26.11.14

All the Graphic Details

The Area 51 story told as a graphic novel. Is this a first for ufology?

Dwight Zimmerman (Author) and Greg Scott (Artist). Area 51: The Graphic History of America's Most Secret Military Installation. Zenith Press. (November, 2014)

The actual history of the United States' worst-kept military secret revealed in graphic format.

Though nearly everyone has heard of it, almost no one has known anything about it . . . until now. Located in the remote Nevada desert near the dry bed of Groom Lake, Area 51 is the most famous military installation in the world that doesn't "officially" exist. In Area 51, author Dwight Zimmerman and artist Greg Scott unravel the real history - minus the aliens and sci-fi movie plots - revealing in detail how for more than 60 years, the CIA, the U.S. Air Force, and aerospace company Lockheed Martin have all used Area 51 as a staging ground for test flights of experimental or highly classified aircrafts.

Scott illustrates the Archangel-12 as well as follow-on aircrafts, such as the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, while author Zimmerman tells the history of how they sprang from the research and development conducted at Area 51. This first-of-its-kind graphic history strips away the fantastical aspects of this mysterious location and establishes the actual, significant history made there.


23.11.14

Storm at Salem

Emerson W. Baker. A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience (Pivotal Moments in American History) Oxford University Press. November, 2014

Salem in 1692 was a critical moment for the fading Puritan government of Massachusetts Bay, whose attempts to suppress the story of the trials and erase them from memory only fuelled the popular imagination. Baker argues that the trials marked a turning point in colonial history from Puritan communalism to Yankee independence, from faith in collective conscience to scepticism toward moral governance.

A brilliantly told tale, A Storm of Witchcraft also puts Salem's storm into its broader context as a part of the ongoing narrative of American history and the history of the Atlantic World.
  • Considers the critical-and often overlooked-political side to the events in Salem
  • Synthesizes the many different interpretations of the Salem Witch Trials and puts the event into its broader context in American history
  • Traces the story through to the present day, and considers the ways Salem both revels in and reviles its witch trial heritage

16.11.14

Red Handed

Millennialist beliefs and the Northern Ireland 'Troubles'. Compare with this recently reviewed book.

Joshua T. Searle. The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles. Lutterworth Press (27 Nov 2014)

This book provides a comprehensive description of how evangelicals in Northern Ireland interpreted the "Troubles" (1966-2007) in the light of how they read the Bible. The rich and diverse landscape of Northern Irish evangelicalism during the "Troubles" is ideally suited to this study of both the light and dark sides of apocalyptic eschatology. Searle demonstrates how the notion of apocalypse shaped evangelical and fundamentalist interpretations of the turbulent events that characterized this dark yet fascinating period in the history of Northern Ireland.
 
The book uses this case study to offer a timely reflection on some of the most pressing issues in contemporary negotiations between culture and religion. Given the current resurgence of religious fundamentalism in the wake of 9/11, together with popular conceptions of a "clash of civilizations" and the so-called War on Terror, this book is not only an engaging academic study; it also resonates with some of the defining cultural issues of our time.
 

10.11.14

The Chosen Planet?

Owen Gingerich, Randy Isaac. God's Planet. Harvard University Press (19 Nov 2014)

With exoplanets being discovered daily, Earth is still the only planet we know of that is home to creatures who seek a coherent explanation for the structure, origins, and fate of the universe, and of humanity s place within it. Today, science and religion are the two major cultural entities on our planet that share this goal of coherent understanding, though their interpretation of evidence differs dramatically. Many scientists look at the known universe and conclude we are here by chance.

The renowned astronomer and historian of science Owen Gingerich looks at the same evidence along with the fact that the universe is comprehensible to our minds and sees it as proof for the planning and intentions of a Creator-God. He believes that the idea of a universe without God is an oxymoron, a self-contradiction. God's Planet exposes the fallacy in thinking that science and religion can be kept apart.

Gingerich frames his argument around three questions: Was Copernicus right, in dethroning Earth from its place at the center of the universe? Was Darwin right, in placing humans securely in an evolving animal kingdom? And was Hoyle right, in identifying physical constants in nature that seem singularly tuned to allow the existence of intelligent life on planet Earth? Using these episodes from the history of science, Gingerich demonstrates that cultural attitudes, including religious or antireligious beliefs, play a significant role in what passes as scientific understanding. The more rigorous science becomes over time, the more clearly God's handiwork can be comprehended."


7.11.14

Evidence for Psi

Edited by Damien Broderick and Ben Goertzel: Evidence for Psi; Thirteen Empirical Research Reports. McFarland. October 2014.

“Psi” is the term used by researchers for a variety of demonstrable but elusive psychic phenomena. This collection of essays provides a detailed survey of the evidence for psi at the level of scientific examination.

Key features of apparent psi phenomena are reviewed, including precognition and remote perception (knowledge of future or distant events that cannot be inferred from present information), presentiment (physiological responses to stimuli that have not yet occurred), the effects of human emotions on globally dispersed machines, the possible impact of local sidereal time on psi performance, and the familiar feeling of knowing who is calling on the phone.

Special attention is given to those phenomena that make it difficult for scientists to get a clear understanding of psi. The body of psi research, while complex and frustrating, is shown to contain sufficiently compelling positive evidence to convince the rational open-minded observer that psi is real, and that one or more physical processes probably underlie observed psi phenomena.


6.11.14

Dead Cert

This looks like a nice collection of Forteana and general weirdness!

Chris Woodyard. Victorian Book of the Dead. Kestrel Publications. (September 2014)

Chris Woodyard, author of the The Ghosts of the Past series, digs through long-buried newspapers and journals, for this fascinating look at the 19th-century obsession with the culture of death. The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths extraordinary tales of Victorian funeral fads and fancies, ghost stories, bizarre deaths, mourning novelties, gallows humour, premature burial, post-mortem photographs, death omens, and funeral disasters. Resurrected from original sources, these accounts reveal the oddities and eccentricities of Victorian mourning. Packed with macabre anecdotes, this diverting, yet gruesome collection presents tales ranging from the paranormal and shocking to the heart-breaking. Some of the stories in The Victorian Book of the Dead

*mourning bicycles, black boudoirs, and sable cigarettes for the up-to-date widow
*a child ghost who beckoned for her father to follow her into death
*black dogs and shrieking banshee who foretold death and disaster
*the widow who fired the undertaker who would not give her trading stamps.
*a corpse that spontaneously combusted in the coffin
*the fiendish parrot who murdered his mistress
*The petrified corpse furniture created by Professor Segato
*visions of the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Death
*the man who lived in the tomb of his wife
*A mourning wreath made from the hair of a murdered family
*interviews with undertakers, post-mortem photographers and morgue attendants And many more tales from the crypts.
 

4.11.14

Call of the Trance

An examination of a topic that underlies much of what we discuss in Magonia

Catherine Clemént. The Call of the Trance. Seagull Books. (October 2014)

The Call of the Trance is a magnificent book that takes us to the uncharted frontiers of the forbidden. From initiation ceremonies to crises of hysteria, from suicide attempts to the ecstasies of witches, Catherine Clément explores in simple but scholarly terms the responses that civilizations have offered to the humanistic need for escape from the body. These “eclipses” from life and reality, pursued by people across cultures, are elusive and invariably inexpressible.

Clément details this phenomenon through the past and the present, from the witches of Loudun to current Mongolian shamans and from the eighteenth-century convulsionaries of Saint-Médard to Greeks of today, who follow in the footsteps of their earlier practices. Along the way, she questions the countless ways humans push back the limits of the mind and body, and she shows how, from Dionysian antiquity to our own day, the ecstasy of the trance state shows up in anorexia, rock music, rap, sexual reassignment, eroticism, and even Twilight-style vampire stories.