Monday, April 29, 2013

If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013.  ebook, 198 pps.

Carey and Jenessa are two half-sisters living in a broken down camper in the woods with their mother.  Mother is drug-addled and not a very nice woman as things turn out.  The kids are used to being poor and eating a lot of beans.  Jenessa doesn't talk.  Neither child goes to school.

All of these things change when two visitors invade their sanctuary.  Carey and Nessa are then re-introduced to a world that was left behind many years ago.

sapphoq reviews says:  Parents with quabbles about prostitution, rape, and drug addiction may not wish their teens to read If You Find Me.  Also, if a teen is on the sensitive side, she may wish to skip this one.  If You Find Me addresses some tough issues in a way that is sure to appeal to the average teenage girl.  Carey is the narrator and as such is an excellent choice.  Jenessa is a sympathetic younger sister character whose differences are highlighted by her mutism.  If You Find Me is an excellent example of Teen Chick Lit.  Although it sags a bit towards the end in its' predictability, many teenaged girls will enjoy this fiction book by a first-time author. 

Lauren Ipsum by Carlos Bueno

Lauren Ipsum, Carlos Bueno.  Prescott, Az: Off By-One Press, 2011.  ebook, 197 pps.

Lauren Ipsum is a different sort of book.  It uses a "child got lost in the scary weird woods" tale to teach kids some jargon useful to the study of computer science.  Lauren doesn't want to go to summer school like-- according to her mother-- the kids in Finland do.  So she goes off for a ramble in the woods, wanders farther than usual, and meets up with some creatures and then a professor.  Notes which begin on page 179 further explain the new vocabulary.

sapphoq reviews says:  While superficially a children's story, Lauren Ipsum introduces the reader to some basic concepts which are explained clearly and really do fit into the storyline.  Lauren Ipsum scores major points for execution and for ease of understanding.  Highly recommended to the middle school crowd and older.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

*potentially triggering* *WWASPS* Come Back by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine

If you are a survivor of a WWASPS teen industry facility or other abusive place please please please ~ STOP ~ and ask yourself if you want to read this particular book review.  Mia Fountaine was placed in Morava in the Czech Republic and then at Spring Creek Lodge once Morava was closed.  The book Come Back glorifies WWASPS, its' staff, its' methods, and its' programs.  You may not want to read this review.  If you find it too triggering, please x out this page.  I care about you and you have gone through way too much already in the troubled teen industry. 

Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back, Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine.  New York: HarperCollins e-books, 2006.  e-book, 332 pps.

Sigh.  It had to happen I suppose.  A whole book justifying some of the abuses inherent in the WWASPS ways of doing things,

       for a brief history and timeline if you are unfamiliar                  
      with WWASPS.  A search engine will reveal quite a
      bit more on many many other sites maintained by survivors]. 

embracing the alternative history that WWASPS provides to its' adherents, singing the praises of the troubled teen industry that is at the core of WWASPS and Spring Creek Lodge and Morava [or whatever they are calling themselves these days].  The Pullin brothers appeared in the same sentence as the word "love."  Just one example of the Fontaine team buying into WWASPS.  Geez.
One thing that has not changed its' name is The Hobbit.  The Hobbit is a tiny building to which a recalcitrant teen is brought for an unspecified period of isolation.  It is punishment.  Justifying its' use by the sentiment that the particular teen housed in there doesn't know that she can change and she has the tools to do so is sickening.  It repulsed me.  The images of a teen banging on a glass window, screaming and crying.  Yeah.  By all reports, The Hobbit continues to exist at Spring Creek Lodge [or whatever its' current name is these days... keeping track of all of the name changes induces vertigo].

This is The Hobbit.  A small room where a teen was placed into forced isolation.  The shelf is actually a "bed."  The walls and floors have been described as "disgusting" and full of feces and urine.  A Focus On: Spring Creek Lodge has now been published at:  Picture was taken from:

The description of a "Discovery Seminar" courtesy of David Gilcrease and company, at the time of the book-writing called Resource Realizations, Inc., was also nauseating to me.  In other places on the web, Gilcrease has been described by survivors as being a cult-like figure, greasy, and creepy.  I can't vouch for any of that since I have never met the man.  Certainly, the description of a few things that went on in Claire and Mia's seminars lend credence to the idea that the seminars are pseudo-pop-psychology at best and dangerous to the unhinged at worse.

I could go on.  The Fontaines wax eloquently over Morava-- the "school" in the Czech Republic that got shut down-- and what a shame that a couple of kids who lied about being abused there were able to get the place shut down.  The description of the food did in my sensitive stomach.  The descriptions of the rest The acceptance of the culture at Morava was enough to leave me gasping for air.
Morava was the first place that Mia did time in.  She was quickly transferred to Spring Creek Lodge when Morava closed and the beat went on. 

sapphoq reviews saysYeah, while the writing style of mother and daughter displayed native talent, Come Back is a relatively useless dual-memoir.  This book adds nothing to the debate on the troubling troubled teen industry.  Survivors of WWASPS and other places would do well to skip this particular piece of propaganda [unless they are in a place with their recovery where reading this trite garbage might encourage them to continue to educate the masses about what life was/is really like in a WWASPS facility].  Others would do well to read Maia Szalavitz instead.  Again, parents for crying out loud, please do your own research before agreeing to sign your teen up for a stint at any of the Mormon gulags that is WWASPS.  Or any other behavioral treatment facility, troubled teen facility, residential facility, rape and death camp.
Totally and emphatically not recommended.

Morava was closed.  The folks running it never answered in a court of any law to any of the abuses that [legal word: allegedly] occurred there.
Spring Creek Lodge is reportedly closed and the facility in Montana has been sold.

[legal crap: The opinions expressed here are mine. I could be wrong.  But at least no teens were raped, beaten, or killed in the manufacture of this review.  Which makes this blog post much safer than time spent by a teen at Spring Creek Lodge.  Just saying].    

The Church of Fear by John Sweeney

The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology, John Sweeney.   London: Silvertail Books, 2013.  e-book, 290 pps.

John Sweeney is an investigative reporter.  He is the "tomato face" who lost it in front of several Scientologists during an interview.  To his credit, he rapidly admits his faults and apologizes where due.  Following outsiders around and spying on them is rather creepy.  "Creepy" is a word that Sweeney uses a lot in The Church of Fear.

The Church of Fear re-counts Sweeney's experiences with high-ranking Scientologists [N.B. but not David Miscavige] in various places.  There is a torturous anti-psychiatry exhibit, films which are too long, and a lot of history in this book.  During the course of the book itself, several of the officials which Sweeney had contact with split from Scientology.  A split means leaving behind loved ones who are still bona fide Scientologists along with leaving behind Scientology the organization itself.  Even the outs who are not out outs-- out outs are people who no longer take stock in any of the Scientology dogma; singular outs regret that the dogma of which they are still fond has gotten corrupted by bad practices throughout the years-- have had to be disconnected from friends and loved ones.  

Sweeney endorses Robert Jay Lifton's work throughout The Church of Fear.  [I also have Lifton's definitive work Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism in my possession.  It is slated for review at a future date].  Sweeney provides a framework for understanding the pull of Scientology upon its members.  It is not so easy to pack it all in and leave Scientology, particularly if one is a member of the Sea Org.

Who to believe?  On one side, there are prominent public Scientologists like Tom Cruise and Juliette Lewis.  [I never much cared for Tom Cruise as an actor.  I've been a fan of Juliette LewisI like her because she can be said to be quirky.  And I like quirky]On the other, there are some ex-Scientologists who have written very poignant memoirs.   And there are words that keep appearing.  Dead Agent, Estates Project Force, Fair Game, Xenu.  Then also, the legendary [legal word: alleged] temper of David Miscavige.  To those who are still in Sea Org, these questions must be asked: Did he ever strike you? Did he ever strike someone you know?  Is he verbally abusive? 

Xenu.  I will not fault anyone for believing in Xenu.  After all, the claims of other religions are equally fanciful.  Those other claims are somewhat embedded in American culture.  Indeed, many of us grew up with them.  A belief in Xenu is no more absurd than believing that a deity knocked up a virgin, donkeys and snakes talked, or that some deity or deities communicate directly with certain human beings.  Whether the mysticism occurs out in space or in the cargo cults of Polynesia or at the internal altars of the faithful matters not.  There is something to be said for the temporary appeal of a personal mysticism.  A sense of getting some real answers coupled with a feeling of being a deity's special snowflake can be intoxicating.  Been there some years ago.  Done that.  Got burnt out.  This mystical stuff is hard work-- a definite downside to it.  At any rate, I maintain that belief in a space opera sort of gospel is no more odd than belief in the tenets of any mainstream religion. 

Sweeney's book points up some differences between the influence of Scientology in England versus its' influence in the United States.  In England, Scientology is not considered to be a religion by the powers that be.  In the United States, it is.  Because Scientology is considered to be a religion by the laws of this land, Scientology has a certain legal standing.    Does religious standing matter in the United States?  Most assuredly it does.  In the United States, the rights of a religious body exceeds the rights of its' detractors.  What else?  England does not have an assemblage of actors and actresses who have converted.  Scientology in Hollywood has been successful in recruiting actors and actresses for the cause.

Scientology has a bundle of lawyers and loyal adherents who have proven able to deliver more than sufficient butt-hurt to its' critics.  Ex-Scientologists, reporters, journalists, investigators, and bloggers have all suffered.  The specific and precise use of the word "creepy" in The Church of Fear is rather telling. 

Scientology does not have the monopoly on twisted tales of deviance.  Genocide committed in an African country involving in part a Roman Catholic church with members of "the wrong tribe" inside being bulldozed to death upon the direct orders of a priest.  Child brides and rape.  WWASPS.  Suicide bombers.  The refusal of a government influenced by fundamentalists to embrace stem cell research.  Not allowing AIDS organizations to tell adults in foreign countries that the use of condoms can and does prevent some percentage of HIV-related deaths.  Acting upon a belief that the life of an unborn fetus takes precedence over the life of a mother or a rape victim.  Those atrocities have been addressed in other places.  It is my sincere belief that we must force ourselves to talk about these things no matter where we find evidence of them.  The perpetrators count on our silence and our shame.  Denial of basic human rights will continue to occur within Scientology and elsewhere for as long as we cower and shrink away from these unpalatable truths. 
sapphoq reviews says:  The Church of Fear is useful to those who are seeking outsider information on Scientology, to folks looking to get out, to ex-Scientologists, and to students of comparative religions and/or totalitarian regimes.  Sweeney's writing is crisp-- if a tad repetitive in places-- and his history of psychiatry is succinct.  The repetitive dialogue and introspection within illustrate how even the brain of a seasoned war journalist can get twisted when Scientologists are talking.

This book continues to bear witness to certain [legal word: alleged] practices of the Church of Scientology which to us as outsiders appear to be part of a widespread culture of abuse within its' ranks.  Much safer to read this book than to actually visit any Scientology center anywhere in the world.

They are words.  They are copy-left.  If for some reason, you want this thing, clicky to save to your computer.  
Am I a Suppressive Person?  I am probably one of the worst sort-- I am an atheistMy non-theistic status makes me persona non gratis in many places where believers of all kinds gather.  Not only do I prefer natural explanations to supernatural or preternatural explanations, I am also a supporter of Anonymous.  For anyone who has been living in a vacuum, Anonymous is [an idea] known for its' OpChanology protests near the Scientology Headquarters in California some years ago.  Anonymous continues to campaign against Scientology as the epitome of thought control.  [These days, some politicians and federal agencies in the United States are also doing a pretty fair imitation of thought control in my unasked for and unwanted opinion].  On the plus side, I am not in contact with any Scientologists [as far as I know] and I intend to keep it that way.      

So yeah.  The Church of Fear is highly recommended.

     If we as a race of humans are to evolve beyond a 
     need for belief in childish tales, we must create our 
     own meaning.  Because life itself is devoid of meaning.  
     We are not special snowflakes.  We are each of us 
     alone in our own skins.  Once we get with that, 
     we will perhaps be less subject to the many seductive 
     and false promises of the snake oil sales forces.   ~ sapphoq

Monday, April 08, 2013

A.A.? No Way! by Charles Delaney

A.A.? No Way!, Charles Delaney.  Self-published, Smashwords, 2012.  ebook, 59 pps.

Some people find help in traditional [12 step] groups and traditional [based upon the 12 steps] treatment programs and rehabs.  Others don't.  Charles Delaney had been to A.A. and he found the program to be significantly lacking.  The A.A. members themselves appeared to be clones of each other.  Worse, they were not ready to hear Delaney's criticism of the program itself nor what he found in looking for alternatives.

The problem as Charles Delaney sees it is that A.A. has a 95% failure rate.  He states that Rational Recovery has a higher success rate of its members achieving abstinence than A.A. does.  He also states that folks who attempt to quit their addictions by themselves have a better chance of doing so than folks in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and other Anonymous derivatives.  Delaney does quote from some studies but does not provide any footnotes for his stats.  On page 11, he says "The basic idea of those programs are the best of ideas...put to the worst of applications."  He maintains that Alcoholics Anonymous is in fact a Christian and a religious program.  He criticizes the idea that alcoholics are powerless when it comes to alcohol.  He advocates for the assuming of personal responsibility in addressing one's addiction.

A.A.? No Way! offers criticism of the twelve steps from a pagan perspective.  There is an outline of "A 9-Step Recovery for Asatru/Odinists" [which begins on page 40 in my ebook] that I personally thought were excellent.  After that, the book begins to fall apart.  Delaney endorses an old book  written by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz and published in 1960 called Psycho-Cybernetics[Psycho-Cybernetics espoused positive thinking, if you can dream it you can do it, and mind-body connection woo-woo].  He then detours into a very rudimentary understanding of brain function and creativity.  A.A.? No Way! finishes up with the idea that there is so much more out there in a life of abstinence than can be found in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

sapphoq reviews says:  Some of A.A.? No Way! rang true to me and some didn't.  To his credit, Charles Delaney was quick to point out that those who have found their help in A.A. ought to remain in A.A.  Although A.A.? No Way! lacks in footnotes and a bit of execution, it is especially valuable for those heathens who want to try some steps written specifically for them.  Quite frankly, except for the woo-woo noted within the book he recommended, I liked this little ebook.  Charles Delaney has the barebones for a longer book within the first 43 pages of A.A.? No Way! It is my sincere hope that he will undertake a longer book project related to alternatives to 12 step recovery, complete with footnotes but lacking the feel-good woo-woo and pop psychology that often passes for professional treatment these days.  Recommended for heathens who have failed in A.A. because of its' somewhat quasi-christian approach to recovery.

Switching Time by Richard Baer

Switching Time, Richard Baer.  New York: Crown Publishers, 2007. ebook, 295 pps.

Like a large percentage of people diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder [depending up what year the diagnosis was made], Karen-- a pseudonym-- had endured horrendous abuse by her family as a child.  Subsequently, she hooked up with an abusive mate.  In her struggle to break free of that, she began therapy with Richard Baer.

At some point, Karen's alters began to surface and communicate with her therapist.  They had a litany of complaints.  Karen herself was conscious only of losing time.  Losing time is like an alcoholic blackout caused by the shifting of alters-- the body continues to function and have a life but the brain does not remember later-- who will say and do things that the core will not.  Eventually, Karen developed co-consciousness with varying alters.  She also recovered specific memories of ritual abuse.

By the end of the book, Karen integrated and gave permission for the book to be written.  She reportedly furnished many corrections and expansions but was satisfied with the execution of her case study.

The part of the book that fascinated me was the description of Karen's parents.  Her father went to trial for the sexual abuse of a young niece.  Karen was tricked into taking her mother to the hospital to pick up her father after his discharge.  He had been found to have metastasized cancer.  In typical fashion, her parents blamed Karen for his woes.  They also had the expectation that she would drop in on her father daily to check on his well-being while her mother was away.  When she refused, they informed her that she owed this service to them and that she was an ingrate.

sapphoq reviews says: Switching Time is the typical story of woman diagnosed with multiple personalities written by her therapist after her integration.  Those singletons who enjoy television shows where laundry is aired in public and those who are fascinated by the concept of multiple personalities will probably like Switching Time.  I hesitate to recommend Switching Time.  There is something about not wishing to encourage other folks on the D.I.D. continuum to allow their stories to be told by professional helpers.  Those who are triggered by reading about childhood sexual abuse ought to stay away entirely.  On the question: Can more than one "personality" exist in one body? I remain neutral.  I want to say that horrific childhood abuse can do that to someone.  Yet I hesitate because the literature is also filled with stories of childhood "satanic" ritual abuse and references to snuff films.  Sort of not recommended.