#701 Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. HollandUnlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland

Isn’t it so special when two very different animals seem to be friends? The elephant and the dog? The cow and the cheetah? The dove and the monkey? The cat and the crow? It all seems very unlikely, especially when said animals might prey upon each other in the wild, but somehow they’re friends.

We don’t know for sure if animals can develop true friendships, but, you know, why not? I’ve seen plenty of cats and dogs that get along great, why not other animals.

This book holds forty-seven stories about unlikely friendships between various animals, like a dog that is friends with a koi fish. It happens sometimes and it just makes you want to say, “Aaaahhh, how sweet,” with as much sugar you can get into your voice.

What I liked

There used to be a show that came on TV called Animal Miracles. It was narrated by Alan Thicke, Growing Pains dad. I really liked the show. It amazed me that animals, which we tend to think of as less intelligent for human, and less capable of any abstract thoughts, were performing complex things that were classified as miracles. There was the story about the pig whose owner had a heart attack so it got out of the house, went and laid in the road, and waited until someone stopped to check out the supposedly dead pig. When they did, the pig hopped up and got the people to follow it back to the house so that its owner could receive medical care. That’s really impressive.

I think animals are more aware than we give them credit for and that’s why I like stories like this. It’s proof, or anecdotal evidence rather, that animals are more complex than we make them out to be. I really can’t imagine what animals would say if they could actually speak with us in our native tongue, but I’m betting it would be more interesting than, “Polly want a cracker.”

The fact that these animals seem to be capable of inter-species friendships is amazing.

What I didn’t like

Devil’s advocate here–or something–if animals can bond with humans to the degree that they do, how come they cannot form friendships with other animals in the same manner? Animals get super attached and in-tune with humans. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that a dog and a horse can make friends. I mean, I still like these stories, but if you put them on the level with animal/human bonds, they’re just not as impressive. A cat can bond with a human and apparently it can also bond with gorillas, chimpanzees, bears, dogs, goats, and more.

Overall

Cute stories, and photographs.

Weigh In

What unlikely animal friendships have you seen in your life?

Do you think it’s really that out-of-the-ordinary that animals can make friends with other types of animals?

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#681 The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon RonsonThe Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

Jon has heard that there is a man who stared at a goat and killed it. The whole thing was a very hush-hush military experiment. Somewhere, the goats have been debleated and now they’re experimented on. No one would guess that there is a building full of goats on a military base.

The men who did stare at goats are a combination of new age and karate master, well, most of the time anyway. Jon tries to find out who actually stared at the goat. It may have been this one guy, but he died, but maybe it was this other guy. Jon finally finds out exactly who stared at the goat and it turns out that the guy still stares at small animals every once in a while, and they subsequently drop over dead.

As the book progresses, Jon moves on to other fringe military experiments, like MK Ultra and sound frequencies that make a person have diarrhea. Jon speaks with the son of a man who was killed in relation to MK Ultra and LSD, but his entire family was always told it was an accident. The idea of psychic warfare seems crazy, but the military certainly doesn’t think so.

What I liked

If you didn’t know anything about MK Ultra or experimentation with certain sound frequencies, this might be a good book to read.

What I didn’t like

I hate these fringe things. Look, fringe is interesting, but I have heard enough conspiracy theories to last me a lifetime, a lifetime; I’m serious. I don’t know about the goat thing, but all the other stuff in this book–real. The military actually did and experimented with everything mentioned in this book, except for the part about the goats, which I’m not entirely sure of in my personal knowledge of strange military experiments. The military spends some money on some weird stuff and some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Along the way, the military happily destroys lives. Yes, people have actually been killed and scapegoated for the things Jon mentions in this book. Do people care?

No, honestly, not really. The public hears that the government experimented with LSD and they’re like, “Whatever.” It’s not a concern for most people that this stuff goes on. Should it be? Maybe.

The thing about the frequencies was tested and disproven on Mythbusters, but who knows, maybe the government knows something that the Mythbusters don’t.

I don’t like all this fringe conspiracy stuff. This stuff isn’t actually conspiracy, because it actually happened, but “conspiracy theory” is how most people tend to define the particular things mentioned in this book. The thing about weird government experimentation, which does happen, in any government, is that you can’t really do anything about it. It’s upsetting to hear about. They say knowledge is power, but if knowledge doesn’t get you anywhere, why know? You can’t march up to the government and be like, “Hey, stop experimenting with weird fringe science stuff, like giving people LSD.”

Part of the reason all of this stuff is still defined in the realm of “conspiracy theory” is that it sounds silly. Like, you mean, the government actually experimented with certain audio frequencies that would make people poop their pants? Absurd! It can’t be real! It can’t be a thing the actual government did! You, sir, are crazy!

Look, the government is weird. Just accept it. They’ve probably funded research and experimentation about whether or not the pink goo from Ghostbusters could actually animate toasters.

You might read this book and have a good laugh because some of this sounds so absurd, but the government really did think that some LSD and code words could make an ultimate soldier.

Overall

Well, if you ever see a goat drop dead, maybe it was just a government experiment.

Weigh In

Does it get us anywhere to know about these experiments?

Will people ever accept some of the government’s weird experimentation as things that actually happened?

#680 True Story Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

True Story Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel True Story Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

Michael Finkel was a writer for the New York Times Magazine. He used to travel all over the world. His articles were always well received. One day, instead of basing a story on an actual person, he creates a composite of several people and Michael is caught. He is fired from the New York Times for using fictitious information. Michael waits in Montana for the fall-out from this event, but one reporter calls sooner than expected. He asks Michael what he thinks of the whole deal, and Michael, a little confused on what deal the reporter is talking about, asks, “What deal”?

The deal is that a man named Chris Longo murdered his family and went to Mexico and said he was Michael Finkel. A murderer had been living as Michael Finkel without Michael Finkel knowing about it.

Michael looks into the murders and soon finds some grizzly details. He decides to contact Chris Longo in jail. The two write back and forth and end up speaking on the phone. The conversation goes as far as to become a friendship. Michael finds Chris very smart, even meeting with him face-to-face at one point. Chris is very smooth, or so it seems. Michael wonders how he could have killed his family, but little by little, Chris just seems too smooth.

The fact of the matter is that Chris’ wife, and three children are dead. Their bodies were disposed of in a river, two of them in suitcases and two weighted down with rocks in pillow cases. Chris Longo had committed check fraud and theft. He had committed identity theft. He had dragged his family from one place the other. Ultimately, his family ended up dead.

Michael has his moments where he thinks that Chris maybe didn’t murder his family, but he also wants to know why. He didn’t imagine that he would get sucked into a friendship with a murderer. Chris has dazzled Michael, just as he had many people before. From this situation, Michael is able to write a book and move on with his life after being fired.

What I liked

This book was interesting. Some of these true crime stories are quite entertaining. They definitely keep you on the edge of your toes.

I don’t necessarily like this, but I think it goes on the plus-side–this book depicts a snake. What do I mean by snake? A snake, is an animal, true, but a snake is also a person who does everything they can to look good to the outside world, but they treat the people they’re close to, like dirt. Chris Longo was one of those people. He appeared wonderful to the world’s eye, but in truth, he was a low-down, dirty snake. He murdered his family. What else did he do to them? Was he physically abusive? Was he sexually abusive? Did he rape his wife? Was he mentally abusive? Did he throw out their things? He lied to them at every turn. He took away their stability in life. He didn’t provide for them in the manner that he could have, had he just been a normal nice guy. Nobody on the outside knew the terrible things Chris did to his family.

This is in the “like” section because it’s a good example of people like this. I was married to a person like this, not that he was a murderer, because he wasn’t, but he had the same duality. He appeared to the world one way, while being completely different behind closed doors. I’ve also come across one or two more people like this. We need to know about people like this, so we can avoid people like this. Honestly, what are they offering anyone? If all they’re going to do is treat you like dirt if you get close to them and make out like they’re a god to the world, what point is there in being in their life? None.

Undoubtedly, if Chris’ wife had known this about him in the beginning, she never would have been with him. If she had been secure enough to be on her own with her children, she would have left, but as it is, she was murdered before that could happen.

What I didn’t like

I’m not particularly sorry for Michael. You write something false to a major media outlet and you’re probably going to get burned. The truth is an important thing.

I’m not sorry for Chris either. I don’t know the status of his life, whether he is still alive or not. If you murder your family, you deserve to be in prison and put on a very public trial as a result.

I don’t like Chris because he is a snake. It’s disgusting. The disgusting factor is why this book sells though. People are intrigued that this seemingly loved man could murder his entire family.

Overall

If someone could invent Snake-away for snake-people, that would be awesome, then we wouldn’t have situations like Chris Longo’s.

Weigh In

Do you think Chris deserves to die?

Has Michael redeemed himself with this book?

#676 Ghosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin Emert

Ghosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin EmertGhosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin Emert

Sometimes we cannot explain everything in the world. Sometimes a house is haunted and science cannot explain it away. Sometimes a person has the ability to tell when something is happening hundreds of miles away, without having any connection to that place. Sometimes ghostly apparitions appear at historical locations. Sometimes someone writes a book that predicts something almost exactly as it happens in the future. Sometimes someone can seem to speak to the dead.

These are all very interesting occurrences. This book holds over twenty stories about various unexplained and mysterious circumstances. Prominent haunted places mentioned in this book are The Borley Rectory, The Whaley House, and The Tower of London. Another prominent haunting mentioned is the Bell Witch. Edgar Cayce and Rosemary Brown are both mentioned as mediums.

What I liked

I love mysterious things. If I can’t explain something; it’s very intriguing. I cannot explain any of the events in this book, although I’m quite skeptical on quite a few, especially the mediums. I have a hard time believing in the idea of mediums. Maybe it’s real, but I just don’t know. This book has always fascinated me, I’ve actually had it for a long time, but I’ve never reviewed it on this site. It’s all just so interesting.

It’s a short look at each item mentioned, which gives the reader a good overview of the occurrence.

What I didn’t like

I wish the book had more meat to it. I would love to read more in-depth on some of these subjects. In fact, I have on at least one of the stories in this book. The story in this book, The House on Plum Tree Lane, is actually the subject of the book Night Stalks the Mansion, which I have read and reviewed. Because I’ve read the other book, the story in this book definitely leaves out a lot, but it’s also a little inaccurate. This book states that the house was turned into apartments, which may have been the case, I don’t remember, but the house actually doesn’t exist anymore. It was burned down. This book could have been written before the house burned down, but I have absolutely no idea if it was or not.

Overall

This is quite an interesting book and always has been.

Weigh In

Are you more skeptical or believing?

If you hear of something unexplained, what is your first response?

#586 Ghost Mysteries: Unraveling the World’s Most Mysterious Hauntings by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Ghost Mysteries: Unraveling the World's Most Mysterious Hauntings by Kathleen Weidner ZoehfeldGhost Mysteries: Unraveling the World’s Most Mysterious Hauntings by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Who doesn’t love debunking a good ghost story?

In this book, Kathleen mentions a passel of famous ghost stories, the stories she mentions have been debunked. She mentions the Amityville Horror and famous mediums. She speaks of ectoplasm and seances. The people in this book were all proved to be false, but sometimes reputations stuck.

Most of the things Kathleen debunks in this book are pure trickery. There are no “swamp gas” explanations in this book, even though Kathleen does mention similar causes of hauntings.

What I liked

I don’t think ghosts are “woo-woo.” This means I don’t think the idea of ghosts is out of the realm of natural possibility. Ghosts could be an actual thing as far as I’m concerned. Now, that doesn’t mean people don’t fake it. People fake ghosts and mysteries all the time. Are all ghost sightings fake? No, probably not, but are some of them fake? Definitely. People have used wires and machines that make little bumps on the underside of tables. People have made up elaborate stories and developed entirely new personas based on their elaborate stories. It’s a thing. Despite these people being frauds, it’s always neat to learn about them and how they tricked so many people. What made their stories so plausible? How did they pull it off?

What I didn’t like

Kathleen does not dismiss the existence of ghosts. She simply says some people faked it. What she fails to mention are other possible causes. Most of the people in this book, all of them probably, were faking it. What about swamp gas? What about psychosis? What about radon? What about sleep paralysis? Going deeper and darker–what about possible demonic possession because of an overall fostering of bad feelings in a location? Does a location have to have suffered a terrible death for there to be something bad there? These things are not viable explanations for everyone, but to some, they are.

I happen to know that the whole Amityville thing was a fraud, at least from what I’ve found through research, but I also happen to know that an acting crew who was doing a movie based on the original story was plagued by unexplained phenomena. Were they all crazy? Or did some bad spirit decide to feed off of the fear from the false story?

I mention these things to point out that there are further explanations besides “someone made it up.” Maybe it was just the wind and everybody involved wasn’t a bunch of big fakers. Honestly, I think these people were all big fakers, but that’s not the case with every ghost story a person comes across.

Overall

This was an interesting little book about the fakers of the supernatural.

Weigh In

Do you think false ghost stories could foster a real ghost?

Do you think some of these fakers believed what was going on?