Review of AHMM: 13 Tales of New American Gothic

17703880._UY400_SS400_Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents: 13 Tales of New American Gothic
by Elaine Menge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very enjoyable collection of ghost and weird stories that span several genres, everything from paranormal/science fiction to historical mystery. The highlights for me were “The Wall” by Rhys Bowen and “Ten Thousand Cold Nights,” by James Lincoln Warren. The latter is a Japanese themed ghost story that, while not a historical mystery per se, incorporates a good deal of Japanese history.

“The Gorilla Murders,” by O’Neil De Noux, also deserves honorable mention–a historical mystery set in New Orleans. It pays homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

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The Key to Altruistic Reciprocity: Religion?

I wondered back in grad school while reading about the evolutionary origins of speech and music if religion hadn’t played a role in the evolution of civilization, and more to the point, man’s desire to be charitable to his fellow man. I remember reading that evolutionary scientists had struggled to discover why people were charitable. Game-theory experiments result in a single selfish player adulterating the entire population within a handful of generations.

The idea really congealed for me several years back when I traveled to Japan for the first time. That was my first encounter with a Buddhist culture, and I saw that karma played the same role in a Buddhist culture that the concept of an all-knowing God does in western society—that is, it gave people a reason to be honest and play fairly. If our pre-historic ancestors developed a fear that they would be punished, either by karma or an all-seeing/all-knowing God, then even the selfish might have followed the rules in exchanges of altruism. And it’s precisely these rules that make society work.

A biological-wiring theory might explain the prevalence and resilience of religious belief around the world, even in light of overwhelming evidence regarding the inaccuracy of virtually every religious origin mythology.

It might also explain cultural phenomena, such as the fact that people, even the non-religious, statistically have difficulty trusting atheists.

Anyway, it’s fascinating to see that evolutionary psychologists are pursuing this line of reasoning.

On Trump’s Tweets . . .

If his tweets seem oddly and unintentionally comical, remember they’re not for you. Understand them the way you understand pronouncements from North Korea—that is, intended for a constituency that lives in a bubble—only receiving information from its leader and lacking access to reliable media.

The sad thing being that for Trump voters, the bubble is willfully self-imposed.

Trump Nominees: Coached to Feign Autonomy?

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (right) arrives with former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., for a meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Wednesday.; Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images Ted Robbins

NPR Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch told a U.S. senator today that he found President Trump’s recent attacks on judges to be “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Gorsuch made the comments during a private meeting and was quoted later by Democratic Sen.

Source: Gorsuch calls Trump tweets about judges ‘demoralizing’ and ‘disheartening’

Senator Schumer indicated last night on The Rachel Maddow Show that these comments were solicited from the SCOTUS nominee by the Democrats. As such, to say the President’s behavior is “disheartening” amounts to more of a coaxed admittance of wrongdoing than a disappointed rebuke of the President’s egregious and threatening attitude towards our judiciary.

The people of the United States can take no solace from Gorsuch’s comments that he will be anything but a shill for Trump—as are all of Trump’s other nominees.

It really speaks to the dire state of things that the former Exxon CEO in the cabinet is among the least problematic of the nominees.

FYI to Wall Street: Support This President at Your Business’s Peril


In light of this:

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is a member of President Donald Trump’s economic advisory team, called the Strategic and Policy Forum.

via “Protesters blocked Uber headquarters because of its ties to Trump

I’ve deleted my Uber account, and I recommend that anyone who cares about civil liberties or the rule of law do the same.

And as if Kalanick’s proximity to the Trump administration weren’t reason enough, yesterday when this happened:

Trump issued a sweeping immigration order on Friday, banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. By Saturday afternoon, protests had sprung up at airports around the country, where more than 100 visa holders were in limbo after the executive order.
In solidarity, the New York City Taxi Worker’s Alliance called for a complete stop to pickups from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at JFK airport, where two Iraqis were being detained.

via “Why #DeleteUber is trending”

Uber tried to undermine the protest by doing this:

So, from now on, I’ll be using Lyft:

Hours after the controversy popped, fierce rival Lyft announced that it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is battling Trump’s ban on travelers from certain primarily Muslim countries.

Lyft’s co-founders aggressively assailed the Trump policy, while Uber’s CEO was mildly critical.

“Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values,” Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green said in a blog post. “We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”

via “Lyft gives ACLU $1M to fight Trump travel ban as #DeleteUber trend erupts”

A Question for George R.R. Martin

I want to ask George R.R. Martin something. When he started writing the series A Song of Ice and Fire, and he was looking for inspiration for a certain boy king, did he have an orange, reality-TV personality in mind?

The similarity between the two psychological profiles is uncanny.

Moby Dick: The Royal-Clothing Test of Literature

Also at LitHub is a lengthy collection of different books that have been hailed as the great American novel (it’s Moby-Dick) and why they have been called such (it’s still Moby-Dick).

via The revision strategies of 12 different writers are revealing and totally fascinating – Vox

When I hear someone tout Moby Dick as the “Great American Novel,” I know I’m dealing with someone who is more interested in parading literary acumen and identifying with book culture than in evaluating literature or good writing. I mean, we’re talking about a book that has about 15,000 words of story sandwiched between multiple chapters on the technical aspects of whaling, with one chapter that is the 19th century equivalent of a musical theater number thrown in for good measure. The soupçon of plot in Melville’s novel could have produced a momentous short story, but fails spectacularly as a novel. As it stands, it’s an exercise in overwriting and, what’s more egregious, a waste of the reader’s time.

And before you trot out that line about the differences in readership attention between Melville’s time and our own, I’ll draw your attention to Melville’s contemporary (and friend, for that matter) Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose work is tightly-plotted and well-edited, as good writing should be.

So please, spare me your specious accolades for a book you only pretend to like because your schoolmarm told you it was good literature. Try reading it again, but this time, open your eyes and evaluate it for what it is. In other words, think for yourself—just a little bit.