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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 31, 2011 / 1 Elul, 5771

It was only a paper moon , but a legendary hoax

By John Kass

John Kass


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Of all the hoaxes in American history, my favorite involves the first "scientific" proof of life on the moon: The winged humanoids called Vespertilio-homo, or man-bat, written 176 years ago this month in the New York Sun.

The Vespertilio-homo had copper-colored hair. They prayed in a sapphire temple. And when they weren't flying high above the lunar surface, they gorged on fruit that looked like red cucumbers.

They shared the moon with other creatures, great white stags with ebony antlers, horned bears, blue unicorns and beavers without tails. As there were no meat eaters among them, they lived together peacefully.

It was all published as scientific fact in a six-part series that began in the Sun on Aug. 25, 1835. And if you've ever watched TV news during sweeps weeks and had the good fortune to see reports like "Killer High Heels," then you know what was behind the bat men. And it wasn't science.

The amazing findings were possible because of the giant telescope built by the famous and distinguished (and all too real) astronomer Sir John Frederick William Herschel.

There was just one thing wrong with the story. It wasn't true. Sir John didn't know about it. But that didn't bother the editors of the Sun.

What intrigued me about the series , besides the cool stuff about the creatures and their habits , was the religious nature of the bat men.

Did they keep records in their temples detailing the collapse of past bat-man civilizations? And could these learned texts help us earthlings predict the future down here?

If only the Vespertilio-homo knew we were watching, perhaps they'd look up, wave at the big telescope and, with hopeful smiles and rude sign language, begin to share their secrets.

Actually, I didn't read that sign language part in the series. I just made it up.

But here's what the Sun did report: When they weren't praying or flying, great posses of Verspertilio-homo would relax and sit alongside huge piles of the juicy red cucumbers, eating them "with a rather uncouth voracity, throwing away the rind."

And "they spend their happy hours in collecting various fruits eating, flying, bathing and loitering about the summits of precipices."

Clearly, there must have been beautiful female bat babes, too, but there is precious little mentioned about them.

Ulf Jonas Bjork is a professor of journalism at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. He's studied the New York Sun's great moon hoax, so we called him.

"This was obviously very sensational," said professor Bjork. "Some of the other papers bought into this, some said it was implausible."

The professor noted the public fascination with science in that era, and said the Sun had previously printed a wood carving of creatures found in a drop of water as seen under a microscope. That stuff wasn't fantasy, of course, because amoeba and paramecia can be found in pond water, as any sixth-grader will tell you.

"I wonder if it was about as believable as winged creatures on the moon," said Bjork. "People were interested in weird things. We didn't know a lot. And people were fascinated by odd things."

Most newspapers were entirely devoted to policy (war and economic) and politics. They sold for six cents each. But the Sun was a penny paper, a sort of "news of the weird," running salacious crime and other stories, like bat men.

"It's not a newspaper as we would know it, necessarily," said Bjork.

Sadly, the Sun reported, the amazing telescope was destroyed. The paper never made a formal retraction. There is plenty of speculation that the series was written as satire, by a Cambridge-educated reporter fed up with clergy making fanciful statements about the number of souls in the universe.

It didn't work as satire, but the readers went crazy for it anyway. And had I been around then, I'd have gone crazy for it too.

Make no mistake. I'm not advocating journalism hoaxes. But when I was a kid I was a sucker for science fiction, from Jules Verne to Robert Heinlein. So I heard about the New York moon hoax and was fascinated. Of course, it wasn't the first tale of moon life.

Back in the second century after Christ, a guy named Lucian of Samosata , after admitting his work was all lies , went on to explain about interplanetary travel, of mushroom men and centaurs made up of clouds. Humans on the moon ate roasted frogs and "their drink is air squeezed into a cup, which produces a kind of dew."

Of course it does.

Fast forward about 1,600 years, to the early days of the New York Sun. Cultural change was tearing at America. Cyrus McCormick had invented his famous reaper, industrialization was coming, another religious revival was sweeping across the land. And publicly held Christian beliefs strengthened the abolitionist argument against slavery. That's my take on things.

Professor Bjork believes that the slavery debate swelling across the country made the moon hoax an attractive diversion. Maybe New Yorkers just needed a break.

"I'm only speculating," said Bjork, "but maybe it didn't matter to them whether it was a hoax or not, because it was fun."

And what's wrong with taking a break once in awhile? That's what science fiction is for.

Just pass the red cucumbers, will you?

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.



Previously:



05/27/11: For 2012, it's Obama vs. the smoothies
05/05/11: Is it time to de-friend Pakistan?
04/12/11: China stretches the bounds of decency with cow-human-breast milk
03/23/11: No you're not in control; get over it
02/28/11: Chicago wanted a strongman, and it got one
01/26/11: Oh, c'mon, c'mon, Rahm-bo a victim? That's a stretch
12/13/10: WikiLeaks and Assange pretend there are no consequences
12/09/10: Trendy toys don't stand up to playthings of yore
10/11/10: Obama and his pals need some scarce Hopium for the next election
09/14/10: Obama gets a little bossy with tacit endorsement of Emanuel
08/18/10: Dead Meat walking, but heat to be applied again
07/28/10: No verdict, but Blagojevich trial still has its winners, losers
07/26/10: Obama's fall guy in Shirley Sherrod case is Vilsack the Pooh
07/21/10: Loathing of Steinbrenner softens after his death
07/19/10: Summertime, and the race cards are easy
06/28/10: Does Congress have the guts to fix what court gutted? Honestly, no
12/17/09: Belt-tightening presidential aspirant leaves room for Spam
09/27/09: ACORN can teach the GOP a thing or 2
09/03/09: Blago as author gets it wrong yet again 06/22/09: Obama's latest political play should shock no one
06/17/09: Presidential satire takes Hopium break
06/11/09: E-Verify works, so, of course, let's not use it
06/09/09: First Lady Macbeth's the man, so in your face, Eminem
06/02/09: Judge Sotomayor would think me most unwise
05/12/09: Parents, enjoy this time, in all its creepiness
03/18/09: Stem cell policy shift brings a sinking feeling
03/09/09: Name That Blago Book contest names its winner
03/05/09: Contest: Name Blagojevich's book
02/16/09: Dems undercut aid for U.S. workers
01/20/09: Let the carving begin on Tombstone's tomb
01/12/09: Obama serves Reid taste of Chicago Way
01/02/09: Jesters don't pick up the race card in a nationally televised news conference and slam it into the face of every Dem in the Senate, a palm heel strike to the tip of the nose, leaving all of them watery-eyed, their lips stinging
12/24/08: Governor waxes poetic, but Combine rolls on
12/23/08: Got corruption? Get Jesse Junior G-Man
12/18/08: Will ‘feditis’ spread to Obama and Daley?
12/15/08: Man behind curtain is wizard of Rod, Rahm

© 2011, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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