Television Pandering

PBS ‘History Detectives’ Goes Paranormal

I still happen to think it’s deplorable and even morally wrong for the entertainment industry to pander to unfounded fears and superstitions of undereducated people who, for lack of better grounding in history and the sciences, actually believe in ghosts, monsters, and extraterrestial aliens infiltrating Earth.

This stuff is coming to PBS, but it’s straight out of the History Channel mindset:

PBS History Detectives

As early as the 1870s, Edison and other scientific minds explored psychic phenomena like mediums. They believed every living being was made of atoms that could “remember” past lives.

Did Edison make a machine to unlock the secrets of the dead? The wax cylinders could hold the answer. History Detectives travels to the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park in New Jersey to find out.

The key concept here is the framing of the question “Did Edison make a machine to unlock the secrets of the dead?”

It’s a matter of historical fact that Edison and many of his contemporaries were involved in “paranormal” research. A Google search on ‘Thomas Edison paranormal’ is instructive if you want to take a quick look.

But when a supposedly reputable 21st-century broadcaster asks the carney barker’s question “did Edison raise the dead?”, intelligent people don’t have to click the link and watch the video to find out, because we know a priori he couldn’t have, and therefore didn’t. The real question becomes: if the question isn’t aimed at the intelligent, who is it aimed at? Continue reading

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Electrocution: Copper-theft suspect in critical condition

Copper-theft suspect in critical condition
Brent Whiting
The Arizona Republic
May. 25, 2007 12:00 AM

A man suspected of trying to steal about $20 worth of copper remained in critical condition Thursday after being shocked by 12,000 volts of electricity, authorities said.

“The next 72 hours will be key to his survival,” said Firefighter Daniel Valenzuela, a Glendale Fire Department spokesman. He added, “To be honest, we don’t understand how this person is still living.”

I never met the individual, but I almost did. He’d been recommended to me for a home professional service. By the time I called for a quote, he was already in critical care in the burn unit. I later learned about the copper incident.

My strongest response remains best wishes for his family, none of whom I know, and my hope for a full recovery.

We’ve all heard on television how copper’s value as a commodity has made copper theft an increasing problem. This is the other side of the story. People sometimes think they know how to handle “live” wires, but utility wires carry hundreds of times the voltage of ordinary house wiring.

Not that anyone should steal copper at all, but I’d like to see future news coverage of copper theft that emphasizes the particularly terrible danger of live electrical wires.

I don’t personally feel comfortable moralizing just now on the value of finding ways to make ends meet that don’t involve theft, as investigators suspect was the case with the victim, who was wearing climbing gear when found dangling on the utility pole by firefighters arriving to put out a brush fire caused by arcing of the fallen electrical line. The fact that I disapprove seems beside the point at the moment. Second and third degree burns over most of one’s body is a horrible price to pay for twenty bucks of copper.

Thinking of yourself for a second, when a service provider is recommended by a friend, they can only tell you how their home service experience went. Do your own due diligence. Ask for and check customer references when getting quotes for professional services.

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