Saturday, May 25, 2013

Free history ebook: "William the Conqueror" by Jacob Abbott will give you an in-depth overview of the life of one of England's most pivotal figures


Enter a courtroom in the United States today, especially New England states, and you will hear the bailiff proclaim: "Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!" That's Norman French for: "Hearken! Hearken! Hearken!"

And so the titanic influence of one man, William the Conqueror, ripples across the centuries and even an ocean to display its effect today. In the year 1066, William, the Duke of Normandy, set sail across the English channel with a mighty force, marched ashore and throttled the army of the last Saxon King, Harold, thus taking the English crown and changing western world forever.

Originally published in 1877, educator Jacob Abbott writes like a kindly history teacher speaking to class of high school seniors. His style is lucid and no nonsense. He gives you the facts, but manages to flesh out enough anecdotal and incidental information to make this a bright and interesting read -- still fresh more than 100 years after it was written.

This book, and all of Abbott's "Makers of History" series, are short treatments of famous historical figures. They are must reads for those who want a deeper understanding of the incredible people who changed the world in their day, and colored all of history. About the length of short novels, I love Abbott's history books because they inform an educate, and give you a rich perspective on history, without having to wade through a lot of dry, academic textbook-like tomes.

Do yourself a favor. Brush up on your history, maybe starting with this fine little book, William the Conqueror by Jacob Abbott. You can download the free ebook here: WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exploration of the NDE by a maverick researcher: PMH Atwater's "Near Death Experiences" provides insights that others have missed

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Think about this; The majority of top books about near death experiences are not written by fringy New Agers, but rather accomplished medical doctors or highly respected mainstream academicians.

Take that, skeptics!

Raymond Moody M.D. blew the doors open on the NDE issue with his monumental book Life After Life which came out in 1975. Professor and psychologist Kenneth Ring scored in 1980 with Life at Death. Of course, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross M.D. became practically the patron saint of the NDE movement, even though her ground-breaking 1969 book On Death and Dying never dealt with NDEs, per se. In fact, Kübler-Ross wanted to include this kind of information in her book, but her peers urged her not to, saying it would destroy the credibility of her book.

And they keep coming – the latest mega-best-selling NDE book is by Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon of fine reputation, credentials and pedigree. His book PROOF OF HEAVEN published in 2012 was on the New York Times best seller list for four weeks.

But now enter PMH ATWATER: She is an Idaho woman who began her career as a housewife, secretary and prize-winning county fair cook. But early on she began writing copy for the Idaho Department of Commerce and Development and then started contributing to a regional publication, Sunset magazine. In 1976 at age 39 she found herself suddenly a divorced mother of three – but the next year is when her life was shattered and changed forever.

In 1977 Atwater suffered a miscarriage which resulted in massive internal hemorrhaging. She experienced clinical death and a brief NDE. Two days later a blood clot brought her to the brink of death again, and another much more involved NDE ensued. Then about three months later a possible heart attack or stroke sent her beyond the veil one more time.This time she experienced an NDE of epic proportions.

As Atwater likes to say: “I died three times in 1977.

She reports many of the standard features of the NDE – a journey to a heavenly realm, meeting deceased relatives, even a conversation with none other than Jesus. (Although this is not a Christian-oriented book). She also experienced the overwhelming cosmic and universal love that composes the very fabric of all reality.

These experiences were so profound it launched her on a lifetime investigation of the NDE. Even though Raymond Moody’s book had been on the shelves for a couple of years by that time, Atwater claims to have known nothing about Moody’s work or any other NDE work that had been going on at the time.

PMH Atwater
She embarked on her own research largely uninfluenced by others. Her methods were not scientific. Rather, she employed what she called “police investigation techniques.” Her father, a professional police officer, thoroughly schooled her in the investigative methodology of cops as she was growing up and frequently hanging around the police station.

To this end, Atwater interviewed (interrogated?) more than 3,000 people who claimed to have experienced their own NDEs, and so this book, her 10th on the subject, describes her theories and conclusions about NDEs.

I have taken some pains to point out that Atwater is different from others in NDE research because it suggests her work offers a fresh look at NDEs. We might consider Atwater something of a maverick within the field. This is interesting for two reasons:

1. Unlike most others in the NDE field, she is an “experiencer” herself, and thus is coming at the subject from the inside, so to speak, rather than as an outside objective observer.

2. She is not shackled by the “group think” or materialistic bias I think we can fairly attribute to the scientific community.

Of course, not being bothered by the scientific method is both a benefit and a drawback. Science has been successful because the scientific method works and brings results. (What would you rather have when the chips are really down; hands-on faith healing or a shot of penicillin?)

On the other hand, the exploration of the NDE might be one of those areas that simply isn't accessible to the scientific method; at the very least, applying a rational-materialistic overlay to the NDE may be akin to fixing your car's transmission with a roll of duct tape.

To this end, Atwater scores a couple of major body blows against scientific skeptics of the NDE, including:

• The universal acceptance of the “tunnel phenomenon.” Atwater points out that perhaps less than 10% of all NDErs report traveling through a tunnel on their way to the “other side.” Yet, the skeptics apply this tunnel experience universally to the NDE phenomenon. They say the "tunnel" can be explained by the way brain cells shut down as their oxygen supply is depleted. But as Atwater found, most people don’t experience the tunnel – how then are they still experiencing full-blown NDEs?

• The skeptic’s explanation for NDE relies heavily on the idea that an NDE is extremely brief, and that people don’t truly die during their experience, but rather, are thrust into a deep state of unconsciousness with loss of brain function. However, Atwater points out that some people who “return from the dead” do so not after a minute or two – but sometimes after several days. There are cases of people waking up on slabs while in a morgue cooler. They displayed no vital signs or brain activity for days at a time, yet they return to normal functioning.

• Severe oxygen deprivation does not always result in brain damage. Many people have been resuscitated well beyond the point where damage to the brain can be expected – yet they return without a hint of brain damage. Atwater contents the brain-oxygen connection is not well understood and is often misinterpreted by medical science.

• Scientists are coming at the issue with the assumption that all knowledge and experience is generated from within the brain – while there is good evidence from a variety of fields to suggest that knowledge and information may originate outside the brain, and the brain rather works like a radio receiver and organizer of knowledge that is “out there.”

And there’s more – including Atwater’s extremely excellent point that skeptics are failing to consider all the evidence – especially in documenting the long-term after effects of the NDE. That includes the deep personality changes that are displayed over a lifetime. Typical of science, it tends to focus in on and look too narrowly at certain factors, points of data and observed phenomenon. The method is radically reductionist– and this causes skeptics to simply disregard vast sums of data that are relevant to the overall phenomenon.

Unfortunately, Atwater in the later chapters veers off wildly into Fruitloop-O-Topia, making larger observations that, from my point of view, border on the bizarre.

For example, Atwater contends that millions of people experiencing NDEs is actually a form of consciousness evolution and is responsible for a new breed of advanced, highly intelligent children (born since 1982) emerging into our society with superior abilities. That’s complete and unsupportable nonsense.

But she makes other bizarre claims as well – such as suggesting that the downfall of Maoist China was triggered by Tangshan earthquake in 1976 which killed more than 242,000 people. Atwater contends that potentially thousands of people who survived the quake experienced NDEs and thus fueled with their expanded consciousness the transformation of China. Well, if that’s true, then Atwater must also explain why China today is veering toward large-scale environmental collapse as it pursues an aggressive, militaristic, paranoid and virulent form of hyper-capitalism that is rapidly polluting our beautiful green earth -- and on such a massive scale that it may push the entire planet to the brink of a black, gritty, dystopia.

There are other 100% inane observations as well –such as saying that Pluto has suddenly changed its color and that the other planets are also brightening – say what? – and even if this is true, how is this relevant to the NDE?

It’s not. It’s just nutty.

The good and the fascinating of NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE: THE REST OF THE STORY far outweigh the flights of fancy and the David Wilcock-like lunacy that comes forth in the final chapters.

Even so, I say you buy it and read it. It’s a significant and worthy contribution to the NDE field of literature.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA


Friday, May 10, 2013

Free science fiction Kindle book: Forbidden the Stars by Valmore Daniels is an enjoyable read with a few problems, but who cares? It's fun.

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Hey, I’m an equal opportunity book reviewer. I read a lot of high class literature and an equal amount of low-brow schlock. And you know what’s interesting? I find that either category can be highly entertaining, or a depressing drag.

Upon reading FORBIDDEN THE STARS I found myself enjoying a light-weight heap of pure science fiction fun. I was joyfully carried away by this fast-pace romp across the solar system. However, after I finished the last page, all of the things that are wrong with the book began to gnaw at my critical mind, and I began to feel dirty inside.

It’s a strange feeling. It’s like, “Well, I really enjoyed that, but I shouldn't have.” But that’s ridiculous. If a writer can provide you with a few hours of enjoyment, why raise a stink? Why pick it apart? If you enjoy it – it's mission accomplished.

But seriously, I think there is more right with this book than wrong. First the good:

1. Pacing: Despite the droopy opening chapters, author VALMORE DANIELS quickly hits his stride, gets his plot in gear and this book takes off like an interstellar spaceship. Things start happening, cliff hangers get hung, problems are presented, characters strive to overcome them, and we cheer them on.

2. Good science: One of the biggest problems with most science fiction books today is that few writers are trying, or even making the merest pretense of providing some solid plausibility by including some speculative background science – speculative science that is grounded in real science.

Good “hard science fiction” should have a certain techno-geek element, and Daniels delivers that in spades. His theoretical description of a new element that can deliver faster-than-light travel is super wonky, technical, yet believable. He gets high marks on this from me. I like it when science fiction writers make an effort.

3. Plot: The plot is intricate, yet hangs together with ease. I like a complex plot, which is nevertheless easy to follow. While Daniels’ plot is highly derivative – meaning it’s not all that original -- it is well-executed.

4. Science-fictiony feel: Can is say, “science-fictiony?” Well, I just did. But you know what I mean. Those of us who dig science fiction love getting immersed in that feeling of being in a futuristic world of space ships that are flitting out and about among the planets of the solar system. There’s cool gadgetry, robotics and all that. Boffo!

Now let’s talk about the bad:

1. Characters: The characters in this book are as thin as hydrogen gas. With the slight exception of the pivotal character, young Alex Manez, the rest of the characters are bland cookie cutters that lack depth. What depth they do have is generated by one big cliché after another.

2. Unfinished business: There is a major plot element in this book that absolutely inexplicably gets left hanging. I can’t describe it because it would require a “spoiler warning.” So let me put the issue behind behind by asking this question:

“Hey, Valmore Daniels! What in the Sam hell happened to Chow Yin! I mean, seriously, what happened to him, Dude?”

There, it felt good to get that off my chest.

3. Plot: Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I include “plot” as one of the good aspects? Yes, but I am also going to complain mightily here that the plot is highly, highly derivative. Anyone who has ever one of Ben Bova’s “Tour of the Solar System” series of books – will find this book a weak imitation of the masterful Bova style and his conception of a near-future universe where space travel is robust and developing.

4.The title: “Forbidden the Stars?” Man, that’s corny!

But – let's just admit it -- this is a terrific read that delivered a neutron-star-load of fun and entertainment for me. I loved it. Get a copy, kick back and enjoy the interplanetary ride!

(NOTE: As of this writing, this book was being offered on as a free Kindle selection HERE).

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA