? Oh, shame on you.

We can, and yet our theory of Courtney Love scurrying off in the dead of the night to stuff and mount her dead husband was quickly shit on. It turns out that during a robbery in her LA home, the ashes of grunge’s only credible frontman were nicked. And some clothes and jewellery, lets not forget the small details. Maybe it was Dave Grohl being bonkers as usual and wanting to impersonate her. Drummers, mental aren’t they?

The NME had always reported that the location of Kurt Cobain’s ashes was a highly guarded secret, perhaps locked in a hidden vault five miles below the earth’s surface in Russia. Nope - turns out they were in Courney Love’s house all along. Emphasis on the ‘were’. The ever reliable News of the World reported:

She had kept the singer’s ashes in a pink teddy-bear-shaped bag along with a lock of his hair. But a couple of weeks ago, she was horrified to discover them gone, along with thousands of pounds worth of clothes and jewellery. Courtney said: “I can’t believe anyone would take Kurt’s ashes from me.”I find it disgusting and right now I’m suicidal. If I don’t get them back I don’t know what I’ll do.”

So what’s basically happened is a shit for brains burglar has got more then he’s bargained for. Yup he/she might have gotten a few extra dollars after the robbery, but now they’ve got a funny magic powder on their hands.

Not that we encourage the consumption of the dead, but maybe trying a bit will bring the spirit of Kurt Cobain back into our lives! Who wouldn’t want a constantly depressed man grumbling about life all the time?

On seconds thought, screw that. We’re happy wearing our trendy zombie shoes that he brought out. It makes us feel cooler inside anyway.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My other blog.

For those who are interested, I have a second, more serious blog at
China Water or chinawaterblog.blogspot.com .

I believe that water in China is an extremely important issue. If the world's most populous nation and fastest growing economy is starting to outstrip its water resources the results will be interesting and affect all of us.

Peter Huston