The Pope’s Non-Exorcism

May 28, 2013

An exaggerated claim that transformed a simple prayer by the new pope into an “exorcism” has sparked controversy—provoking denials from the Vatican and a retraction from at least one church media outlet.

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“Renoir”: A Nickell-odeon Review

May 21, 2013

[Pierre] Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) was, with Claude Monet and other French painters in the 1860s, a founder of Impressionism, a movement allied with artistic Naturalism. Its adherents sought to paint real life directly from nature—among their goals being to capture light’s changing effects. Why do we care? Because appreciation of art is part of what makes us truly human. As philosopher Paul Kurtz stated, speaking of secular humanist values, “We are engaged by the arts no less than the sciences.”

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“42”: A Nickell-odeon Review

May 17, 2013

My first understanding of the moral imperative of racial integration probably came from my father. He had been a talented baseball pitcher in college (with, I’m told, an impressive all arms-and-legs delivery and a tremendous “slider” ball). I think some part of him always regretted giving up that tentative career for a sensible job and the role of family man, and he often talked baseball. I listened especially well during the fifties and sixties when that conversation turned to civil rights, and he would tell of having played against, and even at times bunked with, what were then known as “Negro” baseball players. That he considered them unquestionably equals no doubt helped spark my own involvement in the civil rights movement (especially during 1964–68).

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Bigfoot Legend, Bob Gimlin

May 13, 2013

When I attended Bigfoot School April 27 at Chautauqua Lake, New York, among the six signing my diploma was a man named Bob Gimlin, an 82-year-old horse trainer from Yakima Valley, Washington.

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Another Sylvia Browne Failure

May 09, 2013

I cannot get over the horrific revelations in Cleveland where, for a decade, three girls—now young women—were held as sex slaves by a vicious sociopath. As I reflected on the case, however, I said to my wife Diana that once again “psychics” had failed to locate missing persons. Wouldn’t three victims in a single location have provided increased stimulus for the mystics’ touted powers?

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Bigfoot School

May 08, 2013

Life is continuing education, and in that spirit I keep seeking new experiences, tutelage, and personas. I achieved all of these on Saturday, April 27, 2013, by becoming a Bigfoot School Graduate and receiving my handsome Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot School Diploma—signed by several of the field’s luminaries. It now has an honored place next to my Ph.D. diploma and various forensics certificates.

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“Junkyard Ghost”

May 03, 2013

As mentioned in a recent blog, I assisted with, and appeared on, an episode of MSNBC’s Caught on Camera, “Mysteries and Monsters” (April 21, 2013). It consisted of six videos or films of allegedly paranormal events, the probable solution to one of which I now treat at greater length.

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“Girl Rising”: A Nickell-odeon Review

May 01, 2013

Shown on a limited basis for a short time in select theaters, Girl Rising should attract humanists for its focus on the world’s need for girls to be educated. As the documentary’s narrator says, “Girls are simply one more thing the world has thrown away.”

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“Mysteries and Monsters”

April 24, 2013

On April 21, the popular MSNBC-TV show Caught on Camera aired an episode titled “Mysteries and Monsters.” I assisted in the research for the six segments and appeared on camera in three of them. Here is a brief synopsis of the entertaining show, together with some additional comments. (The segments are given in order, with an * indicating the ones in which I appeared.)

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The Story of “Rattlesnake Pete”

April 15, 2013

Among the old-time snake hunters and peddlers of rattlesnake oil was Peter “Rattlesnake Pete” Gruber (1858–1932) (see first photo). As related in Arch Merrill’s Shadows on the Wall (1952), Pete was born in Oil City, Pennsylvania, the eldest of a pioneer oil refiner’s nine children. He would later claim, that, while a boy hiking in the local hills, he had come upon an old Indian woman from the Seneca reservation. Dragging behind her on a rope a big dead rattlesnake, she explained to Pete how she would extract the fatty oil, which was used to treat rheumatism, stiff joints, even earache—among other afflictions. Impressed by the boy’s interest, she even gave him the snake’s skin. Pete later learned from the Indians how to capture the rattlers, and from the medicine men how to use them for various folk remedies.

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