Monday, June 12, 2017

Wondering War Woman

Are people who do evil things necessarily evil themselves?
Are all people who do evil things beyond the reach of change?

I liked the movie Wonder Woman --as fiction. In the film, there is evil which cannot be redeemed. Made for a more entertaining story if there's clear heroes & villains.

But, in real life, is it ever the same as it is in a superhero fantasy?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Damaged Care

What if the US Congress had the same health insurance as the rest of us? (They don't).


Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Nancy Drew on

Did you ever read any of the Nancy Drew mysteries? I read book after book, more than fifty of them. I think I learned as much about writing from those books as from English class. But when I recently rediscovered them, I fell in love for a new reason: the cultural currents she "Drew" on. (forgive me).


The earliest volumes were published in the 1930s, when the US was a different place. Did you know that the first two dozen books in the mystery series were rewritten in the 1950s and 1960s to make them more modern? The original versions of the Secret of the Old Clock and its dozen or two follow-ups had Nancy wearing gloves and hats, and this was changed when the books were revised.

Racist stereotypes were also changed. Irish servants. References to a (stupid) black woman as a "negress."

The first detective story, of any type, is generally credited to Edgar Allan Poe in the 1840s. Children weren't really a market for them (or for anything else) until at least half a century after that. Oh, and in the 30s and 40s, Nancy as a strong female character, and a youth, was controversial.

Since the first Nancy Drew novel appeared in the 1930s, and are still being produced, it is now obvious that "Carolyn Keene" is a pseudonym. But it always was: no such person ever existed. Nancy Drew stories were contracted from a publishing company from the very start, with a clause taht the actual author could not receive credit or compensation beyond a small fee.

Some people dream of being given a new car (if not a blue roadster). I dream of being given a bunch of old (or new) Nancy Drew books. I'm a bibliophile and not wealthy (this is not a good combination). Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

I'd type more, but I want to go back to reading Nancy Drew mysteries. They're really fun!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Whether" prediction works?

Much more snow was forecast. On the news they talked of a foot or more for NYC. We have less than they forecast.

Is this unusual? My very first review for Skeptic magazine, written under my male pseudonym, talked about this. The book was William Sherden's _The Fortune Sellers_ and his persuasive argument was that predicting the future doesn't usually work. That even with better equipment and better training, weather prediction is not going to _ever_ be more accurate than an estimate, and that not for more than a day or two ahead.

Sherden makes the same argument for stock market prediction. People pay big money for stock market prediction, and how often is it right?

Try it: maybe write down for, say, a week, what weather forecasters say, and then write down what happens. How right are they for seven days ahead? For the next day?

Do you own stock? Would it give you confidence to write down what the predictors say, and then, six months or a year later, compare it with what happened?




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Skeptic v21n4

Hysteria that even leads to the detention of a child? I'm talking of course about the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 and their aftermath. If y'all haven't already done so, you might enjoy picking up a copy of Skeptic magazine, v21n4, the issue currently on newsstands. It features a book review by yours truly on the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 and their aftermath.

In it I review three books: The Witches by Stacy Schiff, In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton, and America Bewitched by Owen Davies. Schiff discusses the 1692 epidemic with grace and comprehensiveness, Norton makes a step by step case about why the 1692 trials were longer and deadlier than any other in the colonies. Davies notes that some things haven't changed: it was women who were mostly executed in 1692, and women who were involved in most of the cases since, as late as the 1950s.

Skeptic magazine, by the way, looks to science to explain strange phenomena.