Anomalies,  Books,  Cryptozoology,  Personal

Doubt and About: Revisiting Fort and more short book opinions

It’s been a long while since I did a “doubt and about” post detailing what’s going on. I’m in a weird space right now. I don’t really feel like talking about anything but I also want to share some things. Going by that last sentence, I am admitting that I am inconsistent. I have internal conflicts. I know something is bad, yet I indulge it – like talking about Bigfoot. I have changed my mind about things. I have discarded previous modes of thinking. I find there is nothing wrong with that and I am enjoying the exploration. 

Blogs are dead. Yet, people still write them and others read them. I likely will regret this post and others tomorrrow. But it feels natural to write publicly at this moment.

This week I finished 3 books – one of them was extremely worthwhile and provided an example of acknowledging the ambiguous. The Trickster and the Paranormal by George Hansen was a great piece of work. It’s not for everyone (only the serious and scholarly-minded) but I got a lot out of it. It resonated with me on at least three levels – that of the paranormal scene, the current trickster President and fake news landscape, and my exit from a tribe of scientism whose goal is to marginalize the paranormal (through ridicule). Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned that the paranormal is not marginal, not fringe, but normal and belief in it has become mainstream. To laugh at it, or worse, be dismissive of it as stupid, is short-sighted and ignorant. Every successive day, I am glad I cut ties with those who smugly brush off the paranormal. I thank George Hansen for expanding my view of the scope of the paranormal. 

And, you know what? I just couldn’t care less what others think about that. I don’t care about followers or likes or clicks. I’m putting my ideas out there and you can read or not, whatever. Writing things helps me think through stuff, so that’s what I do. 

Meanwhile, I bought my first set of tarot (oracle) cards. Ummmm … I’m not ready to talk about that yet. It’s my own personal experiment and journey. You should not judge (yet many have). No, I am not slipping to “the dark side” as some hand-wringers say. If one adopts too narrow a worldview, one misses the interesting things happening on the periphery.

I’ve also been reading about Fort. Jeffrey Kripal’s chapter on Charles Fort in Authors of the Impossible was fascinating. I didn’t agree with all his interpretations but it prodded me to rethink my view of Fort. I found my old reading notes from when I first read Book of the Damned. Oh boy, did I HATE it. I read it too seriously back in 2002. So much so that I vowed to not read the next book. And I didn’t until now when I finally picked up Fort’s collected works once again. I think he is still a painfully verbose and pretentious writer but I think I get it better now and even have a laugh instead of a major eye-roll moment of ending read-time. He was on to something new. He had some good points. I have a way to go to plow through the works but I have a new perspective. This new view is very much colored by my breaking away from the scientific framing of the paranormal and adopting a flexible, social- and emotionally-oriented view.  

That we may return to this subject.

That the world guides us to find what we need to see.

[That’s how Fort writes; yep, it’s irritating but I’m growing accustomed to the annoying cadence of it.]

I finished Tyler Houck and Colin Schneider’s self-published collection of articles Ramblings of Teenaged Cryptozoologists. It’s head and shoulders better than several other crypto-themed books I’ve read. Sure, there are typos because it’s self-published and the kids need to hit the heavier sources and do some deeper analysis, but that will come in time. The signs are there that their work will reach a scholarly level someday. I suspect the novelty might wear off around the age of 19 when serious career interests kick in. But there is a very good chance they will return to the subjects later on (as I did) with added wisdom and improved proofreading. I felt so encouraged by how much they observe and know already. They are on the (right) track, indeed.

Finally, I picked up from the local library, Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Kevin Paul’s Haunted Hills and Hollows: What Lurks in Greene County, Pennsylvania. It might be entertaining for locals, I guess. Though one person I showed it to, who was familiar with the locations mentioned, was not keen on reading the whole thing.  To sum it up: it’s the typical unsourced anecdotal collection that invokes unwarranted conclusions. For example, early on, it’s assumed the weird “screams” people hear are from Sasquatch. No evidence provided, just so. The stories are mostly taken at face-value, the opinions are biased, and deference is given to so-called “paranormal investigators”. This is not my thing so I am unimpressed. It doesn’t take much to put together such books that may be entertaining for some people but I find no use for it when only four references make up the entire bibliography with nearly no citations provided for the claims. As I’ve said many times before, if you present these tales as interesting folklore and legends, that’s fine. But when the observations are heavily doused with speculative conclusions, then it loses value.

The Doubtful News book is in limbo. I am currently digging through just the anomalies category to see if I can make some sense out of it and see where it can go. One potential problem is getting permission to use photos of the events. When discussing a strange event, the photo documentation is key to understanding the story. Perhaps I need an illustrator. Another problem relates to the previously mentioned book without citations. It does bog down a book to have citations. I can certainly list them at the end but citing hundreds of news articles is difficult especially when they may not be accessible online where I first obtained the information. There is that saying about the perfect being the enemy of the good. That is, you strive for perfection instead of getting out something good. There is a distinction to be made between garbage and good. I could crank out a piece of garbage in a month but I will be unhappy with it and with myself. Then again, I can slave for years on a book and still be unsatisfied. I can’t win, but that’s just me.

9 Comments

  • David J George

    Just finished “Doubt and About” (Dec 1,2018).

    When you don’t care about things and people, perhaps you should consider not sharing
    your therapeutic ramblings when having a “bad” day. Yes, writing can help in thinking things through……but, sharing these “thinking drafts” on blogs is not a great idea.

    Hope tomorrow is a better day for you.

    DJG

    • Sharon Hill

      Gee, DJG, there is nothing negative about this piece. Not sure what you were reading but you assumed incorrectly. It was quite curious to me, though, that you felt compelled to comment on a blog you didn’t like and give such arrogant advice. Feel free to not read my blog anymore, I surely won’t mind. You have a good day tomorrow too!

  • Michael Redmond

    I divide interlocutors re the paranormal into two categories: Those who have read Hansen’s opus, and those who haven’t. I do not spend much time or attempt much deep diving with the latter category.

    • Sharon Hill

      That rationalwiki entry (among others) is a highly uncharitable attack piece. It’s hypocritical that they accuse Hansen of misquotes when they appear to do so to a great degree themselves. For a start, call Hansen a crank and pseudoscience promoter and that he believes all psychic phenomena is real. That’s false and suggests to me that they either never read this book or they read it with such bias that they failed to comprehend the content. In another example of twisting the facts, they say Hansen calls Martin Gardner a fundamentalist Christian. However, that is in the context of his youthful faith which Hansen describes as radically changing. This is an egregious misrepresentation of this section of the book. I found his analysis of Gardner’s work to be interesting and exhibiting admiration of Gardner. What Hansen says about Gardner and other skeptics is FAIR criticism. Sure, Hansen has been highly critical of CSICOP because of their several missteps and attempts to marginalize paranormal researchers instead of treat their work objectively. He makes some highly salient points. Those who think it’s unfair needs to go back into the ugly history of CSICOP. However, he does not condemn them wholesale.

      Rationalwiki loves their ad hominem attacks – calling people “cranks” and “crackpots”. I find their opinion of Hansen’s book to be very far off the mark and typical for what I have seen of the narrow-minded treatment of paranormal topics by organized skepticism. They are heavily biased against all paranormal topics and I rejected RW as a useful objective source years ago when I noticed this. They are rather akin to Conservapedia, having an obvious slant and agenda.

      • Michael Redmond

        Why read a 560+-page book with 100 pages of notes and references when you can read a few screens of RationalWiki?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Or research for yourself and attempt to Understand when there’s a Twitter Tweet you can Be-Leeve?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        And such uncharitable attack pieces can backfire, proving the Conspiracy Theory of “Outside there are only Enemies”. An analogy would be Young Earth Creationists looking upon all the physical evidence against YEC as Disinformation planted by The Conspiracy and/or Persecution for The TRVTH.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Long ago, I once had a copy of the rules for “Tarock” — the Renaissance-era card game where the Tarot deck originated. (The “Major Arcana” were originally high-ranking “trump cards” in the deck outside of the normal four suits.) From what I remember, the deck started out for the unusual card game named above and got used in fortunetelling because the cards were so WEIRD.

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