Tuesday, September 20, 2016


FACT, FICTION, AND FLYING SAUCERS by Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden is a new audiobook narrated by a slow talking Chris Sorensen. (Others that are available on the subject are UFOs by Leslie Kean and The Alien Abduction Files by Kathleen Marden and Denise Stoner.) Regarding the new book, it is mainly an attempt to debunk the debunkers: those critical of the UFO reports on record suggesting that alien craft are visiting Earth from other star systems. While some valid points are made by the authors, (including that there has been a systematic denigration of Ufologists by the media and other scientists,) I do have problems with the flaws in logic employed in flipping the argument. For example, they attribute bias to most of those skeptics who interpret the evidence differently, (these skeptics discounting the eyewitness accounts of professionals.) Chapters are spent recounting the backgrounds of witnesses…their degrees, their accreditations, awards, even that they are highly respected by their communities or have served in the military or law enforcement. This amounts to an appeal to authority, one of the fallacies outlined in “The Beginning of Infinity,” an audiobook which shows how science actually works. The problem is that real science doesn’t care WHO says something, only if it can be proven or repeated. There is no doubt that many of these respectable people saw something, but any accident investigator will tell you that eyewitnesses often give contradictory accounts. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there is still no absolute physical evidence for UFOs in museums. Even the Roswell museum, (which I have visited, and where the author claims a real UFO crash happened) is unclear about what happened, and presents both sides. To posit that NASA and the Air Force are hiding UFOs is conjecture and supposition, based on redacted documents and questionable testimony. If you go the conspiracy route, you may end up with believing that the moon landing was faked, and that the Earth is flat (as many on Youtube try to “prove” as a means of diverting attention from simply claiming global warming is a hoax.) It is pseudo-science. One can say one doesn't believe anything the government says, but that is illogical too. The choice is not all or nothing. Life is not black and white except to racists. Science is not a ball game with opposite end zones. I do believe we are not alone in the universe, but to say that Ancient Aliens built the pyramids is just nonsense. Dr. Michio Kaku, which the authors denigrate in the book, has said that in order for aliens to be here on Earth they would need to be over a million times as energy efficient as us, and would probably not send biological beings but rather robots (if they themselves are not now machine intelligence, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) “They wouldn’t land on the White House lawn because we would be ants to them, anyway.” The authors, rather than discuss the physics of what Kaku says in his new book Parallel Worlds (which mentions human signals only reaching a tiny portion of space so far, plus the odds against travel at near light speed) suggests that the UFOs haven’t visited the White House due to detection by radar and weapons in the no-fly zone. If a civilization is a million times more advanced, what possible threat could military jets pose to them? Have the authors been watching comic book movies? Furthermore, could a craft from another star system endure the rigors of deep space, skirting light years of violence and radiation, only to crash in the New Mexico desert? And what about the wide varieties of craft purportedly seen and defended by the authors? Some make no sound at all, others shoot flames that light up the countryside. Yet they are both included in the 5% of “valid” UFO sightings, outside the 95% explained as weather, other craft, or hoaxes. Would alien technology used to reach Earth really spew fire? What kind of fuel would that be: regular or diesel? Finally, the authors have a few Freudian slips, as when they refer to the “UFO Movement,” which implies a dogma or religion. One 18 year old witness is described twice as a “man.” He can’t drink alcohol in many states, and he’s a man, not a teenager? Here I am just using their own logic. Yes, data gathering should continue. But you can’t cherry-pick your “evidence” and call it science. Especially since most of their evidence is from the 50s and 60s, back when there were no cell phones. (In a new book, why not limit the evidence to new sightings? Are there no iPhone videos and high def photos to illustrate? Have the UFOs returned to some star system SETI has yet to hear from? If so, why should we care about UFOs anymore?) A quote from physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Science doesn't care what you believe. It’s what you can prove.” Let them show those redacted documents…the print below the blacked out lines. If they are NOT about keeping Air Force experimental aircraft technology secret (but rather about UFO technology) I’ll eat my hat, and they will win the Nobel Prize. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Mindspan Diet

Recently I went into a health food store looking for flour without added iron. The owner asked me why. I told her about the new book THE MINDSPAN DIET by Dr. Preston Estep, which shows that the American diet is saturated with supplemental iron, and it is a leading cause of dementia. She started to lecture me about nutrition, saying that no one knows what causes Alzheimer’s. I told her it was a recent book with new science. She didn’t want to know the title or the author, or anything about it. Instead she repeated her contention that “no one knows,” and that studies are “first one way and then the other.” So I tried to explain that surveys were taken of the longest living people on Earth with the least dementia, and in all cases those areas showed the least amount of supplemental iron or red meat in the diet (red meat is high in iron.) She began to get angry. How dare I, a mere customer, suggest she might be wrong? Her identity was tied to her knowing what her customers do not...and, after all, so many of her products are fortified with iron, how could they all be wrong? I smiled, made my purchase (twice the cost of regular flour for one not “enriched”) and left. Then I went to my sister’s and found that she had purchased many prepackaged “nutrition” dinners and “healthy” snacks from Nutrisystem and Medifast. They all contained supplemental iron. Most cereals contain supplemental iron. Most breads and cakes in America. The author, a geneticist from Harvard, says that Americans already get 100 times the amount of iron we need, and no one needs added iron after grade school. The levels of iron Americans get can be toxic to people over 40, and cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. But the general public largely doesn’t know this yet. Only in the U.S. do they add iron to practically all flour and cereals, and we still believe the labels. It sounds so good: “fortified with iron.” And apparently it is all a LIE. Just like Coke and Pepsi told us that HFCS was okay as a sugar substitute, or that artificial sweeteners are okay too. Except this is even worse. Alzheimer’s is now the #3 killer. Like diabetes, it is epidemic. And very costly. Why wouldn’t you want to know?  The audiobook is narrated by James Foster.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nixon Then, Trump Now? The John Lennon Deportation Scandal

It is interesting to imagine what our current jingoistic culture would do with John Lennon, if he arrived in America today. A pot smoking hippie way back when, he was despised by Republican politicians, who sought to deport him. Young people loved him for resisting the Vietnam War and Nixon. Today, even after having never won a war since, instead of being shot by a lone gunman, Lennon might be called upon by Trump and others to be put in front of a firing squad for treason. A new audiobook, JOHN LENNON vs THE USA by Leon Wildes (a lawyer for an immigration related law firm) details the attempts to get the Beatle out so he couldn’t join Jerry Rubin in a “Dump Nixon” rock rally prior to the 1972 RNC. Strom Thurmond was in on it, as was John Mitchell (attorney general in charge of illegal alien deportation.) Nixon also listened to John Dean, and wanted (with expletives not deleted) to deport Lennon and Yoko Ono. But Lennon had an expert on immigration on their side: the author of this book. Wildes found a loophole in the law to grant an exemption for the couple, even after stays were denied and applications for “outstanding artists” were postponed for consideration by the INS until after they were gone. The slimeball in the Oval Office was not done killing young men for no reason, and wanted to get more blood on his hands. Lennon and Ono were in the way. So was Hunter S. Thompson, as revealed in FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA. Both audiobooks are narrated by one of my fav voiceover artists, the always engaging and mellifluous Malcolm Hillgartner. Wilde’s book is an interesting look at how custody battles and the politics of greed worked back then, and they are both relevant to today…almost in lock step. What was at stake then is at stake now. Can we learn from history, or not? 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lost Republic and The Nix

With heartfelt urgency and a keen desire for righting wrongs, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left—Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. In REPUBLIC, LOST he plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system. He puts the issues in terms that non-wonks can understand, using real-world analogies and real human stories. And ultimately he calls for widespread mobilization and a new Constitutional Convention, presenting achievable solutions for regaining control of our corrupted-but redeemable-representational system. In this way, Lessig plots a roadmap for returning our republic to its intended greatness. Narrated by the author. Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of law and leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, Lessig was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society, and at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.

THE NIX is a hilarious and deeply touching debut novel about a son, the mother who left him as a child, and how his search to uncover the secrets of her life leads him to reclaim his own. Meet Samuel Andresen-Anderson: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of an online video game. He hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, since she walked out when he was a child. But then one day there she is, all over the news, throwing rocks at a presidential candidate. The media paints Faye as a militant radical with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother never left her small Iowa town. Which version of his mother is the true one? Determined to solve the puzzle—and finally have something to deliver to his publisher—Samuel decides to capitalize on his mother’s new fame by writing a tell-all biography, a book that will savage her intimately, publicly. But first, he has to locate her and second, to talk to her without bursting into tears. As Samuel begins to excavate her history, the story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s to New York City during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street movement to the infamous riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, and finally to Norway, home of the mysterious Nix that his mother told him about as a child. And in these places, Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother—a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she kept hidden from the world. Narrator Ari Fliakos is a voice and television actor. His audiobook narrations have earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards, and in 2014 he won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration.

Friday, August 5, 2016

OVERCOMPLICATED: Technology at the Limits

A new tech science book OVERCOMPLICATED details the qualities of randomness which are added to computer systems which are too large for upgrades to deal with…essentially, chips are so powerful now, and the algorithms which control mass media platforms so dense, that retrofitting new tech onto old produces quantum fluctuations in the results. There is simply no way to scratch everything and start over to produce reliable glitch-free use. Much of the “dark code” that lurks in systems interacts with new code in ways that no one expects. This is why so many fixes are needed by Apple and Android products. “Bugs” live in niches too deep to eradicate completely. It is written by math scholar Samuel Arbesman, and narrated by Sean Pratt. Also, the psychology book THE WORM AT THE CORE reveals why our fear of death motivates our obsession with money and fame. And a new scifi novel THE BIG SHEEP is out. Description: Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered #sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call. But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her—and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the #mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected—and both point to a sinister #conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer

The rise of hate politics may be to blame for many of the lone wolf attacks in America and abroad, a topic explored in THE MYSTERY OF THE LONE WOLF KILLER by Unni Turrettini. Roughly two-thirds of attacks are now described as “lone wolf,” and this is unfortunate for a number of reasons. Solo killers can easily hide, are difficult if not impossible to track or predict (as shown in the book “The Black Swan”), and their motives are legion (not just ISIS.) Given that fame is our culture’s #1 goal (with the viral rise of the Selfie), what faster way to instant fame than by killing people, knowing that the media will be all over it? If someone is dying of cancer, or depressed and angry, plus they are a sociopath (one in 25 are, read “The Sociopath Next Door”), suicide by cop may be appealing, radicalized or not. Psychologists often say that when suicides are publicized, the suicide rate goes up. Same is true of terrorist copycats. The more hype you see, the more of the same you will get. Network news is in competition for eyeballs, and must give us more of what we want, whether that be viral cat videos or explosions, in order to sell more junk food and the prescription drugs needed to treat eating junk food. (Watch any half hour news show, and you will see sensational news first, followed by drug ads with shorter segments to commercial break, “When we come back,” ending with an upbeat feel good piece to preserve viewership.) Every time, every network. Same stories, too. You have to read or listen to books to find out the WHY. “The Spiral Notebook” is another I recommend, along with my own political bomber novel “Postmarked for Death,” which gets into the twisted mind of a terrorist (and was endorsed by Clive Cussler as “mystery at its best.”)  Now for the publisher’s notes on Unni’s audiobook: July 22, 2011 was the darkest day in Norway’s history since Nazi Germany’s invasion. It was one hundred eighty-nine minutes of terror—from the moment the bomb exploded outside a government building until Anders Behring Breivik was apprehended by the police at Utoya Island. Breivik murdered seventy-seven people, most of them teenagers and young adults, and wounded hundreds more. Breivik is a ‘lone wolf killer,’ often overlooked until they commit their crime. Breivik is also unique as he is the only ‘lone wolf’ killer in recent history to still be alive and in captivity. Unparalleled research and a unique international perspective. The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer examines the massacre itself and why this lone-killer phenomenon is increasing worldwide. Based on true events. Unni Turrettini was born in northern Norway and grew up in Drammen, a city near Oslo, approximately twenty minutes from where Breivik was raised. As a foreign exchange student, she graduated from high school in Kansas City, Kansas, and she has law degrees from Norway, France, and the United States. She currently lives with her family in Geneva, Switzerland, and is at work on a second book, a behind-the-scenes examination of the Nobel Peace Prize. Narrator Pete Cross holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Toledo and an MFA in Acting from the California Institute of the Arts. Stage experience includes Alexander in Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, at Carnegie Hall. He has also acted in film, and served on faculty at Cal Arts and with Aquila Morong Studio in Hollywood. Pete has coached for film and theatrical productions, and continues to work with private clients all over the world.