Monday, October 17, 2016

15 Credibility Street by Doubtful News

Today Doubtful News, the popular news aggregator and commentary site for the allegedly weird and apparently unexplained, released the first episode of a brand new podcast it is producing 15 Credibility Street.  The idea is that the show will be a platform to discuss items that appear on the Doubtful News website for further reflection and comment as well as other topics of a skeptical or Fortean bent. 

Sharon Hill, who started Doubtful News, is the show’s host and producer.  The podcast is co-produced by her longtime Doubtful News co-editor Torkel Ødegard.  I am excited to share that I shall be a contributor to the show both backstage, lending a hand where I can, and sometimes in from of a mic.  I am honored that Sharon and Torkel have put their trust in me to assist in this project.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Audio Book Review: They Knew too much about Flying Saucers

I recently listened to the audio book version of the classic 1956 U.F.O. book "They Knew too much about Flying Saucers" authored by Gray Barker.  It clocked in at a little over six hours, and I listened to it while commuting to and fro work over a couple weeks.  This book first introduced the concept of the men in black to those interested in Ufology which later spread to the popular culture.  The best known version of the 'men in black' was the 1997 film hit of the same name staring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.  

Man in black
The book shares the tale of its author, Barker, during his introduction to the "saucer problem" that was allegedly plaguing the skies over the United States and the Western World in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  Barker shares how he was introduced to the saucer problem when he investigated a strange crash and possible sighting of a creature in an area near to his home in West Virginia.  From here, he began collecting information on the saucers, investigating and writing for a magazine/newsletters for Albert K. Bender's Space Review of the International Flying Saucer Bureau.  Barker shares his various contacts with other interested persons and investigators of flying saucers as basically one by one they are all visited by three men dressed in black that seem to appear when the investigators are close to knowing the truth about the saucers.  Once the men in black visit, the investigators either stop investigating or change their tune as to what are the saucers.

I found the book interesting not for the speculation on what the saucers might actually be, or why they are visiting at all.  A lot of the ideas are old hat and not even relevant such as the saucers are from a secret American or Red moon base.  (One theory I do not recall hearing was they were here to warn mankind that Antartica was becoming too heavy with ice and snow accumulation and the Earth was in danger of suddenly and violently flipping from the weight.)  The intersection of the materialistic view of flying saucers as physical craft versus some manner of paranormal entity was noteworthy from a piece authored in the 1950s. However, what I found truly interesting was reading the book as a window into the culture of the 1950s.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Return of the Skeptics: Doubtful News & Exposing PseudoAstronomy plus Clowns

Hey Ladies . . . (wiki)
It has been sometime since I have covered The Skeptic Zone podcast hosted by Richard Saunders.  Pennsylvania's own Sharon Hill was interviewed on the latest episode, and I thought it time for me to check in.
  The episode clocked in around an hour and had three main segments.  The first was an interview with Sharon Hill, the second was a discussion of Reasonable Hank's efforts to catalog nurses and nurse-midwives who are anti-vaccination, and finally, an interview with Ben Radford.

Hill's segment was mainly announcing the revival of Doubtful News after she had put the site on hiatus during the Spring of 2016.  Hill shared that at the time she thought she had shuttered the site for good, or at least had no plans to update it.  However, Hill shared how a skeptic has to skep, and she found herself drawn to starting writing again.  Hill also discussed plans for the National Capital Area Skeptics to host a skeptical ghost tour this October. I suspect will not exactly be in the mold of ghost tours I have taken in Gettysburg, PA. Hill also touched upon the recent Evil Clown epidemic making the mass media rounds recently. She discussed how she began to feel burned out maintaining Doubtful News as the amount of woo woo is unrelenting. She further hinted at a new Doubtful News project.  Overall, it was a good segment although it felt a bit rushed.  I am not sure if that was just in the editing or if the time difference between the East Coast of the U.S. and Australia compels one of the party to get through the discussion so someone can get to bed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cocktail Party Pitch

The latest edition of Skeptical Inquirer commemorates the fortieth anniversary of its founding way back in the bicentennial year of 1976.  The issue includes a number of essays by some well known and respected skeptics looking back over the history of skepticism.  Some such as Richard Wiseman are optimistic about skepticism's past and bright future, and others such as Sharon Hill and Scott O. Lilienfeld are more cautionary. 

I must admit I land in the cautionary camp at least in reference to the United States.  Matters over in Australia and Britain appear to be ground for a more optimistic appraisal of their futures.  I do wonder if part of the problem at least in the states is just getting some of the fundamentals down.