Author - Paul Schatzkin

That’s Me Up On The Jukebox (2)

The Higherside Chats

I did another podcast interview that was released this week.

A lot of this will be familiar to you if you tuned into the first one.  

But this time the Greg Carlwood went a little deeper into ‘The Caroline Group’ and some of the, umm… more… ah… conspiratorial? … aspects of the Townsend Brown story.

And I got to expound a little further on the place where the Philo Farnsworth and Townsend Brown stories dovetail together…

Listen on Apple Podcasts:

The Higherside Chats

 

Today’s Guest: Paul Schatzkin is a biographer of obscure 20th century scientists. He has written “The Boy Who Invented Television” about Philo T. Farnsworth and “The Man Who Mastered Gravity” about T. Townsend Brown. Together, the two stories hint at – as science fiction pioneer Eden Philpotts predicted – a “Universe of magical things, patiently waiting for your wits to grow sharper.”

 

Listen on Spotify:

A Tale of Two Biographies (Part 1)

Philo. T. Farnsworth and T. Townsend Brown

 

The initial impulse was innocent enough. 

After Apple canned me in January ’22 and I had nothing but time on my hands, I started to wonder two things: 1) what to do with the time and 2) how to restore that little bit of income, which for five years had made the difference between living on ‘portfolio income’ and running out of capital before I run out of breath.  

A couple of months after I’d hung up my Apple T-shirts I got a check from the self-publishing service called ‘Lulu.com‘ – which I’d used to publish the unfinished Townsend Brown biography after I abandoned the project back in 2009.  The check was not very much, maybe $60 or $80 for a quarter.

Necessity being the mother of invention stories, that was enough to get me wondering: if I dusted off the manuscript, could that trickle be turned into an actual stream?

By then I’d had Mike Williams’ rewrite for several years.  I tried to do something with it when Mike first presented it to me in 2018, but I didn’t have the patience then for the very granular work of restoring my ‘voice’ to the expedited narrative Mike had distilled. 

It’s not like I’d ever stoped thinking about what-the-hell had happened back in 2009 – when my collaboration with Brown’s daugther went off the rails, when the only interested agent rejected the proposal, saying “there’s no meat on the bones” – when I closed the book and put it away.  I did expect I might return to it some day.  I just didn’t think it would be another twelve years. 

Still, over the ensuing years I found myself returning to certain themes I could dwell on and some story points I could focus on.  

My computer workstation

The Room Where It Happened.

With nothing but time on my hands (and, more importantly, no co-habitant  telling me not to) I re-visited the files in the spring of 2022. 

I opened three windows on my 27″ display: my 2009 manuscript, Mike’s 2018 rewrite, and a new window where I cobbled the pieces back together.  It took about six months to reconcile my original manuscript with the Mike’s scaled down version.  

Fast forward to this recent spring.  With the help of designers in Pakistan and Bangladesh I found through Fiverr.com, I had a book ready to upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. 

I didn’t stop there.  

Not only had I thought a lot about the themes running through the Townsend Brown story, I also thought a lot about what that story had in common with the Philo Farnsworth story that was published back in 2002.⁠1  And it occurred to me that so much has happened since that book was first published that it was time for an update – and a new introduction to explore what ties the two books together.   

These two stories – Farnsworth and Brown – are like swamp creatures crawling out of the priordial soup of 20th century cosmology – that bubbling cauldron of novel thinking from the likes of Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Schroedinger and all the others that gave us Relativty and Quantum Mechanics. 

For example: You might be surprised to learn that Albert Einstein did not win his Nobel Prize in 1921 for either his Theories of Relativey or E=mc2.  No, Einstein won his Nobel for the first paper he published in 1905 on the Photoelectric Effect.  

You’ll be hearing a lot about the bomb and E=mc2  in a few weeks when the big feature film Oppenheimer is released.  In the meantime, think about this: 

E=mc2 gave us the atomic bomb, but the Photoelectric Effect gave us television and every video screen on the planet (including the one you are looking at now). 

Both came out of the New Cosmology of the 20th Century.  

Now I have two books in circulation.  They both draw from that well. 

And now, this: Last month Amazon put more money in my bank account than I have ever earned from something I created and put into the world⁠.2

At the ripe age of 72, I am actually earning a living (well, subsidizing my retirement) as an author.  I’m not certain yet that the model is sustainable, but I’ve been learning how to run ads on Amazon and the results are quite encouraging.  

Who’da thunk⁠3?  

In addition to the targeted advertising I’ve been doing on Amazon (thanks again, Holly Butler), I have also been interviewed for a couple of podcasts in the past few weeks, and each conversation has given me an opportunity to articulate some of the not-yet-fully-formed things I’ve been thinking about since I went back down the rabbit hole last year.  

You can read all about that in “A Tale of Two Biographies, Part 2.   

Or you could watch the trailer for Oppenheimer:

CYA at the bijou… and bring plenty of popcorn, it’s long one!

_______________________

1 Isn’t it curious that the Farnsworth book was published the last time I got fired from a job – when Gaylord took songs.com out to the woodshed and put it out of their misery?

2 songs.com not withstanding – that was mostly an aid to others putting their creative  work into the world.

3 Certainly not my ex-wife.

Hey Mister, That’s Me…

…up on the jukebox*!

My last post here was a couple of weeks ago after I learned that the Mysterious Universe podcast had been talking about my new book, The Man Who Mastered Gravity. 

I contacted the host/producers of Mysterious Universe, and we spent more than two hours talking about the Townsend Brown biography and my earlier (recently re-released) bio of Philo T. Farnsworth, The Boy Who Invented Television.  This was really the first opportunity I’ve had to talk about how the two stories dovetail to suggest a single story of forbidden science (fusion and gravity control) and the veil of mysteries surrounding both men.

Here are links if you listen via Apple Podcasts:

Paul Schatzkin joins us in this episode to explore his remarkable research on the obscure historical figures of Philo T. Farnsworth and Thomas Townsend Brown. We delve deeply into the narratives of these men, who pioneered technologies that revolutionized the world, while also contemplating some of the unrevealed technological advancements. Did Farnsworth unlock the enigma of fusion energy? Was Brown connected to a clandestine, highly advanced group?

..or here if you listen to podcasts on Spotify:

I am rather surprised and delighted that both books are starting to sell. It’s not huge numbers by any stretch, but I’ve been learning how to run ads on Amazon and get them to show up when users are searching related titles.  I’m also working on tying my books into the release of the expected-to-be-a-blockbuster feature Oppenheimer when it comes out this summer:

*

I have been thinking a lot about what ties all these stories together: that all the science involved begins with Einstein in 1905.

Townsend Brown was born in 1905, Philo Farnsworth in 1906.  So both men were “relativity natives.” Like kids today who grew up with computers and smartphones and are considered ‘digital natives’ – these men who were born in the first decade of the 20th century never knew a world where relativity and its related discoveries didn’t exist.

At the very least, the breakthrough theories that led to the atomic bomb also led to electronic video – yes, the the screen you’re looking at now.   Even though video is by far the more common and useful technology (lemme check… nope, no a-bomb in my pocket), that connection is largely lost to history. That is mostly because  corporate greed and public relations swept Philo Farnsworth under the rug of history after the 1940s.

And Townsend Brown?  Who the hell knows what happened there.  I’ve been on that story for twenty years now and still have more questions than answers.

You can get a better idea what I’m driving at here:

Television: The Theory of Relativity in Our Living Rooms

Such are the things I think about…

___________

*And in case you don’t recognize the song, Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox, listen to James Taylor from the album Mud Slide Slim (from 1971 –back when he, like me, still had hair:

First Podcast Coverage:
The ‘Mysterious Universe’

The Mysterious Universe Podcast - featuring Townsend Brown

I’m not exactly sure how this came to pass, but I learned this week that The Man Who Mastered Gravity has been discussed at considerable length on the Mysterious Universe podcast.

You can find the podcast here.

Discussion of the Townsend Brown story begins about 38:20 in – after some discussion of something called “The Ghost Moose.’  I guess that’s one thing I can cross off the bucket list: playing second-fiddle to a ‘ghost moose.’

Mysterious Universe is a very popular and long-standing podcast, ranking #5 in Apple’s listings of social science podcasts.  From the listing:

Always interesting and often hilarious, join hosts Aaron Wright and Benjamin Grundy as they investigate the latest in futurology, weird science, consciousness research, alternative history, cryptozoology, UFOs, and new-age absurdity.

Just a quick scroll through the Mysterious Universe home page displays the depth and breadth of this podcast and its affiliated enterprises. These guys cover a lot of territory,  some of it within the wheelhouse of my work (i.e. ‘lost science’ outside the realm of orthodoxy) and some of it, let’s be charitable and just say, ummm…. not so much.

Most of the discussion that is freely available is a recap of the early chapters of the book.  There is a further discussion that gets into The Caroline Group and the rest of the story, but that’s behind a prescription paywall.

Gratitude

I have reached out to the producers of Mysterious Universe to see if I can get access to the subscriber-only edition. And (perish the thought!) offering myself up for an interview.

As I said, I don’t know how this came about, or how the book fell into their hands. I’m just glad that it did.

Yesterday, I listened to the episode in my – and had something of a moment.  I listen to dozens of podcasts.  I rarely listen to radio any more, just podcasts.  And too often I’m listening with a twinge of envy, like “hey, I’ve written books… I’m interesting… why doesn’t anybody want to talk to me?”

So yesterday… finally! Hearing my own name and work mentioned in a credible manner was the most ‘external validation’ I’ve had for about twenty years.  I know, we’re not supposed to rely on ‘external validation,’ we’re always just supposed to believe in our own work and purpose and just forge on in obscurity.

Well, fuck that.  It’s nice to know that somebody else finds merit in the work.

I think there is more to come.  Stay tuned.

*** Wisdom From A Typewriter #69 ***

WFAT 69 - Kara Swisher

I used to think Kara Swisher is a bit of a blowhard.  I’d listen to some of her interview/podcasts and think “shut up, Kara, and let your guest talk.”  It seemed she always had more to say than whoever she was interviewing.

That is still often the case, but I’ve warmed up to her, particularly since I started listening to the Pivot podcast with Scott Galloway. I listen to Pivot mostly to hear from Galloway.  Don’t anybody tell him, but he’s a Staunch McLuhanist, too.

I found this week’s Wisdom From A Typewriter in this profile in Vanity Fair.

Also, apparently, she lives with a relative of Buster’s:

Kara Swisher, cat person

Kara Swisher, cat person

 

We’re Number One !!

The Man Who Mastered Gravity has earned a #1 Listing on Amazon.com

I discovered last week that The Man Who Mastered Gravity is rocketing to the top of the charts on Amazon.com .

(…in the admittedly narrow category of “New Releases in Nuclear Weapons & Warfare History” but… who’s counting? A win is a win.  Take the win.)

If you are among the faithful who have purchased a copy of the book….

First, THANK YOU.

Second, if you find the material worthy, it would be great if you’d take a minute to rate or review the book on Amazon.

I thank you and Buster thanks you.

Buster thanks you for reading my book and posting a review on Amazon!

Buster thanks you for reading my book and posting a review on Amazon!

Anybody Wanna Buy A Book?

Townsend Brown - The Man Who Mastered Gravity - now 'live' on Amazon.com

(This is a cross-post of an item posted to ttbrown.com on March 18, 2023)

“Writing a book is adventure to begin with. It’s a toy and amusement; then it becomes a mistress and then it becomes a master and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

– Winston Churchill

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The deed. Is. Done.

I can’t believe I’m saying this… it’s been such a long haul, and for a minute there it felt like the universe was putting up an impenetrable goal-line defense.

But the deed. Is DONE.

As of yesterday morning (Saturday March 18, 2023), all three versions of the The Man Who Mastered Gravity are available from Amazon. com. <– That’s the link.

That’s hardcover ($29.99), softcover ($19.99) and Kindle edition ($9.99).

What can I say other than, “I hope y’all will run right out (well, actually, sit right down) and buy a copy – and leave a glowing review on Amazon!”

Please note, the hardcover and softcover editions are print on demand (PoD), so delivery times are a tad longer than typical Amazon titles that are pre-printed and sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

I guess this is what the self-publishing gurus call a ‘soft launch.’  I don’t think of it so much as a ‘launch’ as just, well… like Churchill said, flinging it out to the public.

I am reasonably certain this edition is 98% perfect in terms of proofreading.  I just haven’t found the other 2% yet.  I was still finding typos etc. right up until I uploaded the files, so I am sure there are still some waiting to be detected.  If readers will point them out to me, I’ll round ’em up and fix as many as I can all once.

The title has also been established with IngramSpark, which will distribute the print editions to bookstores if there is any demand.

Demand.  Right.

Now comes the hard part.

In Case Anybody Has Been Wondering…

Cover mock up of Townsend Brown biography 'The Man Who Mastered Gravity'

….what I’ve been up to…?

Mostly this.

This long-ago-abandoned project resurfaced in the months after I got fired from Apple.  I suddenly found myself with all of my time on my hands.  I dunno, maybe that’s a dangerous thing – quite arguable in this case, since the project continues to be a bottomless rabbit hole in which there is quite possibly no rabbit.  Or maybe the rabbit is a squirrel. Still beats the fuck out of me.

Even though I set it aside – quite abruptly – back in 2009, this story always lurked in the back of my mind.  When I ‘published’ the first draft of the manuscript that I’d written between 2005 and 2008 (Q: What’s that book about? A: About 500 pages…) I did it under the masthead of ‘Embassy Books and Laundry.’ That was a callback to a front-business that Townsend Brown and his wife operated in the 1950s when he said he was ‘done with science.’  I wasn’t done with the book, either, but I didn’t think it would be thirteen years before I returned to it.

I worked on the manuscript all summer and into the fall.  I whittled 200,000 words down to about 100,000.  I don’t know if what’s left tells the story, but it tells a story.

In December I sent it to a volunteer from my fusion website for proofreading. I got the file back from him at the end of January, and then had to spend a couple of weeks sorting through the fixes, prepping the illustrations and fixing the endnotes.

Last Saturday (February 11 – Thomas Edison’s birthday), I sent the file to a layout/designer in Pakistan.  That was a bit of a monumental moment, representing nearly twenty years of thought and effort since I first went down the rabbit hole in 2003.   (Incidentally, I found the layout/designer in Pakistan, and the woman who created the cover from Bangladesh, on Fiverr.com).

In some ways, getting this book out there is the culmination of the primary theme of my life has been for almost fifty years. There is a thread through these two stories, and maybe a reason that they’re tied together.

I don’t know, really, what it all amounts to.

I just know I have to be careful, because I still don’t believe a lot of the things I think.

BTW, if anybody wants a copy when it’s finally ready, I’ll send you one if you’ll write a review on Amazon.  I’m imagining an April 1 publication date.  April Fools Day.

*

People sometimes ask me if I cook for myself, and my usual weisenheimer answer is ‘well, I prepare meals, I don’t know if I’d call it ‘cooking’ exactly…

But last week I made chicken tikka masala from scratch and it turned out pretty well.  I have a mason jar of sauce in the fridge so it’ll last me awhile.  I don’t generally do photos of my food, but this is what the cooktop looked like before I started the cleanup:

messy stove top

I can make a mess with the best of ’em

*

It’s either been a mild winter – or a late one.

Storms that have devastated other parts of the region just left a nice sheen in my neighborhood:

I dunno if I mentioned but I started reading Shakespeare last year.  First Saturday of each month I meet up with the good folks from the Nashville Shakespeare Festival to read one the plays.  Last month was “Much Ado About Nothing.”  This month is “As You Like It.” Some evenings I sit in the treehouse while the sun sets and read a scene or two:

These winter sunsets from the treehouse are pretty colorful.

In the meantime, life goes on out here in West Bumfuque.

And, yes, I leave the ‘Winter Lights’ up until Daylight Savings starts again.

*

Oh, and, one other thing.  That pop-popping sound you hear?  Pickleball.  I’ve been playing a couple of hours nearly every day since last summer.  I am powerless over pickleball and my life has become unmanageable, but I impress myself with my septuagenarian ability to nimbly chase after the balls I just missed.

*

Back to the new book, and it’s extension of the focus that started with the first book

I think a lot about what a weird destiny this has turned out to be, a life preoccupied with these two obscure, esoteric subjects.  I need to write more about that, and what ties these two stories together – if I can ever figure out what it is exactly I’m thinking. Or, more precisely, find the nerve to actually say it.

Which often reminds me of this:

**** Wisdom From A Typewriter No. 4 **** www.wisdomfromatypewriter.com 2016

Wisdom From A Typewriter No. 4, from  2016

*** Wisdom From A Typewriter #68 ***

Quote from Marc Maron

From Marc Maron’s conversation with Terry Gross on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ – February 16, 2023.

That’s as good a reason as I can think of for my divorce.

Hard to believe it’s been four years already. Haven’t spoken to her since.

That’s all.

See all the WFATs here: wisdomfromatypewriter.com

PS: I watched Maron’s HBO special ‘From Bleak to Dark‘ last night.  A lotta laugh-out-louds.  I’ve always respected Marc Maron from a distance, never really dove into him, but after seeing this special I’m more of a fan.  He scores a lot of subtle points without the usual yelling that too many comics rely on.  He might be this generation’s George Carlin

A Lot Of People My Age…

… are dead. 

Ken Shane ca. 2016

I got a text message from my sister a couple of days ago, informing me that Kenny Shane – a classmate from  the Columbia High School class of 1969 – has died.  I looked for an obituary online but haven’t found one yet. 

I remember Ken Shane because we shared a few interests in junior high. First it was slot cars and, later, music (which is a euphemism for ‘girls’).  I recall Ken as a drummer, though I don’t remember what bands he might have played with.  Max Weinberg was the drummer in our class.  He went on to play with some other guy from New Jersey, Bruce somebody.  

I encountered Ken on Facebook some years ago. We traded the occasional Like or comment.  By then he was a regular contributor to an online music publication called Popdose, and a singer/songwriter.  He sent me a CD he made (Spotify link).  I listened to it. Once.

We chatted a little at our last class reunion in the fall of 2019… the 50 year reunion.  Fortunately he didn’t ask me about that CD.

Ken Shane’s last Facebook post was October 10 – a birthday salute to John Lennon (also dead). There is nothing on his Facebook about an illness.

And now, Ken Shane is dead. 

Like a lot of people my age. 

I’m 72 years old today, November 15, 2022. 

And still I wonder…. how is this possible? 

*

It’s funny, the yardsticks by which we measure good fortune.  

I spoke with a dear friend a couple of days ago.  I hadn’t spoken to her in several months, and actually only made contact when I sent a text message to somebody else and iMessage accidentally added her name to the ‘to’ line.  She replied with the news that she’d been in a horrendous auto accident three months ago, had been in the hospital for 3-1/2 weeks, and was still in physical therapy and recovery.  

First of all: I. Had. No. Idea. (That none of our mutual supposed friends thought to say a word to me about this is its own source disturbed curiosity – but that’s a subject for another time/post – which means I’ll probably never mention it again.)

When we finally spoke a couple of days later I learned that her femur had been broken, along with several other bones and an accompanying raft of bruises and lacerations.  She sent me a photo of the car. It’s a wonder anybody survived. Her husband was driving but the worst impact was to the passenger side.  Airbags may have caused some of the minor injuries, but they also saved both of their lives. 

The good news is that after several months of arduous rehab, she is presently walking with cane and expects a full recovery.  

As we were talking, I went through a mental inventory. I could not find anything similar in my own experience.  

I haven’t been in a serious wreck since I was in high school: a rear-ender that was absorbed by the trunk of my mother’s Buick Skylark. I was involved in a couple of pretty bad wrecks when I was younger, but, again, no serious injuries (and that was before seatbelts).  That’s one reason why I am a pretty careful driver – and why I am a terrible passenger when anybody else is driving (just ask my ex-wife). 

What do I have to compare to such grievous injuries? 

I pulled a muscle in my left calf last week and can’t play pickleball for a few weeks. 

Yes, I have been caught up in the pickleball craze.  As most people I mention it to are aware, pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport – and the fastest growing source of sports-related injuries.  I suffered one myself last week, pulling up lame as I rushed the net after a serve.  An orthopaedist fondled my calf and advised me to just stay off it for a while.  I hobbled about the house for a couple of days but I’m about 95% normal now, save a bit of residual tenderness.  I’ll wait another couple of weeks before I venture out on the court again.  

That’s it.  

I’m 72 years old. And some of my friends are dead already. 

But the closest I’ve come to anything that could even be remotely considered a health scare was when I had a skin cancer surgically removed six years ago.  That might not even have qualified as a ‘scare’ were it not for the fact that my father, my mother and my brother all died of various kinds of cancer.   

And since I dropped 30+ pounds during the pandemic (and hanging in pretty consistently at 5’8″ and ~155lbs),  my ‘numbers’ have been the best they’ve been in a decade: blood pressure, cholesterol, A-1C – all more or less normal.  

Some people get a ticket for their last bus ride.  Some people get hit by the bus.  Barring the latter, I should still be around long enough for my next colonoscopy.  

*

So what am I doing with this gift of time?  

Hah. Please don’t hold me accountable. 

I am working on several projects, all writing-and-publishing oriented.  

Remember that book project I was working on in the ‘aughts?  “The biography of a man whose story cannot be told”?  A few weeks after Apple canned me I found myself drawn back to that material, and over the summer I finished the second draft that eluded me for more than a decade.  Funny how things work out, huh?  I am planning to publish in January (I could use a proof-reader, anybody wanna volunteer?).  

I also spent a fair amount of the late summer editing a friend’s memoir.  He handed me a 100,000 manuscript and six weeks later I handed him back a 60,000 word manuscript.  I really enjoyed that work. And he paid me for it – the most I’ve ever earned from word-smithing!

I’ve been maintaining this personal blog/site for more than a decade, with little regard to how much traffic it generates.  Even though I’ve been on the Internet since before most people ever heard of the Internet, I have a lot to learn about the Dark Arts of Keywords, Indexing, Search Engine Optimization and Analytics. Right now I am a digital carpenter gazing into an unfamiliar box of virtual tools, picking each one up and wondering “what does this one do?”

When I’m baffled by all these moving parts, I wonder if that’s how I should be spending my time – staring at screens, tapping at at keyboards, scratching my chin. But for the remainder of the fall and coming winter, this will suffice.  And I always have a guitar within reach, and I expect pickleball to resume at the end of the month.  

What else am I supposed to do, play golf?

I’m also thinking about another pilgrimage to the U.K. in the summer of ’23:  Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in June, the British Grand Prix in July (I’ve started following Formula 1 racing, a rekindled interest from adolescence).  Time will tell if I can line that up. 

* 

And of course, there is Buster, my constant companion.

The point is: Most of the time, I consider myself unimaginably fortunate.  

I’ve got a couple hands-full of close friends, and a larger personal ‘social network‘ that I stay in regular contact with this way.

I have a paid-for house (thank you, Gaylord), a cord of firewood for the winter, a few shekels in the bank and no debt to speak of, a bit of Social Security and Medicare, food in the fridge, a small collection of fabulous guitars, and a convertible that I can drive dangerously fast when the mood strikes me – and I am still agile enough to manage a stick shift (if I ever need a car with an automatic transmission, please, just put me in the ground with it).

And I never invested a dime in crypto.

Also: 35 years without a sip, a sniff or a puff. My last drink was Thanksgiving day 1987.  When people ask “how’d you do it?” I tell ’em “I’m on the 2-step program: 1.  Don’t drink.  2. Don’t die.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time alone, but I can’t say as I feel entirely lonely.  Compared to a lot of people I know, I’m my own best company. I mean, sure, I’d like to have snuggle-buddy, but it’s hard to meet somebody a) when you don’t leave the house much and b) so many people my age are dead.

Will there be cake? Oh yeah, who wants a slice? Have cake, will travel (within reason).

Tonight I’m going to dinner with some friends and I am going to eat many things that some people will say are ‘bad’ for me (including an incredibly indulgent chocolate cake).  

But I’ve been eating those things for 70+ years now and they haven’t killed me yet. Why mess with success? 

So, yeah.  72 years old,  unimaginably fortunate – and not dead.   

I just want anybody taking the time to read this to know that I am grateful for your continued goodwill and friendship, however it is manifest (but, please, if you’re in a life-threatening car wreck, maybe let me know and I’ll bring chicken soup).

Because, like the guy in Monty Python…