Fresh Brains....mmmm!

Just a quick note to introduce two new Daily Grail admins - Perceval and Turner Young. TY will be doing Friday news briefs from next week, while Perceval is helping out as needed - starting with today's news. Hopefully the helping hands will allow me to focus on improving TDG and offering more feature content. Give the lads a warm welcome!

Also, while I'm noting changes here on the Daily Grail, the bi-weekly roundups are now named "Blogscans", just to point out that they are links to blogs (and podcasts) - so the content is likely speculative and/or opinionated (but nearly always fun!). As always, with the weird topics we cover here on TDG, you should take a hot cup of caveat lector with you on your travels.

News Briefs 06-03-2008

THE END IS COMING! The End... of the week, thank God ;-)

Gracias Rick

Quote of the Day:

“When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.” (*)

Augusto Monterroso Bonilla (1921-2003), guatemalan writer.

(*): Actually, this is not exactly a quote, but the world’s shortest story.

The Tesla Enigma

The Christian Science Monitor has a review of a fascinating new novel which explores the last days of enigmatic scientific pioneer Nikola Tesla, titled The Invention of Everything Else (Amazon US and UK):

Some people thought he was literally from the future; others suspected Venus... Interplanetary theories aside, the electrical engineer was actually from a small village in Serbia, where at age 7, he created an engine that was powered by June bugs. As an adult, he showed up in New York at Thomas Edison's factory with almost no money and a letter of introduction from Charles Batchelor, Edison's factotum. It read simply: "I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man."

Samantha Hunt's novel seems to lean towards hagiography, but by the same token sometimes its nice to leave the cynicism at the door. Tesla's life certainly offered more than its share of strange and wonderful tales, so definitely worth taking a look at. The CSM review also features an audio interview with the author. Thanks Kat.

The Navy, the Witch and the Cheesecloth

The campaign continues to posthumously pardon "the last witch", UK medium Helen Duncan. The strange tale of how Duncan was charged, possibly in order to suppress her psychic secret-telling about World War II operations, has made the Daily Mail:

When the battleship Barham was torpedoed by the Germans in November 1941, with the loss of over 800 lives, the Admiralty delayed announcing the news to maintain morale. But the secrecy was ended within a few days when medium Helen Duncan told a couple during a seance that their son, a sailor on the ship, had appeared from the spirit world to tell them it had sunk.

In one of the most bizarre acts of the Second World War, Mrs Duncan was accused of leaking military secrets - and became the last woman jailed as a witch in the UK. Now campaigners want an official pardon for the Scots-born mother of six, who spent nine months in Holloway Prison, north London.

This episode has given Helen Duncan a certain notoriety as being a genuine psychic in Spiritualist circles, but it should also be pointed out that it seems likely that she was plenty fraudulent as well - Michael Prescott recently posted a comprehensive blog entry, with links to photos. That's not to say that Duncan didn't have any psychic talent...many spiritualist stars seemed to mix fraudulent tricks with apparently genuine abilities. But worth keeping in mind both sides of the story.

News Briefs 05-03-2008

Best wishes to Robert Bauval on his 60th birthday. Greg interviewed Rob about his most recent book The Egypt Code (Amazon US or UK) in Sub Rosa issue 6.

Quote of the Day:

“There is no intimacy; [computer games are] not live. It’s being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there the same way it is when you’re actually together with a group of people. It reminds me of one time where I saw some children talking about whether they liked radio or television, and I asked one little boy why he preferred radio, and he said, ‘Because the pictures are so much better.’"

Gary Gygax on ye olde roleplaying games.

Moses and the Psychedelics

Moses

Professor Benny Shanon, whose book The Antipodes of the Mind investigated the Amazonian shamans' brew ayahuasca, has stirred controversy by claiming that Moses may have been on a psychedelic trip when he received the Ten Commandments:

Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

Now, when they say Shanon has "dabbled", they of course mean that he has drunk the potent ayahuasca brew over 160 times (each of which normally entails a psychologically and physically demanding 6 to 8 hours minimum). There are certainly ayahuasca analogues in the Middle East (that is, plants that contain similar psychotropic chemicals as to the ones used in South America), but I haven't heard of any hard evidence for usage in the Middle East. Probably worth getting a hold of the Time and Mind paper mentioned in the article to see what Shanon has to say about it all...

You can pick up Shanon's classic The Antipodes of the Mind from Amazon US and UK. Thanks for the heads-up Filip.

Spielberg's Paranormal Facebook?

TechCrunch has some interesting news about a new social networking idea:

Hollywood super producer Steven Spielberg is preparing to launch a new social network, we’ve heard from multiple sources. The focus will be on users who’ve had or who are interested in sharing paranormal and extraterrestrial experiences. The new social network may also have original video content investigating alleged ghost and UFO stories.

Not sure what to make of that really. A few very interesting, genuine experiences, mixed with the entire populace of Crazy Town? If it is for real, let's hope they do something innovative with it that enhances the paranormal field in some way (h/t to Paranormalia, which has extended comment on the news).

Last Roll for the Dungeon Master

Gary Gygax, co-creator of the influential role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, has died aged 69:

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.

All role-playing games, right up to the modern computer games such as World of Warcraft, spawned from the seed planted by D&D. Certainly, a man whose creation became a touchstone for millions of people.

News Briefs 04-03-08

Not looking forward to the discovery of Pentapus. It will look too much like a hand with a mind of its own.

  • The hazard to civilization from fireballs and comets.
  • The origins of the British.
  • Why flu strikes in cold weather.
  • A wound in the Earth.
  • Tiny pieces of deep time brought to the surface.
  • Avalanches caught flowing on Mars.
  • Six-legged Hexapus claimed as world first.
  • The temple of heaven: four wonderful sounds.
  • Discovery of space soot casts doubt on dark energy theory.
  • Walson visits the moon: part 1 and part 2.
  • What's really drifting out there in space?
  • History's rulers have sought solace in the stars.
  • The economics of bribery and assassination.
  • Earth looking down the barrel of a deathstar.
  • Don't laugh, sugar pills are the future. Doctors used to call those pills ADT.
  • A slightly wet piece of rock.
  • The black pharoahs. I see a soap on the horizon.
  • Anomalous trajectories.
  • Babies see pure colour, but adults peer through the prism of language.
  • What do they know?

Thanks Greg


Quote of the Day:

Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

George Carlin

Rosslyn Chapel Cashes In

Almost five years after the release of Dan Brown's mega-seller The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel continues to cash in on its newfound fame from being a pivotal plot-point in the novel:

Rosslyn Chapel has chalked up a £1.35m surplus due to the stream of visitors who came to see the building in the wake of the Da Vinci Code film. The 15th-century Scottish church, which featured in the controversial hit movie, saw the number of visitors climb from just 30,000 a year in 2000 to 120,000 in 2005/06 and 176,000 in 2006/07.

The cash is being ploughed into speeding up a planned £12.75m renovation of the building and a revamped visitor centre. But the managers of the attraction, entrance to which costs £7 for adults and £5 for children, believe that Da Vinci Code fever has peaked and that annual visitor numbers are due to fall by about 20,000 a year.

You'd have to think that there are a few groups around Washington, D.C. currently rubbing their hands together in anticipation...