Category Archives: Myths

Andersen, H.C.; Collected stories (1822-1870)

Once upon a time there lived a man in Denmark called Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). He was born into poverty and its overwhelming harshness. Yet talent and luck brought him out of it.

Many have heard a version of “The little mermaid”. Andersen’s version is one that brought me to tears when I was young. It felt unfair to me, that she gave up so much and gained so little. Now that I am re-reading all of his stories, I’m not certain that was Andersen’s intent. “The little mermaid” is definitely about how unfair life is, how infatuation makes us do things with long-term consequences, but also about hope. Andersen was, according to those who write about his life, a deeply religious man. The idea that he hoped for something wonderful after death shines through his stories. His fears of the horrors that await evil people also comes through some of his stories. To avoid Hell, Andersen made his people go through terrible penances. “The red shoes” and “The girl who trod on the loaf” are two examples his penance type stories. These three stories, and many others, clearly show the position women held in Danish society.

Andersen writes about people who are idiots. “What the old man does is always right” is about a man who is dumber than bread. Yet he still gets out ahead. Irony and humour is strong in that story. Humour was one of Andersen’s tools. “The emperor’s new clothes” is a funny story that nails group effects and foolish traditions right on the head.

Fables were part of his repertoire. Andersen replaced people with animals, plants and inanimate objects. With them he gave us stories such as “The ugly duckling”, “The neighbouring families” and “The darning needle”. Magical creatures such as trolls,  dryads and elves turned up in his tales.

More than anything else, Andersen’s stories are about structural discrimination and abuse. He stood up for people who needed representation. As now, these differences were reproduced and supported by people who could be heard. People like Andersen are always needed. Most societies and cultures discriminate and abuse those unlike themselves. I say most, but I have never heard of any culture where fairness and equal opportunities were practised by either the majority or minority populations. Like society, most of Andersen’s stories have dark undertones and can reveal uncomfortable truths about ourselves if we are willing to look beneath the surface fittings of the stories.

Andersen’s 168 stories have been illustrated by artists such as Lorenz Frölich, Carl Larsson, Vilhelm Pedersen, Stefan Viggo Pedersen and Isidor Törnblom. Many of them have been translated into other languages. H.C. Andersen’s stories are available at Gilead, at H.C. Andersen Centret and in various other languages at Project Gutenberg.

 

Joiner, Ann Levingston: Vision Quest (2010)

Vision Quest, Ann Levingston Joiner

The Vision Quest is the first short-story exploring the lives of Daniel “Two Horses” Thorne-Redstone and his friend. We are only introduced to Two Horses in The Vision Quest.

After Daniel had been on his own vision quest, his name became Two Horses and he was now considered a Penateka warrior. While visiting his grandmother, Two Horses shared his experiences of his vision quest. Two Horses’ vision quest is fraught with danger and mystery.

I cannot speak to the story’s authenticity with regards to the Penateka vision quests. The information I found pointed towards it being fairly OK. Nor am I certain of the story’s intended audience.

With those provisos, I found The Vision Quest a warm story about a young man’s coming-of-age ritual and his understanding of that ritual.

Recommended.

 

Bunn, Christopher: The Christmas Caper: A story of Merriment, Mayhem and Mafioso (2012)

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t I get a backpack?”

“No, boss,” said Snix. “You get something better. You’re the commander of this operation, so you, uh …” He looked around and then picked up something from under the driver’s seat of the Camaro. “You get this special Inter-Modal Communications Module. With it, you can monitor and direct our incursion.”

He handed me what looked like an espresso cup.

“This looks like an espresso cup,” I said.

“It’s designed to look like that,” said Snix. “Camouflage, boss. It’s all about camouflage. Okay, men. Are you ready?” (Christopher Bunn)

Hilarious and irreverent short-story about Santa and the elves.

Baird, Christopher S.: How does water dowsing work? (2015)

  A water witch or dowser, redrawn from a sixteenth-century woodcut. Adapted from   A water witch or dowser, redrawn from a sixteenth-century woodcut. Adapted from Gilluly, Waters, and Woodford (1959)..

A water witch or dowser, redrawn from a sixteenth-century woodcut. Adapted from Gilluly, Waters, and Woodford (1959)..

One of my fascinations has to do with the many paranormal beliefs humans hold as true. I have done so myself at times. At least until science explained what was really going on. Scientific explanations are soooooo very much more fun than the paranormal one. In the case of the myth of water dowsing the scientific explanation could end up saving you a lot of money and perhaps even your life.

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When an object, such as a marble on a roof ridge, is in a state of unstable equilibrium, a small movement (such as the breeze nudging the marble to one side) becomes a large movement (such as the marble shooting off one side of the roof). This event could be misinterpreted as a powerful, hidden agent on one side of the house drawing the marble towards it. The belief in water dowsing arises out of this type of misinterpretation. Public Domain Image, source: Christopher S. Baird

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In the sense that it finds underground water, water dowsing does not work. Water dowsing involves the claim that a person can locate underground sources of water without using any scientific instruments. Typically, the person that is dowsing holds sticks or rods and walks around a property in the hopes that the rods will dip, twitch, or cross when he walks over the underground water. The dowsing rods do indeed move, but not in response to anything underground. They are simply responding to the random movements of the person holding the rods. The rods are typically held in a position of unstable equilibrium, so that a small movement gets amplified into a big movement. The movements of the rods do not seem like they are coming from the small vibrations in the dowser’s arms, since these vibrations are so small and the rod’s movements are so large. From the false assumption that the movements of the rods are not coming from the small random vibrations of the dowser’s arms, people then make the illogical leap that the movements must therefore be caused by something powerful that is out of sight, i.e. underground water. Since successfully locating underground water can save a farmer the trouble of digging several wells that end up dry, and since scientific approaches can be expensive, there is a strong incentive for people to want water dowsing to work.

Unstable equilibrium describes a state where all the forces on an object cancel out but the slightest deviation from the point of equilibrium causes the object to fly off. For instance, if you place a marble on exactly the top edge of a sharply-ridged roof, the marble will sit there motionless since the forces pulling it down either side of the roof cancel out. However, if the slightest breeze blows past the marble, it will give the marble a small bump toward one side of the roof. The forces will no longer cancel and the marble will shoot down one side of the roof. Since the marble was in a state of unstable equilibrium, gravity was able to amplify a small movement invisible to humans (the bump from the gentle breeze) into a large movement (the marble rolling down the side of the roof). To the naked human eye, it looks like a power agent exists only on one side of the house and is drawing the marble towards it. If we didn’t understand the concept of unstable equilibrium, we may be tempted to say that there is underground water only on the one side of the house which pulled the marble down that side. Belief in water dowsing operates on this type of misunderstanding.

The rest of the article can be found on Science Questions With Surprising Answers

Mother Teresa – Not such a saint after all

Based on pic from Independent.co.uk
Based on pic from Independent.co.uk

I doubt Mother Theresa did anything a lot of us would not have done ourselves if we were in her place. However, that does not justify continuing glorifying a person who simply was anything but glorious. She does not seem like a very nice person at all, just very pragmatic and eager to play the public for all it was worth. (From one who fell for her sales-jargon herself):

A new exposé of Mother Teresa shows that she—and the Vatican—were even worse than we thought

First Christopher Hitchens took her down, then we learned that her faith wasn’t as strong as we thought, and now a new study from the Université de Montréal is poised to completely destroy what shreds are left of Mother Teresa’s reputation. She was the winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, was beatified and is well on her way to becoming a saint, and she’s universally admired. As Wikipedia notes:

[She was] named 18 times in the yearly Gallup’s most admired man and woman poll as one of the ten women around the world that Americans admired most. In 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. In that survey, she out-polled all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was in first place in all major demographic categories except the very young.

The criticisms of Agnes Gonxha, as she was christened, have been growing for a long time. I wasn’t aware of them until I read Christopher Hitchens’s cleverly titled book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which I found deeply disturbing. The book is polemic at Hitchens’s best, and though the facts were surprising, he was never sued and his accusations were never refuted—nor even rebutted. (You can read excerpts here and here, but I urge you to read the book.) In light of that, I accepted Mother Teresa as a deeply flawed person.

In its “criticism” section of her biography, Wikipedia summarizes the growing opprobrium related to her extreme love of suffering (that is, the suffering of her “patients”), her refusal to provide adequate medical care, her association with (and financial support from) shady characters, and her treatment of her nuns.

Now a paper is about to appear (it’s not online yet) that is apparently peer-reviewed, and that expands the list of Mother Teresa’s malfeasances.  Lest you think this is atheist hype, the summary below is from an official press release by the Université de Montréal.

The myth of altruism and generosity surrounding Mother Teresa is dispelled in a paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education. The paper will be published in the March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa. Like the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who is amply quoted in their analysis, the researchers conclude that her hallowed image—which does not stand up to analysis of the facts—was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

“While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church’s most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha,” says Professor Larivée, who led the research. “The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further.”

As a result, the three researchers collected 502 documents on the life and work of Mother Teresa. After eliminating 195 duplicates, they consulted 287 documents to conduct their analysis, representing 96% of the literature on the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC). Facts debunk the myth of Mother Teresa

In their article, Serge Larivée and his colleagues also cite a number of problems not take into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa’s beatification process, such as “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”

The release levels three types of accusations against mother Teresa and her supporters (quotes are direct, and I don’t mind extensive excerpting since it’s a press release):

You can read the rest of the article here

Myths, Lies and Suspicious Minds – Debunking the popular misconceptions that surround the lives of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome

Seventh Voice

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Since first being recognized in 1944 by an Austrian paediatrician, Hans Asperger, the neurologically diverse disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome, has  arguably become one of the most widely misdiagnosed, socially misunderstood and contentious disorders on the Autism Spectrum.

For this reason, those living with Asperger’s Syndrome often find themselves having to battle against a sea of erroneous professional and social misconceptions (myths) which leave them wide open to a consistent stream of criticism and suspicion as to who they truly are, their levels of ability, and the validity of their ‘unusual’ ways of being the world.

The aim of this article is to redress some of the myths that have sprung up regarding Asperger’s Syndrome  over time.

Myth 1: Asperger’s Syndrome is both an over and under Diagnosed condition that only affects males .

Since its addition to the DSM in the late 80’s researchers have contended…

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Golden Eagle kidnapping video = FAKE

One of the latest videos that has gone viral is this Eagle Snatches Kid video. This is a myth that appears regularly.

The four troublemakers

The creators of the video have admitted that it is fake, fake, fake!!! They did it for fun.

You can see the making of it at this link.

People feel suckered. But folks – a two/three-year old weighs more than an eagle weighs. An eagle might attack a child, but carrying it away would prove difficult. When an eagle struggles to lift a fish, I’m sure you can imagine how heavy a child would be.

The eagle in the video is not even a Golden Eagle (above photo). In fact the Imperial Eagle in the video does not even live in North-America, which would make it kind of difficult for the eagle to kidnap someone from Montreal.

If you want to see a wild Imperial Eagle you are going to need to travel a stretch of land from Eastern Europe up into Siberia.

The incredibly stupid thing about this video is the opponents of wild predators have gotten “proof” of something that does not exist.

Use public libraries

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