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Friday, January 15, 2021

Currently Reading: 'The Unidentified' by Colin Dickey

Good news came yesterday in the form of an email from my local library: Colin Dickey's The Unidentified: Mythic Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsessions with the Unexplained was ready for me to borrow the audiobook. I started listening to it yesterday. 

I'd listened to the audiobook version of Dickey's previous book Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places some time in the last year or so - apparently I didn't record it in Goodreads, but it was some time when I lived in my apartment in downtown Indianapolis. I could barely put it down. I'm well-known to enjoy stories about hauntings (note that I don't believe in ghosts) and modern folklore

In chapters 1 through 3 of The Unidentified, Dickey discusses the modern folklore of Mount Shasta and the alleged Lemurians. In her Demonslayers novel series, author Kate Douglas used the mythology of the Lemurians to weave her tale. She got me interested in the discarded scientific theory of Lemuria - an incorrect but perfectly respectable theory about how lemurs ended up on the island of Madagascar - and how charlatan Helena Blavatsky turned the faulty science into a woo-woo spiritualism that endures among the alternatively spiritual today. 

What I didn't learn from Douglas's fiction but did learn from Dickey's nonfiction: the indigenous people of Mount Shasta and the surrounding region are the Winnemem Wintu nation. Just like reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series must be taken with a grain of respecting the Quileute people, who are real human beings and not Meyer's fictional creation. 

I highly recommend that readers of Stephenie Meyer visit the Truth vs. Twilight website. If at all possible, please help the Quileute tribe move its school to higher ground, out of the flood plane, by contributing to the fund for the school. 

(P.S. Yes, I am still working my way through Midnight Sun. It's not that I'm not enjoying it, it's just that reading physical books has been difficult for me during the pandemic. I've been reading ebooks on my phone almost exclusively.) 

But back to the Winnemem Wintu people: Visitors to Mount Shasta sometimes engage in various New Age spiritual practices: Leaving crystals, building makeshift shrines, leaving behind the ashes of their deceased loved ones, and similar behavior. By themselves, there is nothing wrong with these behaviors per se. I'm not judging New Age practitioners. 

The problem with this is that before New Age spirituality existed in California, the Winnemem Wintu were there with their own religion, in which Mount Shasta is sacred ground. Just like you wouldn't walk into a mosque and leave a Christian shrine there, you obviously shouldn't leave spiritual or secular items behind when you visit Mount Shasta. 

If I'm lucky enough to go back to California, I may get to visit Mount Shasta some day. If I do, I'll be sure to observe appropriate behavior for being invited to visit my neighbors' sacred space, just as I did when I visited Serpent Mound

By the way, if you can visit Serpent Mound once we get out of this pandemic, you definitely should. What archaeology can tell us about the ancient people of what is now Southern Ohio is fascinating, in addition to the earthwork itself. Plus you're in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, which in summer is deeply green, remote, and gorgeous. 

After 4 years of outrageous disrespect for indigenous people's rights in the U.S., let's let 2021 be a return to recognizing the basic rights of all of our neighbors, no matter which sovereign nation they hail from. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

5 Recommended Podcasts

1. Oh No! Lit Class

With 93 episodes on Spotify as of today, you can probably find your favorite classic discussed among the episodes. The first episode is about Macbeth. More recently, Megan and RJ tackled "A Visit From St. Nicholas" and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

2. There Might Be Cupcakes

North Carolina writer Carla Pettigrew Hufstedler lives with multiple disabilities, and as a result her podcasting schedule isn't consistent. But no matter, because every new episode is like a shiny new gift to unwrap. She not only keeps listeners updated on her writing, knitting, drawing, and other creative pursuits, but shares ghost stories, synchronicities, folklore, and other subjects that readers and writers of speculative fiction will love. A personal favorite are Carla's Christmas episodes. In 2019, Carla introduced listeners to the tradition of Victorian Christmas ghost stories and read an early Charles Dickens tale that went on to inspire A Christmas Carol

3. Podcast Like It's 1999

This is a fun nostalgia trip for Gen Xers like me. (Relevant to my '90s NBA nostalgia zine? Not directly - yet - but maybe one of these days.) Journalist Brian Raftery argued in his book Best. Movie. Year, Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen that this was film history's greatest year. This podcast discusses individual films in detail, with occasional digressions into music and other 1999 topics. 

An especial favorite episode of mine discusses the movie Stigmata starring my sweet, sweet baby Gabriel Byrne. You may also remember that this podcast made me read A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

4. Book Vs. Movie

Want to know exactly how Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle is different from the Studio Ghibli movie? Or how closely the movie Clueless mirrors Jane Austen's Emma? The two Margos will not only fill you in on how the written version translated to the big screen but also render their verdict on which one is better. It's not always the book!

5. None of This Is Real

Many, many podcasts will deliver a weekly dose of weirdness, but this one holds a special place in my podcast rotation. It's a comedy podcast about everything weird, from conspiracy theories to cryptids to ancient aliens to historical oddities and monsters. This is everything I liked to read about when I was a kid, in podcast form. 

What other podcasts should I listen to?