Friday, December 28, 2012

The Prehistory of Occupy Wall Street 1890-1925 by Jasper Gregory

The Prehistory of Occupy Wall Street 1890-1925, Jasper Gregory.  Self-published, 2012.  e-book, 65 pps.

Just when I think I understand some small thing about the Occupy movement, Jasper Gregory comes along and blows everything out of the water.  At least one other book led me into using the word "demand" along with the word "Occupy" in the same sentence.  Jasper Gregory tells me it just ain't so.  And then goes on to recite a bunch of history in such a manner that it makes sense.  The stuff I learned in school-- the bare bones was there-- was skeletal and rotting.  Jasper Gregory makes history quite heady stuff and ties it in well to Occupy.  The Prehistory of Occupy Wall Street 1890-1925 was too short and a bit abrupt in beginning and ending.  That is the only complaint that I have.  I hope Jasper Gregory writes more.

sapphoq reviews says:  Jasper Gregory does a fine job of telling the history of the people, movements, philosophies, thoughts and revolutions from 1890-1925.  He traces the Occupy movement back to its roots.  A fine, if too short book, by a fine but unrecognized historian.  Absolutely highly recommended for anyone who wishes to know more about Occupy.  And for anyone interested in a solid history of the years covered in this book.

Atheist Manifesto by Michel Onfray

Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Michel Onfray.  New York, Arcade Publishing: 2007, 2008, 2011.  e-book, 210 pps.

Michel Onfray is a French atheist whose writing should be better known in the States than it is.  His writing is scholarly and his grasp on history is immediately clear.  Atheist Manifesto is engrossing.  Onfray addresses the bloody parts of history that the institutions of the peoples of the book have orchestrated, the political scene behind the figure of Jesus, and the forgeries and fakery inherent in the whole mess.  I was amazed to learn that Dewey was anti-intellectual-- this is a factoid that the folks teaching the teachers neglect to mention when covering him.  I was aware that William James was a bit on the whoo-whoo side but Onfray's writing really brings this home.  A lot to learn in this volume, even for the seasoned atheist.

sapphoq reviews says:  Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto should not be ignored.  It is a definitive work and points up why the old "you can believe what you want and so can I" is intellectually dishonest.  This book should be required reading in divinity schools.  It is deconstruction of monotheisms at its very very best.  Highly recommended.

Skanks by Keaton Albertson

Skanks, Keaton Albertson.  Compton, California: Fast Pencil Inc., 2011.   e-book, 167 pps.

Skanks details the sexual vagrancies of self-styled man whore and ex-Mormon Keaton Albertson.  Women-- quite a few of them.  Hot fornicating casual sex, check.  Cussing, check.  And some good chuckles.  Writing that delivers with a hefty punch.

sapphoq reviews says:  Skanks, like all of the Keaton Albertson writing that I have seen, is not for folks who offend easily.  There were some good belly laughs in this one.  And a variety of slang words for all kinds of sexual parts and uh, wonderment.  At the end of Skanks is a section on obese women.  Obese women and many others will not appreciate this section.  It is brutally honest.  All of Skanks is brutally honest.  Keaton Albertson tells his memoirs with a certain swagger and joie de vivre.  Feminists may not appreciate it.  But these are his own experiences and he tells it like it is.  Coarse and rude, for readers who like coarse and rude.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Criminal Mischief by Keaton Albertson

Criminal Mischief: Delightful Chronicles of Juvenile Delinquency, Keaton Albertson.  self-published: 2010.  e-book, 288 pps.

Keaton Albertson recollects some youthful disinhibitions in Criminal Mischief.  He has two strange brothers, a dad who understands more than he let on to understanding, a mother who curses when screaming at her kids not to curse, some best friends, and some teachers at a public school who are primarily practicing Mormons, or L.D.S. due to being in Utah and all of that.  Keaton Albertson himself was reared as a Mormon but [in a later book] successfully left that particular faith.

Criminal Mischief is about all boyish pranks that border to-- or at times outright crosses over to-- the criminal.  Although aware that I was rooting for the "wrong side" I could not help but laugh at his antics.  I envy Keaton as a child.  By comparison I was too quiet and never got to vandalize teachers' houses or blow stuff up.  And I'm glad that he didn't get sent away to one of them behavior mod boarding facilities.  That probably would have wrecked his writing style as well as a large measure of his life and what makes Keaton Albertson a cause celebre among folks like us.

sapphoq reviews says:  Yeah, Keaton Albertson was something as a young boy and teen.  I laughed through all of Criminal Mischief.  But there was more than boyhood pranks here.  There was also an astute comment on the hypocrisy of his high school faculty when the call came to deny his buddy's valedictorianship on the basis of a "lack of moral character".  If you object to lots of cursing, trash talk, or kids that aren't behaving in a lily white fashion, skip all things Keaton Albertson.  If you don't, you are in for a rollicking ride with Criminal Mischief.

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Sweet Venom, Tera Lynn Childs.  New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.  e-book, 231 pps.

Gretchen is a monster hunter and she goes to a public high school in San Francisco.  She is abrupt, proud, and a fighter.
Grace is a geek who just moved to San Francisco.  She goes to a private elite high school.  She is shy, retiring, and quiet.

They meet, and as fate would have it, Gretchen and Grace have quite a bit in common.

sapphoq reviews says:  The monsters were really fun in Sweet Venom.  The monsters were the absolute best part of this book.  The storyline was alright for a young adult novel.  The characters were quasi-teenagerish.  There was no cussing or sordid sex scenes or implied lesbianism in Sweet Venom.  I managed to read through this book but am not planning to buy the rest of the series.  Read it if you can borrow it.  Not too sure it is worth the money.

The Occupy Manifesto by The People and For the People

The Occupy Manifesto, By The People and For the People.  [self-published], Smashwords: 2010.  e-book, 14 pages.

Did you really think I was done with Occupy literature?  There are two parts to The Occupy Manifesto.  Part 1:  The Problem and Part 2:  What We Demand.  The Occupy Manifesto is a white paper and it is very well written. 

The problem is defined as corporate greed and lists the problematic decision by the Supreme Court granting "Personhood" to corporations.  I also have a problem with this decision.  It disgusts me that large corporations now have more constitutional rights than extra-legal civilians in our American society.  By extra-legal civilians I am talking about folks who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transsexual, transgendered, intersexed, and queer.  Other folks can also be included in the label of extra-legal civilian: anyone who has been hassled or arrested for being out in public or even in a car driving while black, poor folks, folks who work for big corporations for wages that are not living wages, folks who are told that their Catholic employer does not have to provide birth control coverage because it hurts their corporate feelings [in spite of the facts that not all folks who work for Catholic employers are Catholic, that there are medical reasons for needing birth control unrelated to procreation, that the Catholic Church as a corporation is filthy rich.  Note: An insurance company having to put into place a mechanism to provide said birth control to those employees "for free" incurs extra expenses in terms of putting such a mechanism into place and man-hours occured in reaching out to said employees] and so on.  Extra-legal is more than the have-nots rebelling against the haves.  Extra-legal means that some classes of ordinary citizens for a variety of reasons are not afforded the protections of the legal system that other classes of ordinary citizens take for granted.

The slogan "I am the 99 Percent" is explained as it relates to how the richest 400 Americans acquisitioning more wealth than the bottom half of the country.  In other words, the uber-rich are really really rich.  The white paper then defines the problem as an issue of "economic injustice" rather than an issue strictly limited to being a leftist, Democratic, liberal, righty, conservative, Republican or any other political label.  The Occupy movement is now worldwide.  The issue of extreme economic disparity itself is worldwide and not just the problem of disgruntled leftist twenty something Americans.
How I first understood Occpy was exactly that-- I thought it was a movement among disgruntled leftist twenty to thirty years old Americans.  I no longer think that.

The demand of the [American] Occupy movement can be said in four words: End extreme wealth disparity.  The Occupy Manifesto then explains how to do so:
1).  Government regulating corporations toward restraint.  In other words, a return to regulation rather than a continued path of de-regulation;
2).  Goverment breaking up media conglomerates [not numbered in the book but it is #2].  This will prevent news from being reported via the lenses of corporations and their paying advertising sponsors;
3).  Government closing tax loopholes and shelters for the rich, and taxing everyone fairly;
4).  Government creating fair usury [interest rates] law in all of the U.S.A.-- high interest rates on loans would then become illegal;
5).  A constitutional amendment that overturns Corporate Personhood;
6).  Government taxation on companies who send their jobs overseas;
7).  Goverment institution of a living wage law for all workers-- increasing the minimum wage so that anyone earning minimum wage can afford a one bedroom apartment.  Strengthen unions as a way to do this until it gets done.

sapphoq reviews says:  Mandates require money.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  How any of these demands get into federal legislation [if any of them do] will be interesting to watch.  Of personal importance to me is the Corporation as Personhood garbage.  I would like to see that one be flushed.  [#5].  Anyone who wishes a clear explanation of the United Statesian Occupy movement demands-- regardless of one's take on the issues-- should get this e-book.  Book uses big words and requires some adult reading literacy.  If you are stuck at Reader's Digest level [Grade 5], you will probably need some help in understanding The Occupy Manifesto. 

Occupy LOL Street, Volume II by Travis Haan

Occupy LOL Street Volume II, Travis Haan.  [self-published] Smashwords, 2011.  e-book, 178 pps.

Occupy LOL Street Volume II pleased me greatly by being longer than Volume I.  One of the tubed cats startled me by being very similar looking to one of my kitties.  [Note: I don't care if it actually is a tube of one of my kitties or not.  He is beautiful and he knows it and wants the world to know it too].  The five chapters open with some cats writing a song called "A For Anonymous" in Zucchini Park.  The LOL cats go on to explain S.O.P.A. to the readers.  The next morning there is a police car at Zucchini Park.  The LOL trio is advised that loitering in the park is a-okay but that protesting in the park is not.  The cats go on a papering Op across the country with some posters that explain some of the talking points of the Occupy movement.  The rest of the comic book is dedicated to explaining how Occupiers come to a consensus, going to jail and meeting some Occupy humans, the four footers and the two footers raising money, talking to folks about some Occupy demands, going to jail again, the mean dog food factory owner selling out to "Bane of Your Existence Capital" whose C.E.O. sounds a little bit like Mitt and promptly ships the operation off to really cheap labor sweatshops in China, and ending with an activist during a meeting of some Occupiers who are working on free education getting murdered by a Jesus Freak.

sapphoq reviews says: Occupy LOL Street Volume II goes into more of what the Occupiers want and the hurdles faced in direct actions.  The informed reader is familiar with what the Occupiers want but I will list a few of them here anyway: 
     The end of Corporate "Personhood;"
     Higher Tax Rate for the Rich;
     Free Education;
     Legal Protection for ALL protesters;
     and; Outlawing of Political Bribery [lobbying groups?].

If you loved Volume I, you will totally love Volume II.  Get them; and also an e-book called The Wise Sloth which is over 900 pages of good solid wisdom by Travis Haan.  I am still reading The Wise Sloth and I will cover that in a future review.

Occupy LOL Street Volume I, Travis Haan

Occupy LOL Street Volume I, Travis Haan.  [self-published] Smashwords, 2011.  e-book, 41 pps.

The three LOL cats in this comic live on LOL street.  They are a trio of tabbies with gray fur and black stripes.  The cats and other non-human animals in this delightful book are tubed from real life photos, giving them that adorable kitty look that it is virtually impossible to replicate in a cartoon.  The three LOL cats work at the dog food factory and are barely surviving.  They scrimpt and save.  On Christmas, a dog in a beat-up car crash into the cats in front of their house.  They are forced to use their savings to pay for medical bills, and forced to work even harder after that.  They are forced to work the next Christmas.  A series of misfortunes result in the trio joining the Occupy movement.  In the five included chapters, the LOL cats go to a constitutional convention, become homeless, and some other stuff like that.  There is also a mean guy who owns the dog food factory. The LOL cats become more political and more politically aware as they become more involved in the Occupy movement.

sapphoq reviews says: Although a tad predictable in places, Occupy LOL Street Volume I does an excellent job of explaining the Occupy movement.  The cats and other four footeds are adorable and political.  Most excellent for those who are looking for an explanation of what Occupy is all about.  Also excellent for anyone who enjoys the LOL cat phenomenon and for those who want the politicians to respond TO THE PEOPLE instead of to special interests lobby groups with oodles and oodles of money.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mormon Mayhem by Keaton Albertson

Mormon Mayhem: Uncouth Stories of a Rogue Missionary, Keaton Albertson.  Compton, California: Fast Pencil Inc., 2010. 
e-book, 275 pps.

Mormon Mayhem chronicles the six weeks or so that Keaton spent as a Mormon missionary, plus a bit of time before and after his experience.  After some instruction in what to do, he was then assigned to some town in Florida with a partner.  Fortunately for Keaton but not for the L.D.S., Keaton's partner was cool.  Partner was willing to show Keaton how to score chicks.  Together they plotted to ditch their witnessing efforts quite a bit of the time there.  They also plotted how to cover that up.  Then Something happened.  It was a big Something.  The result of Something happening is that Keaton stopped pretending his compliance and became outright defiant.  He then decided to ditch the mask and went on his merry way doing what he does best-- irreverence and humor and sex with women.

sapphoq reviews says: Keaton Albertson is a worthwhile writer.  His words zing with truth and have left me in choking hysterics and deep belly laughs.  If you get offended easily by cursing or talk of unmarried sex, don't get this book.  If you are an adult with a sense of humor and the understanding that some folks just don't do church well, by all means get this book.  Anything that Keaton Albertson is designed to tickle the funny bone while imparting some basic fun truths about the human condition. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

.comvict by Gregory Alphonse Nimensky

.comvict: Ivy League Genius, Hacker, Multi-Millionaire and Convict, Gregory Alponse Nimensky.  self-published, 2012.  e-book, 105 pps.

Gregory Nimensky hails from Boca Raton Florida and has two degrees related to Engineering/Finance from a pretigious university.  He is knowledgeable and opinionated.  As a younger man, Nimensky alleges that he and some cohorts set up a bunch of fake companies and spammed folks for money.  He is the founder of  Club Epkin (2010), a business located in Boca Raton. characterizes Club Epkin as being involved with "Handbags - Manufacturers Equipment & Supplies".  Nimensky also claims to be a convict.  This I can neither confirm nor deny.  I did not find any independent verification of an arrest record on the Internet.  I don't use paid sites, so perhaps an arrest record does exist.  Neither could I find an arrest record for his associate Mammad.  [Same caveat].  .comvict does mention which actually does exist.  It is a porn site offering free porn movies and uh, some other things to legal adults. 

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoyed most of .comvict.  It told a good story that captured my attention and held it.  The makings of a hacker were there in Nimensky's early childhood.  The problem with .comvict is two-fold.  The last five pages are written choppily.  Nimensky was supposedly in a fedpen serving a five year bid when he wrote .comvict.  Beyond that, the book is supposed to direct the reader to a site [redacted] where the story is finished in video by an an actress standing in for Nimensky's wife.  Another video on the site [redacted] according to the book has an afterword which includes the notion of, paraphrased here, the stuff Nimensky did is uncool so don't do it.  The last five pages may be honest, I don't know.  But to me, they just didn't ring true.  .comvict is worth a read for the first 100 pages which are cancelled out by the last 5.  Give this one a miss unless you are truly enamoured by hacker culture.

How 2 Be Awsum by Professor Happycat

How 2 Be Awsum: A LOLcat Guide 2 Life, Professor Happycat.  New York: Penguin Books, 2011.  e-book.  144 pps.

How 2 Be Awsum is 144 pages of cuteness.  Delicious cats and kittens peer out from the pages to beseech you to fix the coffee correctly, berate you for offering a pink cupcake or for having an easy to guess password.  There is a cat whose opinion of your art lessons is that you seriously need a refund, a kitten who expected a bigger fish but will accept it, and even reasonable zombie cats.  What's not to love?

sapphoq reviews says:  How 2 Be Awsum is also on my list of books for a sad day.  The formatting for an e-reader is much improved over I Has a Hot Dog.  This is a book full of whimsey.  I was first introduced to this style of tagging photos via Caterday and long cats protesting Scientology in the style of Anonymous.  How 2 Be Awsum is truly that and definitely offers pearls of wisdom for life mixed in with the cuteness.  An endearing win for any library.

I Has a Hot Dog by Professor Happycat

I Has a Hot Dog, Professor Happycat.  New York: Hachette Book Group, 2010.  e-book, 23 pps.  Copyright 2010 is held by Pet Holdings, Inc.

I has a Hot Dog takes LOL Cat-Speak into the neighborhood of things with tails, paws, and teeth which aren't feline.  Soulful eyes look out at the reader from pages denoting artistic canine skill with drawing chalk hearts and from exasperated dogs whose owners are clueless over what their dog pets are thinking.  The e-book version feels longer than 23 pages because some of the pages have more than one picture.

sapphoq reviews says: Fans of LOL Cats who also like cute dogs and puppies with witty captions in the pics will enjoy I Has a Hot Dog.  This is an adorable book that I've included in with my "Happy Kit for a Blue Day".  I Has a Hot Dog delivers deep chuckles in a clever fashion.  Highly recommended.

Young House Love by Sherry and John Petersik

Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update and Show Your Home Some Love, Sherry and John Petersik. New York: Artisan, 2012. 336 pps.

Young House Love is a first effort by blogging couple Sherry and John Petersik with a blog by the same name.  They hail from Richmond Virginia where they are fixing up their fixer-upper home.  The ideas are fresh and creative.  The results pop from the glossy pages of photographs.  One does not need tons of money and a private paid designer to do the projects ideas included in the book. This is a book for regular folks.

sapphoq reviews says: Young House Love is an outstanding book and one worth having for folks who are frugal by nature and enjoy paint splatter.  I usually prefer country style/farm style stuff myself.  But the projects in this book suited me.  I have plans to try some of the crafty ideas in Young House Love .
                                     Recommended for folks like me who fix up flea market and thrift store finds, young couples, and country style / farm style afficiandos.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Second LIfe Has Lost Its Luster

I been on Second Life(tm)  for a few years.  I recently got tired of it and I quit.

I was lonely there.  I kept hoping for something more than superficial but superficial it remained.  I became disenchanted.  And I began to evaluate my priorities once again.  Housemate kept muttering dark things about me being "addicted" to it.

The time that I used to spend there I am now spending on my blogs and my art.  I have connected with a vital web community of folks who are working on changing things that I am also interested in changing.  I have re-connected with some old friends on the web.
I am happier.

sapphoq reviews no longer a clone
this blog post dedicated to Jeremy Crow 4 Life

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon.  New York: Ballentine Books, 2003.  e-book  312 pps.

Right on the heels of the news that the D.S.M. shrinks have axed Asperger's-- preferring to lump everyone together now under the broad spectrum of autism or autistic-like disorders (sigh)-- came talk about The Speed of Dark.  I was annoyed.  I was and am annoyed at the unknown shrinks.  I was and am annoyed at the bookstores where I go at least once a week for between one and five hours at a time for not stocking this particular book.  I love Elizabeth Moon's Paks series, liked much of her sci fi, but somehow The Speed of Dark escaped my notice.  Apparently it escaped the notice of the buyers for the bookstores too.  Grrrr.  Had this book been anywhere in the bookstores that I frequent, I would have known it.  I practically live in those bookstores.  If not for the marvels of the Internet, specifically a Twitter(tm) feed-- and Twitter is cool except when Twitter does things like ban AnonOpsSweden which is basically a newsreel from a cold place where I hope some of my relatives are doing more than drinking hot cocoa with the reindeer.  That is to say, I hope that some of my unknown relatives are radical, or at the very least doing stuff to change some of the crap in the world.

So, rather belatedly, I got to read The Speed of Dark.  And I found it good.  Actually, I found it excellent.  Truthfully, I don't bother to write too many reviews of books that I've hated.  That is why most of the books I review on here are books that I like or love.  The Speed of Dark falls into the category of love.  The main character in this book by the name of Lou is an Aspergian who, along with the rest of his unit in the company that he works for, is able to work exceptionally well at his job of "finding patterns."  The work crew have special parking spaces, a gym with trampoline and music, and a few other consessions so that way they can work.  Some folks are pissed about that.  There is also a fencing group that Lou belongs to.  A jealous normie man and an attractive woman.  And a young disabled woman from a Center who is pissed off that Lou hangs out with "normies."  All of these people and places and attitudes congeal to deliver a punch ending.

sapphoq reviews says:  The narratives and the dialogues throughout the book were highly realistic.  The Speed of Dark is well worth a read.  Fans of Elizabeth Moon are sure to like Lou.  Folks who like light science fiction or a peak into a not-too-distant future are sure to enjoy.

"...we (meaning society in its judgmental role) create aliens from humans by excluding them, by defining them as too strange, too difficult...Cultures have defined other races, religions, nationalities, and even economic groups as "not really human" and thus outside the rules that govern behavior in the group.  And we've done it with disabilities.  Sometimes the disabled are treated as children (We know what's best for you . . . ) and sometimes as monsters who must be confined or even killed."
                                                       Elizabeth Moon, from an interview towards the back of the book

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Cocktail Hour Unter the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller.  New York: The Penguin Press, 2011.  e-book, 197 pps.

Alexandra Fuller is now grown up and married.  Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness tells more of her mother's history, a bit of her dad's, and pieces of what happened in Africa with the various wars and civil unrest.  Mom continues to have a full-fledged drinking problem.  She has also been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition as well and treated with meds and a stay in the hospital. 

Alexandra Fuller's narrative of her mother's history and family background is very well put together and also very interesting.  There are a few old time pictures which aid in setting the mood for this tome.  Mom refers to Alexandra's writing as "Awful books."  Her complaints are reminiscent of a very few accusations that I have received along the lines of, "So, you're going to use our conversation/ my most excellent untarnished personality/ my experiences for one of your characters..." implying that I can write fiction that folks will want to pay to read and that my acquaintances are so interesting that they can't help but wind up in some book that I haven't written yet.  The thing is, Tub Fuller is actually interesting and a natural subject to wind up in one of her daughter's Awful books.

sapphoq reviews says: More of the author's mom's history and background are revealed in this later book about living in Africa.  Alexandra Fuller has grown up, became a naturalized citizen of the United States.  Her sister is residing in London during the book's time period.  Mom and Dad are in Africa and in Africa to stay.  There is indeed a tree of forgetfulness.  Made me wish for my own.  Worth a read for anyone who enjoyed Alexandra Fuller's first book of memoirs Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

Friday, December 07, 2012

Don't Let'sGo to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller, New York: Random House, 2001.  ebook, 256 pps.

When I was a kid, I briefly knew a girl and her mother who invited me to a museum with them.  Where there, they fawned over the sculptures and pottery that was from what was then called Rhodesia.  "The best stuff isn't here," the mother sniffed.  I didn't understand really.  Turned out both had lived there together when the girl was even younger.  Girl might have been born there, I don't actually recall.  I grew up in an openly prejudiced family.  These two had an Irish surname and freckles.  I knew next to nothing about Africa.  I was a kid as I have stated.  Too young to know that the "Social Studies" books we were given were woefully inadequate.  Neither one of them said anything else about this Rhodesia which I knew was located on the continent of Africa but nothing else.  I have no idea now of where they had lived, what they done there, or why they had left.  They didn't offer any information.  I wasn't prone to asking.  As a matter of fact, I could not even detect an accent.  To me, they sounded like everyone else in my mixed up neighborhood.  At any rate, they both disappeared shortly afterwards.  Perhaps mother and young daughter had gone back to Africa, maybe to a safer place than Rhodesia.  At any rate, I never saw them again.  Alexandra Fuller's book is about a childhood in Africa.  It is the book that I wish I'd had as a child.  Certainly more accurate than our "Social Studies" books.

The family hailed from England but when Alexandra Fuller was a toddler went back to Africa.  There was a farm, a series of farms.  Mom and dad were a bit taken up with the drink.  Especially Mom.  She got a bit maudlin at times, was prone to belting out songs at random.  There were two surviving sibs.  The author-- called BoBo in the book-- was one of them.  Her older sister Vanessa-- called Van-- was the other one.  There was a war and guns and the hazards of living in places where the wild things had been first.

sapphoq reviews says:  A very likeable memoir.  Worth a read for anyone who is an armchair traveler into other peoples' yesterdays living in faraway lands. 

Help at Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz

Help at Any Cost, Maia Szalavitz.  New York: Penguin Group Inc. [Riverhead Books], 2006.  e-book. 297 pps.

I happened upon Help at Any Cost while doing some research on the troubled teen industry.  I saw some names I have been becoming increasingly familiar with-- Robert Lichfield, Ken Kay, David Gilcrease, et. al.  Maia Szalavitz found the one staffer who worked at W.W.A.S.P.S. who in my book is a true hera-- Amberly Knight-- a former director who complained about the conditions at Dundee Ranch to the authorities and quit.  Chapter Five is very thorough and dedicated to all things W.W.A.S.P.S.  The other chapters flesh out the history of Synanon, Seed, and KIDS.  Maia Szalavitz also discusses how group treatment went among the original tough love crowd, exactly what was wrong with the whole tough love movement [something which I myself did not know, and from my background I really should have], lawsuits and court dates, and the difference between abuse and addiction especially as how that difference pertains to teens.

sapphoq reviews says: Help at Any Cost is a valuable addition to the discussion of the troubled teen industry.  The historical background is one that I much appreciated.  The whole idea of love being a commodity to be earned if one behaves is repugnant.  An easy read that is highly informative.  This book should be read by any parents considering sending their teens off to a behavioral modification residential program as well as by professionals who work in any addictions fields.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Anti-Therapist by Keaton Albertson

The Anti-Therapist: Interrogations and Interventions with Sex Offenders, Keaton Albertson.  Self-Published e-book, Keaton Albertson, 2012.  528 pps.

In researching the troubled teen industry, I became curious as to whether or not some sects of the [fundamentalist variety; that is to say the fringe polygamist sects] Latter Day Saints had the underpinnings of an abuse culture.  I came across several e-books by Keaton Alberton.  Keaton Albertson grew up in a Mormon household but departed from that faith as he rocketed into adulthood.  The Keaton Alberton books had nothing to do with the question of abuse culture or the troubled teen industry.  Samples convinced me to read them anyways.  So here is the first one that I've read.

As a young man, Keaton Albertson got a job as a treatment facilitator.  He had to interview various predators who were locked up for treatment as part of their sentences for their various disgusting crimes.  Their crimes were truly disgusting.  And so were some of their behaviors on their living units.  Keaton's clientele included folks who did things with their grandchildren, with barn animals, with shit, and with anything filthy imaginable.  They were required to disclose a full sexual history.  Their perversions were worse than anything that I've seen on television.  And these guys saw nothing wrong with things like trying to get a horse to administer oral sex [FAIL], beating on a Staffordshire terrier and then trying to get it to give them oral sex [FAIL], masturbating with feces in public toilet stalls that were vacated by little girls [FAIL], stealing underwear from a garage sale [FAIL], ejaculating into a hole they secretly created in their neighbor's kid's teddy bear and then leaving it on the pillow uncleaned to fester when the neighbors weren't at home [FAIL].  In spite of the subject matter, I laughed uproariously at Keaton's descriptions of each interview and situation that he ran into.  I don't think I will quite forget for a long time the likes of a dude who left little piles of constipated shit in the communal shower stall at the treatment facility or the guy who stole hot sauce from the cafeteria to use as a lubricant during his special moments with his penis and testicles.  Keaton's story-telling ability shone throughout the book.  The truly frightening thing about this book is that the guys that he described really do exist.  And until they get caught, they are out in public doing things or possibly next door having pool parties and mowing the lawn.  

Keaton also recounted his escapades with a couple of buddies from work after-hours.  And a new boss that he named Assclown who certainly resembled his moniker.

A friend of mine from high school used to hang out quite a bit at her apartment.  Her mother was a stout Irish woman who used to tell us all of the time that "Truth is stranger than fiction."  [She also told us more than once that we stank like a brewery when we descended upon the apartment after a drinking spree in college].  To which I can say, "Yeah.  Truth certainly is."  The Anti-Therapist is a perfect illustration of that motto.

I never really cared for my snooty neighbors-- the ones with the pool parties and mowed lawn-- but now I am leery of them as well. It's far too easy to picture them doing all kinds of really demented sexual stuff while putting on a good front around town.  Just makes me want to go live in a cave very far away from anyone and anywhere.

sapphoq reviews says:  If you object to sexual topics or cursing, then don't read this book.  But if you are able to deal with f-bombs and weird things you've never thought about, then The Anti-Therapist is a winner.  It helps if you've read enough John Douglas or have a decent background in anything related to true crime or perps and how they pick their targets.  Keaton Albertson is a winner of a writer.  I'm looking forward to reading more of his books.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Exposed: Internet Sex Predators by R. Stephanie Good

Internet Sex Predators, R. Stephanie Good.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.  ebook, 193 pps.

I like case histories.  Case histories are kind of like snapshots into the secret lives of others, a sort of quasi-professional voyeurism.  Shrinks have always loved case histories.  Especially if the identified patient of the case history is dead.  In that case, they call them "psychological autopsies".  The dissection of the dead life is done with words and report folders and a team meeting.  Maybe it's mental masturbation.  So much of life these day is just that.  Some folks like to get their quota by watching those television talk shows-- the ones where you hope that none of your relatives insist that you come along with them to be a guest on but also the ones where you scan the list of guests to see if any of them are your neighbors.  The television docs are on the rise too these days.  Jerry Springer had to tone things down, I myself enjoy Christina on the Spanish station, Sally Jesse Raphael died, I don't know if Doctor Ruth is still around or not.  Exit most of the civilized talk shows and enter the doctor shows.  The docs tell you how to live or how not to live, send your kids away to abusive kiddy camps and "therapeutic treatment" places, make yummy snack foods, and talk about how your pee and poop should look.  With samples.  So lots of folks sit around and tune into these sorts of dirty laundry shows increasingly run by doctors and other perceived experts.  Instead of doing that, I am visiting dearly demented dad or out in the woods with the dog when those shows air.  I get my kicks from case histories of the printed kind.

Exposed: Internet Sex Predators is a series of case histories that R. Stephanie Good has aided the F.B.I. with.  She poses as an un-adult-- someone that grown men and women should not be approaching on-line for sex-- and goes into chatrooms.  She is very specific about what constitutes entrapment and what doesn't.  The pervs approach her persona.  The rule is that they are the ones who have to start with the sex talk first.  Once she ascertains that the perv private messaging her is not just into trading, she allows the perv of the moment to continue the conversation over a period of days or weeks when necessary.  The end result is usually a bunch of penises being transmitted to the e-mail box of a young teen and a request for a meeting.  

I had a gay male acquaintance who was a minister and a bit screwed up.  He did things like entertain strange men in the back of cars near bars and have sex with men with H.I.V. without condoms.  He didn't believe that H.I.V. transmitted A.I.D.S.  He was also fond of telling me some old saw about the cops in Fort Lauderdale who used to arrest gay men for peeking through glory holes in the public bathrooms and well, doing it through those same holes.  I never understood why anyone would want to jack off in a bathroom, especially a public bathroom which by definition is usually scummy.  My former acquaintance didn't really understand entrapment.  He figured that any contact with an undercover cop meant that the cop was enticing the future arrestee by mere presence.  I guess cops in Fort Lauderdale must all be tanned appealing hunks.  Who knew?  At any rate, lots of these sicko b-tards on the internet looking for teens also claim that they are being entrapped when caught.  Must be similar to the "But officer, some dude back there threw this bag of drugs into my car!" line that is heard so often on the television show Cops.

sapphoq reviews says:  While Exposed: Internet Sex Predators doesn't add much new to the discussion, it is rather enjoyable for those of us who like case histories in the printed form.  An easy read.  Not as knowledgeable as a John Douglas on how perps operate.  Even so, a good enough book.  Recommended to true crime afficianos who like Ann Rule and other case histories.

Isn't It Pretty To Think So by Nick Miller

Isn't It Pretty To Think So? Nick Miller.  Berkeley: Fernando French Publishing, 2012.  ebook, 995 pps.

Isn't It Pretty To Think So? is a coming of age novel by Nick Miller and appears to be his first.  It is somewhat autobiographical and fully reminiscent of the talent of J. D. Salinger but way more entertaining.  There's a lot of screwing in the book.  I think the young women were lucky, although as it turns out the narrator wasn't always so lucky.  There's bits of drugs and partying wildly in the book too, along with a typical misdirected belief that switching to beer and wine fixes someone in the throes of an addiction cycle.  Even so, I would not have it any other way.  There was a television series on for a couple of years that had an accurate understanding of addiction.  Once the character went off to rehab, I tuned out of the series.  Somehow I don't want the protagonists to be too good or too healthy.  It is obvious to me also that the beliefs of the characters in a novel are not necessarily those of the author.  So I stand by my statement that the way that the narrator was portrayed was far more realistic than if he had sprinted off to rehab.  If he had sprinted off to rehab, I probably would not have finished this book.

The young man in the book being unlucky in love and jobs and stuff like that zooms off and lives here and there until he winds up renting a room in a funky mansion in Los Angeles.  The mansion turns out to be a drug-infested party place much like the one that I lived in during part of my raucous college years.  There is a party daily, a couple of house cleaners who make everything fresh again on Mondays, and an in-house drug dealer.  Replete with the bars and odd folks living in the mansion and in the neighborhood, our twenty-something kid realizes he ain't getting any writing done and splits for someplace else.  

In the new someplace else, he meets his mentor.  His mentor is an older fellow who pretty much gets him to write-- the book in hand coincidentally.  And then there is finally a woman worthy of our budding author and I'm not telling you any more.

sapphoq reviews says:  995 pages was a lot of book and yet I enjoyed every hormone-laden, angst-swimming, love lost and found minute.  Very accessible to all except those who have no business reading books for older readers and those who object to cussing and sex and want us to care that they do.  Folks if you are so fractured that you cannot deal with a few f-bombs in print or the horniness of youth, you probably should not be reading this particular blog.  If you enjoyed Catcher in the Rye once upon a time when you were young, or you know that Hemmingway had a couple of series of e.c.t. treatments, then you are bound to like this rollicking rocking book with a bit of a serious side to it albeit no mental hospitals.  So yeah, get this book and settle in for a long read.  Highly recommended.

You've Got to be Kidding by John Capps and Donald Capps

You've Got to be Kidding! (How jokes can help you think), John Capps and Donald Capps.  New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.  ebook 127 pps.

The two Capps-- father and son-- have written a thorough understandable book about critical thinking, philosophy, and identifying cognitive fallacies in arguments or discourses.  This is the book that I wish everyone on Twitter would read.  I enjoy a good discussion when all of the parties involved know how to keep on-topic and are able to illustrate their points without descending into "the gods said it" or "you're a smuck" kind of irrational discourse.  This is exactly why I like hanging around my fellow atheists.  Most of us know how to put together a rational defense when talking about current events or belief systems.  If I have to listen to one more "god of the gaps" rant, I think I shall scream.

The Capps divide the fallacies that they address into three logical categories: fallacies of relevance, evidence, and assumption.  They also talk about truth being objective, evidence versus proof, values, and the necessity of thinking.  Although much of this is available on some freethinker websites, the jokes add a flavor that also enables one to remember the fallacies they have chosen to address.

sapphoq reviews says: Yeah, I like this book.  Folks that like humor will find this book appealing.  The book is suitable to general audiences who wish to learn how to argue in a logical and rational manner.  Highly recommended.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.  e-book, 261 pps., including bibliography.

Along with my traumatic brain injury came visual disturbances.  Like the patients in Oliver Sacks latest book Hallucinations, I was hesitant to confide in my primary care doctor some things that happened in my vision during and after my motor vehicle accident.  I called them "sort of hallucinations."  I was vaguely aware that those words weren't quite right.  I knew that I hadn't become schizophrenic overnight.  I have always had hypnagogic hallucinations.  I didn't think anything of those.  I experience patterns and swirls when I tumble into sleep.  They are benign.   Some other hallucinations-- the kind that told a few of my acquaintances to do bad stuff or caused them to talk with external voices or see stuff that other folks couldn't see while wide awake-- landed them on mental hell units on heavy doses of anti-psychotics. After hearing my description of the new stuff, the doctor scribbled "visual disturbances" in his notes.  "Visual disturbances" became how I described what happened to me during my car accident and occasionally even now eight years out to subsequent neurodocs and to the shrink who understands brain injury.

How refreshing it was for me to read an entire book by a favorite author dedicated to visual disturbances and hallucinations with various neurological etiologies!  I read Oliver Sacks because his compassion for his patients comes through the pages, because he imparts his experiences and knowledge against an extensive background of other neurology books, and because his words often normalize some of my experiences with my traumatic brain injury.  Ah, I think, so that is the part of the brain that is probably responsible for this or that symptom.  The explanations in Hallucinations, like the explanations in all of Oliver Sacks' books, make sense to me as a lay person.

The brain is rather an exciting organ.  I didn't realize exactly how exciting the brain is until I started learning it after my injury.  I am not one of those people who romanticize my t.b.i.  I much would have preferred to remain as I was before my car was slammed into a house by a driver who was high on marijuana.  The reality of my brain as it is today forces me to grapple with things that I was perfectly happy not being aware of pre-accident.  When I was able to read again, instead of the science fiction and fantasy books that I used to reach for, I reached for computer books and Oliver Sacks.  It is only within the last two years that my brain has healed up enough for me to enjoy S.F. & F. once again.  Even so, I continue to read factual sorts of books now, far more than I used to.  My tastes in reading have been mitigated as a direct result of my injury.  Although I was not the sort of person that one would have described as "average" before that fateful day, I am far from average now.  Briella is the name that I have given to my post-injured brain.  Still brilliant, just a bit sideways.  Skewed.  Not my preference, but reality.  It is by choice that I have sought out other traumatic brain injury survivors.  By necessity I have to make accommodations for Briella.  My fractured brain now has a veritable host of perceptual problems and sensations.  At times, my eyes act like they are on their own acid trip.

Besides the stuff in Hallucinations that I related to brain insults and brain injuries in general, there was more that captivated me.  I had not known about Charles Bonnet Syndrome before reading this book.  And had not even suspected its' existence.  The neurological explanations for states of bliss or what I and others have called "the zone" are practical and useful in understanding why some folks like to jog or run and folks like me take to the woods on an almost daily basis.  I understand a bit more about the natural reasons behind states of religious fervor and also trances.  Oliver Sacks continues to be number one on my list of who I would most like to have a cup of tea or coffee with sometime.

Waves, by sapphoq, 11/16/2012.  The waves are three-D objects that I made using (R)Google sketch-up against a background of a photograph that I took of the rainstorm during Hurricane Sandy and altered.
All rights reserved. 

sapphoq reviews says:  Hallucinations is a most excellent book.  Anyone who has had visual disturbances and who is looking for a practical explanation would do well to pick up this book.  Those who are not familiar with the architecture of the brain would be able to follow along with Hallucinations with no difficulty.  Readers who have some rudimentary knowledge of brain structure and function will find that their knowledge will enhance enjoyment of Hallucinations.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I'm not quite done with Oliver Sachs new book "Hallucinations" but I think I will be by tomorrow.  Til then.

sapphoq reviews

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Home, Novogratz

Home, Novogratz.  New York: Artisan Books, 2012.  e-book, 320 pps., including index and sources.

Novogratz the author refer to Robert and Cortney Novogratz who are a pair of designers that help clients solve their decorating problems for a living.  The Novogratz have traveled extensively in their profession.  Home offers glimpses into thirty very different homes that they had worked on.  

sapphoq reviews says: Home is a hefty e-book.  I had a few problems reading the print, even with my special settings.  The photographs however were beautifully done.  For once, I did not prefer the "befores" to the "afters.  Each home had photographs, a description of what was done and costs for the project, and a how-to for things that we the readers could do ourselves without much difficulty.  I liked this book.  

That's Not Logic! The eBook! by Eric Hedman

That's Not Logic! The eBook!: Critical Thinking in Cartoon Form, Eric Hedman.  El Segundo California: self published, 2011.   1 pg., ebook.

Eric Hedman does quite well with his second subtitle-- which is "Rudimentary Fallacies Illustrated"-- with this e-book.  That's Not Logic! The eBook! uses cartoons of a stick man named Jerry (who is wearing a bow tie), other stick people called collectively Dudes, Leonard the Lizardman, and a Disk to illustrate forty two common fallacies that people use to argue their points.  The cartoons are enjoyable, the captions are witty, and I understood each of the forty two fallacies.  The Lizardman was adorable.  The "1 pg." is misleading.  I've noticed that all comics and cartoons on my e-book are greatly reduced in pages in comparison to the same books in print.  No material is left out as far as I can tell and I have no explanation for why that is.  At any rate, the "1 pg." should not stop you from buying this e-book.  Not only is it cute and easy to understand, but it is a good way to teach logic to teens.  And it does not insult any particular group or organization in illustrating each fallacy.

sapphoq review says:  Leonard the Lizardman rocks and so does the Disk.  A definite winner.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.  ebook, approx 237 pps.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a geek's fairytale.  As such, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is a geek without a job.  He gets one at Mr. Penumbra's bookstore in San Francisco.  It happens to be open 24 hours.  Clay works the night shift.  There are few regular customers but there are also some mysterious customers, some mysterious books, a mysterious log to write in, and of course Mr. Penumbra who is in his own way rather mysterious.

Besides Clay, the cast of characters include his geek friend Neel, a beautiful young woman named Kat who works for Google© in love with the idea of The Singularity, a hacker named Grumble, the strange irregular customers who are looking for tomes to borrow from the back of the store, and an almost luddite organization of folks in a mysterious library in New York City.

sapphoq reviews says: I was hooked immediately.  Anyone who is a geek or a techie and who likes fantasy plus a good mystery will enjoy Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  There are no talking animals or wicked witches to be found here.  But this book is definitely a fairytale for geeks.  I am looking forward to more from Robin Sloan.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.  e-book, approx 426 pps.

J. K. Rowling has done it again!  I thoroughly enjoyed her latest offering.  A bit too dark to be classified as chick lit, The Casual Vacancy is a wondrous  book about life in the suburbs.  It is full of strongly fleshed out characters who resembled people that I know.
The Casual Vacancy was falsely characterized as adult porn when I first heard it discussed in certain circles.  I can tell you definitively, this book is not pornographic.  To be sure, some of the situations dealt with in the book are of an adult nature. 
But J.K Rowling also takes on classism and racism, and she does it with style. 

There is a vacancy on the local governing council due to an unexpected death.  The implications of this death are far-reaching, much more complex than having to select another public servant. Throughout The Casual Vacancy, I was treated to a study of how various individuals in the town reacted to the news of the death as well as their actions and repercussions.  I especially enjoyed the teens in the book.  They thought and acted like teens do.  
The final chapters were suspenseful.  The ending was not what I was expecting at all.  I suspect that the ending will stay with me for a very long time.

sapphoq reviews says: The situations described in the book are ones that perhaps some religious folk would not care to read about, (and perhaps some percentage of parents would not want their teens to read about).  If you object to fictitious adults sleeping about and to teens engaging in premarital sex even within a well-crafted story, a rape or the presence of a methadone clinic, then you should not read this book.
If you are wanting a book which illustrates classism and racism in a direct manner along with a well-written story, then definitely pick up The Casual Vacancy.  It will get you thinking and will give you something to discuss with your more mature teens. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nonbeliever Nation by David Niose

Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, David Niose.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan®, St. Martin's Press L.L.C., 2012.   e-book, 256 pps., incl extensive footnotes and an index.

Things have certainly changed politically in the United States since 1912 and even since the sixties, and not necessarily for the better.  I am astonished at the things that people believe and appalled at how often ignorance masquarades as divine deification.  Nonbeliever Nation opens with a piece of information that I did not know.  All of the candidates in that presidential race ascribed to darwinian evolution theory. 

In the present day, we have the takeover of the Republican Party by fundamentalist Christians and friends.  [I might have been a Republican by now if it weren't for that.  My good friend Jeremy Crow is a Republican (and yes, a Christian) and I've learned an awful lot from him].  Now we also have Democratic politicians who also have to do their part to campaign for Jesus, lest they be accused of being lawless unpatriotic atheists.  So all these politicians are talking about Jesus, faith, and something erroneously refered to as our common "Judeo-Christian heritage."  Meanwhile, a bunch of men want to make laws that basically put the life of a fetus ahead of the life of a woman-- regardless of whether or not that fetus was a result of incest or rape.  Institutions have "feelings."  And the atheists, agnostics, secularists, and the non-religious humanists have been discarded from American political discourse.

Nonbeliever Nation addresses these issues head-on.  David Niose provides numerous examples-- backed up by extensive footnotes and identification of sources-- illustrating a side of the culture wars that is frequently unheard from.  His writing is to the point.  His ideas are developed and follow a logical flow.  I liked this book.  A lot.

sapphoq reviews says: As David Niose maintains, the American "nones" can certainly take a page from the G.L.B.T.I.Q. movement in terms of the effectiveness of identity politics.  The personal is political.  It's about time we "nones," atheists, agnostics, non-theists, non-religious humanists, secularists resist the enforced march into the back rooms of libraries and bookstores.  We are growing.  If we want a more humane United States, then we need to take action. 
In case anyone who knows me or reads my blog doesn't know this:  I am patriotic. I love my country.  I am proud to be an American.  I am an atheist.  I am a non-theist.  I am a secular humanist.    I participate in the Atheist Rollcall on Twitter on Sundays from time to time.  And I am pissed off.
Nonbeliever Nation is highly recommended to all voting Americans, regardless of political party or religious viewpoints.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio

Argo: How the C.I.A. and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio.  New York: Viking (Penguin Group), 2012.  e-book, 234 pps.

Iran is on my list of places I've always wanted to visit but probably will never get to see.  I remember well the thrill of viewing the Persian art exhibit at the Met (a.k.a. MOMA; New York Museum of Modern Art).  The little jewels in the paintings shone and beaconed me to a place that I have never been.  But the wars and the Revolutions and fundamentalist Islam changed those dreams forever and have forced me to become an armchair traveler.

I was young and angry-- quite angry-- when our Embassy was taken over by a bunch of students so many years ago.  I sang "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" along with the radio until that song was removed from the airwaves.  I had a poster hanging on the back porch displaying similar sentiments until someone who knew better than I did quietly ripped it down.  I had very little grasp of history and no understanding of current events or foreign affairs.  I had no clue why we couldn't just bomb the whole country and be done with it.  The hostages could have a nice memorial erected in their honor in Washington, D.C.  Age has a way of granting perspective in spite of our best efforts otherwise.  And I've gotten older.  Sure beats the alternative.

Somehow in my youthful fog and in my investigations into the students who were holding the hostages later on, I missed the fact that there were six Americans who had escaped the Embassy during the takeover and were trapped in Iran.  They landed as houseguests of some folks who were part of the Canadian Embassy.  Argo is co-written by one of the folks who helped extract the six from Tehran. 

sapphoq reviews says: Argo was especially fascinating to me because it introduced the concept of exfiltration to me.  I also learned that the C.I.A. employs experts in forgery and in disguises.  Agents and spies need disguises, false documents, and cover stories in order to carry out their missions.  So do, it turns out, defectors and escapees from hostile embassy takeovers.  Argo filled me in on some basic stuff like why my dad and other folks his age who served in the military don't care for Ike.  Any book that can introduce new-to-me concepts is a sure winner in my way of thinking.  I highly recommend Argo to folks who are looking for a snapshot of history as exciting as any thriller.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer

The Shadow of the Lion, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer.  Riverdale, N.Y.: Baen Publishing, 2002.  e-book, 811 pps.

I came upon Mercedes Lackey's books via her Valdemar series.  Some folks I know object to talking "horses."  I was immediately captivated by them and tales of their heralds.  I've read lots of her books and so I was delighted to find that Baen Publishing offers some of her books on e-format free.  The Shadow of the Lion was one of those offers and it did not disappoint.

Shadow of the Lion offers an alternative history of Venice, Italy.  There are canals and folks living in the swamps, thieves and princes, barons and sailors, corrupt men far up in the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and corrupt politicians, healers and demons and monsters but-- for those who object to talking "horses"-- no heralds or their companions.

All of the characters in The Shadow of the Lion are expertly developed.  I especially enjoyed Maria, the woman who makes her living on her gondola, the swamp rats, the brothers Marco and Benito, Caesare, and the monster.  I found myself invested in their lives and their outcomes.  Many of them reminded me of facets of the personalities of some of my Italian relations.  I was there in Venice watching the action.  I held my breath as the monster swam around, negotiated the rooftops with nimble Benito, and immersed myself in the intrigues and intricacies surrounding the royal families. 

sapphoq reviews says: The Shadow of the Lion has a grand sense of place and history about it.  The length of the book was needed to tell the stories of the folks in it.  The use of magic in the book was succinct and aided in the tale itself.  Highly recommended for any who enjoy alternative histories and well-done fantasies.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Cult That Snapped, by Karl Kahler

The Cult That Snapped: A Journey Into The Way International, Karl Kahler.  self-published? 1999.  e-book, 410 pps.

Karl Kahler has written a fairly comprehensive book dealing with both some history of The Way, International and his own personal experiences as a W.O.W. [Word Over the World ambassador].  Kahler had dropped out of high school and was seeking his fortune working at his dad's business when a co-worker insisted one day that a hitchhiker be picked up.  Her name was Valencia from Connecticut.  She was cute and sexy and drank and shot pool. It was a walk across the street to meet the rest of the gang, self-styled quasi-teachers of the Bible a la V.P. Weirwille, the leader of The Way. 

V.P. had some erroneous notions-- the biggest one being that the Bible-- the part starting with Matthew at least-- was written in Aramaic, not Greek.  His followers smoked cigarettes, cussed, drank, and were as free with having sex with anyone that moved, just like he was.  His empire fell apart with the advent of his death and L. Craig Martindale's assumption of the mantle of leadership.

Kahler was around for the last part of V.P. and the first bits of Martindale.  [Martindale is out now.  According to the official website of The Way, International, the new leader is a woman who was a vice president when Kahler was around].  Martindale was intent on having his own witch hunt.  So he dumped a bunch of people, including folks who opposed him. 

Kahler had been having doubts about the teachings, lots of doubts.  He studied Joshua and Judges and found internal inconsistencies and stuff not substantiated by the historical record.   A trip to Israel cinched it for him pretty much when he found that the story of Jesus casting a bunch of demons into some swine was cited in two of the gospels as happening in "the country of the Gadarenes" and in "the country of the Gergesenes" were two really different places some miles apart during the tour.

At any rate, Kahler found that he no longer believed the stuff he had been taught in V.P. style classes and biblical study groups.  He left, but Martindale kicked him out officially by letter three years later.

sapphoq reviews says: The Cult That Snapped includes a lot of history of the movement started by V.P. Wierwille and how the cult operated to recruit members.  I applaud Kahler for getting out after he found that he no longer was a Christian.  I suspect that this book won't have the same appeal to others that some of the other "losing my religion/leaving my former cult" books I've recently read because of both the historical content and the scriptural exigeneses in its' pages.  Still and all, The Cult That Snapped is worthy in its' own right.  Recommended. 

The Guru Looked Good by Marta Szabo

The Guru Looked Good: A Memoir, Marta Szabo.  Woodstock N.Y.: Tinker Street Press, 2009.  344 pps., e-book.

Marta Szabo got herself a guru.  Well, two in fact-- one at a time.  The first guy was called Natvar.  He was abusive.  It took seven years to leave him.  But she left her boyfriend, apartment, life, and dreams for Natvar's former guru-- the one he himself had before he went bad.  She was a woman by the name of Gurumayi and she was associated with a large center in the Catskill Mountains of New York State [which I believe has been since sold] and with one in Ganeshpuri, India.  Gurumayi is, as far as I can tell from looking through various Internet sites, the head of the S.Y.D.A. Foundation ®. .  And there are bunches of other ashrams around which are also Siddha Yoga ashrams.  Unfortunately, the guru Natvar's guru-- Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the Gurumayi of Szabo's book stands accused of improprieties.  Gurumayi Chidvilasanda's guru-- Baba Muktananda-- is dead now but has been similarly accused.  These alleged improprieties are documented on such sites as the one put up by Pendragon and now maintained by Daniel Shaw, the introduction being where a link can be found to more info at .  But Szabo's memoir does not go into the accusations as she has some of her own to make.

Szabo spent a decade on staff at the Fallsburg ashram in the Catskills and chronicles how she had put her writing life on hold in exchange for someone else's "I know better how to do your life than you do."  Szabo's words on page 341 have the ring of truth:
     I began reading books on cults and recognized what
     I saw.  Over and over, people doing what in their
     heart of hearts they didn't completely believe in or
     support, but doing it because they thought someone
     else knew better.  Doing it because they were afraid
     to speak up.

sapphoq reviews says: The Guru Looked Good is an excellent book with a crisp writing style that is authentic and clear.  Highly recommended to those who are in Siddha Yoga, were in Siddha Yoga, survivors who have left cults, and anyone who is comtemplating "finding a guru."  I am looking forward to reading more from Marta Szabo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Adele, et. al., by Adele R. Fors

Adele et. al.,: Jehovah's Witnesses, Hells Angels, Serial Killers, Dissociative Identity Disorder... and a 14-year-old Run-Away.  2011: Smashwords Edition ebook, 165 pps.

Adele grew up in a Jehovah's Witness family.  There were problems.  Her father was undemonstrative and pre-occupied with Kingdom Hall Elder matters.  Her mother was unhappy with this and also unable to reach Adele emotionally.  When Adele was fourteen years old, she was disfellowshipped.

For several years Adele hung out with various outlaw bikers, hooked up with a few men, and became a prostitute of her own volition.  At seventeen, she turned up pregnant and went crawling back to the Kingdom Hall to beg forgiveness.  She progressed into adulthood and pointedly identified that she had other personalities inside of her.  She got into psychiatric treatment and a bad marriage, had jobs and lost the last one, was in University.  And she was once again disfellowshipped.

sapphoq reviews says:  I've known a few folks who were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder [what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder].  Although Adele alluded to this diagnosis in her ebook and named several members of her system, I was unable to get a good feel for what her different personas were like nor for the transition between them.  This is vastly different from my experience with D.I.D. acquaintances.  Their personas had distinct personalities and not just distinct ages.  The other memoirs that I've read about D.I.D. folk were convincing in their descriptions of their alters.  Adele's descriptions were not.  
     At the same time, I must admit that I have zero professional qualifications in respect to dissociative disorders and I've never met Adele.  After M.P.D. became a controversial diagnosis, its' name got changed.  Even so, the arguments over it did not cease publicly or privately.  Forgive me audience if I am somewhat skeptical over the whole D.I.D. thing.
     I do know that it is an act of bravery when anyone talks about their psychiatric symptoms.  Adele certainly is brave, and a survivor of a bunch of really traumatic stuff like multiple rapes.  I was saddened to discover that she was disfellowshipped [the first time] at the age of fourteen and therefore effectively thrown out of her parents' home.
     Adele et. al. did not totally sustain my interest.  Thus I find I cannot recommend this book.

The Day My Mother Snapped by Jeff Graham

The Day My Mother Snapped, Jeff Graham.  No identifying data as to year or publisher, probably self-published.  e-book, 5 pages.

I was quite taken by The Day My Mother Snapped.  The young boy in the story is named Andrew and one day his mother goes bonkers.  She suddenly believes that he is an imposter of her young son Andrew.  She is diagnosed with Capgras Syndrome [also called Capgra's Delusion in a few places on the Internet].  There are consequences for the young boy as a result of his mother's illness.

sapphoq reviews says: To my knowledge, I've never met anyone with Capgras.  The websites that I looked up all reference Capgras occuring along with a primary disorder such as schizophrenia or brain damage.  Although the writing in The Day My Mother Snapped is not the work of a professional, I was startled by this short story.  I am looking forward to more by Jeff Graham.  Recommended. 

The Cult Next Door by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone

The Cult Next Door: A True Story of a Suburban Manhattan New Age Cult, Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone.  Bergenfield N.J.: Ace Academics, Inc., 2011.  ebook, 345 pps.

Elizabeth R. Burchard grew up in Manhattan.  Her parents divorced.  Her father was stable but died when Liz was twelve years old.  Her mother was whacked out and verbally abused Liz frequently throughout her childhood.

Liz was smart and was in college pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a shrink when she met George Sharkman, a biofeedback technician during the course of his work.  He was a charming talker and roped both Liz and her dysfunctional mother in with his words.

He started what is referred to as "The Group," a quasi-therapy group at his home.  He had a bunch of women there and a few men, and his two kids and a dog named Ben.  He charged the women and the few men forty bucks an hour and his form of therapy devolved into mass marathons and his pick of sex partners.  He encouraged everyone to have sex with each other.  The author found herself married to a man that she didn't care for.  After that broke up, she still stayed in The Group.  George Sharkman began to channel "God's Light" but then he began to refer to his own self as God.  He started doing a lot of shaking so the group did too.  The dog died and George got the group to hang around and sort of hope for the dog's return to life.  Ben's decaying maggot-infested corpse was hidden behind the couch and brought out when The Group was in session.  The Group was in session as often as George could arrange it-- at forty bucks an hour per participant for as many hours daily as possible, it was worth his while to make it so-- and George also offered individual therapy as he saw fit to add to his income.  One day, the Black Dog Cult members were presented with a bunch of pebbles laying on Ben's body and told that Ben had birthed these stones.  This started The Group on sucking rocks.

Liz began a photography business as she had become a college dropout and her inheritance from her father went to George Sharkman.  She was hoodwinked into taking on George's daughter as a partner and also lived with her for awhile as roommates.  She met Judith L. Carlone and Judith's husband.  With Judith's gentle questions and friendship, Liz made her escape from all things Sharkman good.  Unfortunately, her mother remained behind.  George Sharkman died.  The dog never was brought back to life.  He was returned to his grave near the woods.

sapphoq reviews says: The Cult Next Door shows how easily it is for someone to decide to join a cult.  Liz was highly intelligent but she capitulated.  Her writing is crisp and she keeps her memoir moving.  Highly recommended to any who wish to understand more about how a talkative con guru can seduce folks into joining up.

Blown for Good by Marc Headley

Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology, by Marc Headley.  Self-published, BFG Books Inc., at Smashwords, 823 pps. on e-reader.

 It is because of this book that I recently refused to attend a talk by an inspirational speaker that some of my TOPS [Take Off Pounds Sensibly] pals were waxing enthusiastly over.  I looked up the speaker's name on the Internet.  When I found that he listed himself as having worked "in the film industry in Hollywood" for some years, I became suspicious.  The clincher was the overflowing with happiness tone to his writing on his website.  Is he a Scientology?  I don't know.  Blown for Good informed me that Scientologists who worked for the Headquarters were told to say they worked in film if asked by outsiders what they did for a living.  I wasn't willing to take a chance that the speaker might be a sneaker stumper for Scientology who just might have worked at Golden Era Productions just as Marc Headley had.

Marc Headley grew up in a Scientology family.  His parents got divorced and remained Scientologists.  His mother's steady stream of new boyfriends were Scientologists.  Marc attended Scientology schools as a kid-- with an occasional break of public school or no school at all if his mother couldn't afford the tuition at times-- and hung out with other kids also growing up in Scientology.  After his living arrangements repeatedly fell apart, Headley signed up to work for Sea Org.  He was sixteen years old.  There were kids in Sea Org who were even younger than he was.

During his initial training in Sea Org, Headley first ran into a crew of folks who were being punished and were doing indeterminate stints on the Rehabilitation Project Force (R.P.F.).  The folks assigned to R.P.F. got the nastiest foulest jobs, went everywhere at a run, slept in separate R.P.F. "dorms," and were threatened with being assigned to the R.P.F.'s R.P.F. which was even worse.

Headley passed his training and then spent fifteen years working at Scientology Headquarters in Gilman Hot Springs, California-- also called Gold, for Golden Era Productions.  He had enough contact with Scientology's leader David Miscavige to recognize that Miscavige seemed to get pleasure out of humiliating and punishing people.  Headley even had a punching session with Miscavige in which Headley's face served as Miscavige's punching bag.

Headley had worked for Headquarters for fifteen years when he was falsely accused of embezzlement.  He was sentenced to go to R.P.F.  He decided to blow [leave].  Some folks tried to get him back and even ran his motorcycle off the road in the process.  The upshot was when Headley began to make a scene in the road, they backed off and left.  He was escorted to the town and made his break.  His wife blew shortly thereafter.

sapphoq reviews says: Blown for Good is an excellent book for anyone interested in this subject matter.  Most highly recommended.  I wish Marc Headley, his wife Claire, and his children much happiness as they walk in true freedom.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein

A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein.  Boston: Beacon Press, 2012.  247 pps on an e-reader

I first encountered Kate Bornstein via one of her other books called Gender Outlaw.  I liked it a lot and was thus pleasantly surprised to find A Queer and Pleasant Danger.  This latest book is a treasure.  Kate addresses her life in Scientology's Sea Org as a male, her transgenderism, family relationships, her ongoing bout of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (C.L.L.) and her gender identity with equal aplomb.

Kate was born in a male body and Jewish.  Kate found her way through childhood and adolescence in Jersey haphazardly.  In Denver she encountered some young Scientologists who had a message and pizza.  Being trans, Kate was sold on the idea that she was a thetan assuming a human identity.  Since thetans were also purported to be genderless, that solved Kate's gender dilemma for a bit.  She hung out at the Scientology org in Denver, took a few courses there, and then converted, went off to Sea Org where she lived on the large Scientology cruise ship, got promoted a few times and got married.  Once her first wife Molly got pregnant, they were commissioned to start an org in New York City.  The hotel where they had their offices was a dive and people kept flying past their offices on the way down to death on the sidewalk below.  The baby came and life went on that way for a couple of years.  Kate's first wife was ordered to the West Coast when their baby girl was two years old.  When their baby was four, she boarded a plane to visit with her mum [Kate's first wife] and never returned.  Mexican divorce papers came shortly after that.

Kate and wife number two found each other as both continued to work for Scientology.  Through a series of promotions, Kate found herself traveling all over.  There was a problem at a Swiss bank.  Kate was then ordered to return stateside where she faced officers from Scientology's financial police org in Clearwater Florida.  After hours upon hours on the e-meter, she was informed that she could opt for three years of hard labor or leave Scientology.  She had a neck problem by then which was painful so she chose to leave.  She was excommunicated and packed out.  Kate gave her second wife the car-- she was now considered an S.P., or suppressive person-- and went back to her childhood home with her parents.

Kate's dad who was a medical doctor promptly began treating Kate's neck problem  Kate slept a lot and after a bit got up and began to do life again.  Several months later, Kate was offered the opportunity to return to Scientology in good standing.  She was told that the financial police org was corrupt and was now a goner.  She declined and got on with life.  Kate read some decent science fiction [that is to say not any sci fi by L. Ron Hubbard which some percentage of us sci fi freaks consider to be garbage or at least substandard], got into acting, went through gender reassignment, mourned her daughter who she is not allowed to speak to, became an activist, wrote books, fell in love a few times with various women, got in touch with the idea that she prefers to be the masochist in the S & M lifestyle.  Today she identifies as a tranny rather than as male or female.  This of course irks bunches of people such as some trangenderists as well as bunches of lesbians and Pope Benedict.  Kate has decided to her credit that she is NOT inherently dangerous.

sapphoq reviews says: Anyone who does not care for reading about happy transgenderist folks probably should skip this book.  Folks who enjoyed Kate Bornstein's other books and/or who are fans of Pat Califa [that's a big yes from me on both counts] will like this different and fascinating take on life as a Scientologist and life as an ex-Scientologist.  Highly recommended.