Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Bobby Henderson

The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bobby Henderson.  New York:  Random House Publishing Group, 2010.  e-book, 152 pps.

For those who are not familiar with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, head over to http://www.venganza.org/ for a thorough introduction to his noodly appendages.  Pastafarians, like Discordians and those who worship at the feet of the Invisible Pink Unicorn (bless her holy hooves), are a happy lot.  The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a terrific intro to the anti-dogma involved in this particular religious lifestyle.

We Pastafarians are pirates through and through.  It is not enough to don the outfit as if we were celebrating a continuous Hallowe'en.  One must BE a pirate to the core.  The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster points this out and introduces new converts and others to our holy days [Fridays] and our version of Heaven [replete with a stripper factory and a beer volcano].

Bobby Henderson does an excellent job pointing out exactly what is wrong with scientists, evolution, and the Christian version of Intelligent Design.  It makes more sense that the universe is composed of strings in the image of the F.S.M.  Henderson also points out that eating pasta is infinitely more satisfying than eating wafers that taste like cardboard.

sapphoq reviews says:  Although The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is slow-moving at time, I endorse this holy book as something that is needed.  Highly recommended of course.  R'Amen!

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel, Beth Hoffman.  New York: Penguin Group, 2010.  e-book, 256 pps.

CeeCee Honeycutt is a tween with a problem.  Her mother is psychotic and her father has run off to immerse himself in his job and sharing sheets with another woman.  CeeCee is left to take care of her mother the best that she can.  One day, something happens to her mother.  CeeCee is sent off to live with an elderly relation in Georgia.

CeeCee is surrounded by many strong women in her new home.  The women are older and wiser.  CeeCee is suddenly freed from the responsibility of looking after her parent.  She finds joy and a certain amount of wisdom in her new life.

sapphoq reviews says:  Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is an excellent novel.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Georgia-- very much like the Georgia that I have known-- and the subplots.  There is racial tension in the air.  The women themselves know better.  But a few men do not.  The main character is infinitely likeable.  The dialogue and situations are realistic.  The fights between two neighbors left me screaming with laughter.  Absolutely recommended to everyone who loves a good chick fic.

Aspergirls by Rudy Simone

Aspergirls, Rudy Simone.  London: Kingsley, Jessica Publishers, 2010.  e-book, 206 pps.

Rudy Simone's daughter has Asperger's.  Because Asperger's presents somewhat differently in girls [and women], the diagnosis is often missed.  Many of the studies done about folks on the autism spectrum in general and about folks who are aspies specifically are conducted on male subjects.  Of late, there has been some question about whether or not the common perception that "mostly males get this" is correct.  Just like the idea that the cute little boys with autism cease to attract attention as adult men with autism-- perhaps they grow out of it or perhaps they ingest invisibility crackers-- so is the idea that little girls and women just don't have autism often.  

The author alternates between narratives about the things that have happened to her daughter and what she has experienced as a mother of a female with Asperger's.  At the end of each chapter is a list of tips for aspergirls and separate tips for the parents.  Intermingled with the narrative are snapshots of girls and women who have Asperger's.

Now that the D.S.M. 5 has come out and further muddied the waters by declaring auties and aspies to all be part of something called Autism Spectrum Disorder, it will be interesting to  find out whether or not most folks-- men and women, boys and girls-- who fit in the aspie camp will be ignored.

sapphoq reviews says:  Although Rudy Simone briefly admits that a few folks with Asperger's have a bisexual orientation [without actually using the word "bisexual"] she does not address lesbianism in aspie teens and women.  This I think is an oversight that should have been addressed.  Lesbian and bisexual intimate relationships work a bit differently from heterosexual relationships.  It is not merely a matter of, "We do the same things you do in bed.  It's just that my partner is the same gender."  Aside from that, Aspergirls is certainly a valuable and readable book for aspies who are female, their parents, and others who are interested in the subject.  Recommended. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

I Fired God, by Jocelyn Zichterman

I Fired God:  My Life Inside-- and Escape From-- the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult, Jocelyn R. Zichterman.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 2013.  e-book, 308 pps.

The Independent Fundamental Baptist [Churches] is a supposedly "loose-knit" organization officially founded by "Doctor" Bob Jones of Bob Jones University.  [Westboro Baptist has been listed as being a part of the I.F.B.].  Although the word "Baptist" appears in their name, these folks are not Southern Baptists.  There is a doctrine of separation involved.  This means pretty much that folks belonging to an I.F.B.C. consider themselves to be apart from the ungodly watered-down Christian churches.  [Even the Southern Baptists are included as having watered down the Christian Scriptures].  Need more background info?  Try here at: http://johnshore.com/2012/09/11/the-fundamentally-toxic-christianity/  And yes, if you type in "Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult Survivors," you will find folks who have lived through the horrors of life as a member of one of their "independent" congregations.

Jocelyn R. Zichterman is one woman who lived through the horrors.  She was born into the religion.  She grew up in a household with two sisters and two brothers.  Her father was clearly abusive physically and sexually.  Her mother, like all girls and women in the I.F.B., had zero power.  Her brothers were abusive too to her and her sisters also.  

The reason why I put the "Doctor" in "Doctor" Bob Jones is this:  Bob Jones University has a habit of conferring honorary PhDs upon its' graduates.  The education offered by I.F.B. affiliated schools [now there are some schools for elementary-aged children and high school kids in the cult as well coming from families that for whatever reason don't homeschool their kids] is substandard.  They can say they are "accredited" however, much like the "accreditation" offered by some WWASPS facilities, the "accreditation" is by private regional organizations rather than by an individual state or public entity.  Zichterman had an irregular education growing up which continued into Bible College-- the only option she had for higher education.  In spite of the strictures against touching male students, she succeeded in finding a man to marry.  At first she did not love him, figuring that this man was "God's Will" but later on she did.

Zichterman was lucky.  She made it out with her husband and children.  Her husband was not raised in the I.F.B., but joined as an adult.  Thus, he was not subject to the same kind of physical abuse which is commonly practiced in I.F.B. households.  Here I will note that spanking as practiced by I.F.B. is clearly abuse in my estimation.  [Not all spanking is].

It took time for Zichterman to clear her head and to find a non-abusive faith that she could find comfort in.  She found it.

sapphoq reviews says:  If your interest in this kind of autobiography is limited to "those people who become atheists afterwards," then skip I Fired God.  The god that Zichterman fired was the god of the I.F.B.  If you are interested in people who have survived manipulative sects regardless of their stance on religious and/or spiritual practices afterwards, then this book is one you will enjoy.  I Fired God demonstrates the difficulty that survivors often experience on their way out and up the path to becoming survivors.  Highly recommended.   

Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan

Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, Luis Carlos Montalvan.  New York: Hyperion: 2011.  e-book, 234 pps.

Luis Carlos Montalvan has written a fine book about his relationship with his service dog Tuesday.  Montalvan was injured in Iraq.  He suffered a brain injury there, but not knowing any better-- neither did the medical doctors sad to say-- he went back.  Having acquired a hellish case of post-traumatic stress disorder along with a fractured back, he returned stateside.  He wasn't doing so well.

Tuesday was a young golden retriever.  He suffered a few setbacks during his training.  He also had/has a goofy sense of humor and refused to heel properly.

Montalvan traveled to Tuesday's training center with three other disabled vets.  And he took Tuesday back to New York City with him.

At first, Montalvan continued to have difficulty navigating the world outside of his apartment.  He began an emotional investment with Tuesday.  That and switching his care from one V.A. to another one helped him to stabilize mentally and to progress.  And progress Montalvan did.  During the book, he went back to school and also realized a lifelong dream. 

Montalvan was forced to advocate for himself as a disabled vet who had a service dog which was a necessity rather than just a regular sort of dog.  Even so, he suffered from inexcusably rude behavior and was denied entry in some places.  He gradually began to fight back and acquired a large bundle of e-mails.  The e-mails show that discrimination against service animals definitely still exists.

sapphoq reviews says:  The book Until Tuesday held my interest.  I was able to identify with Montalvan.  Although I had never been in a combat zone, a few of his t.b.i.-related difficulties are similar to mine.  Until Tuesday was an easy read, enjoyable and fascinating.  Recommended for all who like animals, care about service animals and their human partners, or love a disabled vet.    

Monday, May 13, 2013

Clean by David Sheff

Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy, David Sheff.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.  e-book 339 pps. with additional notes afterwards.

Some folks may have read David Sheff's book Beautiful Boy about his son's addiction and subsequent recovery.  David Sheff's newest work Clean is a somewhat repetitive overview of treatment for addictions based on the idea that the addict is suffering from a condition which interferes neurologically with proffered help to recover from said condition.  David Sheff correctly points out that addiction is not the only condition [he uses the word "disease," a word which I maintain is not precise enough and does not go far enough in describing addiction] that results in a thick layer of denial.  Other examples are some forms of dementia and traumatic brain injury [dependent upon where the lesions are in the brain itself]; and diabetes.

Sheff builds a case for treating addicts as people who are suffering from a physical condition rather than as people who need to find a god, get right with a god, pray, meditate, or look deep within for the defects which caused them to want to get loaded in the first place.  The problem with those who are caught up in active addiction is that their brains do not allow them the cognition which tells regular folks that they have to change what they are doing.  Sheff advises that cookie cutter grouping of addicts in a rehab doesn't work because of this.  Some addicts may be ready before others are to learn about addiction.

One takeaway from Clean is that the rehabilitation system ought to stop punishing addicts by throwing them out of treatment for doing things that addicts do.  Another is that legal system ought to quit punishing addicts or furnishing consequences for their behaviors which arise from their abnormal neurological states.  A third is that the sooner we quit treating addicts as if they were bad little boys and girls, the better off everyone will be.  I cannot agree with the first and the second points in their entirety, but I do endorse the third.  Every sick patient deserves basic human respect.  Although the etiologies of some particular cancers are demonstrably related to the quantity of fat consumed in a diet, no cancer patient is asked to confess his sins in order to receive amelioration from the cancer.  Nor is she told that she is being therapeutically discharged for puking after [or sometimes before when anticipatory vomiting takes place] a round of chemo.  There's not a whole lot of people screaming at cancer patients that their condition is their fault.  But there is a bunch of people who are sincerely butt-hurt and angry at the antics of both active addicts and addicts in recovery for a variety of reasons.  The Twelve Steps and their quasi-Christian feel in fact may not be optimal or even integral to the [formal, medical, rehabilitative] treatment of addiction.  If the scientific model of addiction is adopted then it follows that rehabs as we now commonly know them will have to change their methods.

A.A. owes its' roots to the Washingtonians-- who thrived contrary to what Bill W. claimed in his writings-- and to the Oxford group.  The first draft of the Big Book, if allowed to be published in its' original form, has a decidedly Christian slant and would have kept out a bunch of non-Christians from remaining in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Indeed, the early A.A. groups excluded women.  Fortunately that changed.  We need more research into how to truly individualize treatment for addicts.  

sapphoq reviews says:  Although Clean was a worthwhile, if wordy, read I had some difficulty with the book.  In spite of the title, Clean deals primarily with alcoholism with the usual passing nod to addiction to other drugs.  I was initially hopeful that Clean would have some things to say about Narcotics Anonymous.  But like many books and treatment programs these days, N.A. is given a pat on the head.  I find this perpetuation of keeping addicts silent to be most distressing.  There are addicts who have barely used or never used alcohol in A.A.  They [usually are somewhat pressured to] identify as alcoholics and say things like, "Everything started and ended with alcohol."  There are also alcoholics who prefer N.A.  But unlike the addicts in A.A., the alcoholic who has never used other drugs is welcomed in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous.  And the alcoholic almost always identifies as an addict in N.A. willingly, recognizing that the word addict includes addiction to the drug alcohol.
     Sheff does a fairly good job of describing adjuncts to recovery in the form of opiate substitutes, i.e. methadone and other medications.  He also points out the extra liability that a mental health diagnosis can be to the addict seeking recovery.  But he does not clearly offer his vision of what a treatment program using best practices might look like.  This is something that I would have been interested in hearing more about.  Not all rehabs, in-patients, out-patients, detoxes, halfway houses, and three quarter way houses are equal in their effectiveness.  Add to that the manipulation and belittling of addicts in early recovery that occurs by staff people who should know better [and by some folks with longer periods of recovery who have forgotten what they were like in early recovery], it is truly a jungle out there.
     Within the limitations that I have described, Clean is a worthwhile read for those who do not work in the addictions field and for some folks with some time away from active addiction.  Those who work in the addictions field will probably find nothing new [even if they are not implementing some of the suggestions].  And the general audience will probably be lost in the midst of all of the words.  Recommended with some hesitation.  

The Jericho Deception by Jeffrey Small

The Jericho Deception, Jeffrey Small.  Atlanta: Hundreds of Heads Books, 2013.  e-book, 413 pps.

The Jericho Deception is Jeffrey Small's second book.  It is again-- like The Breath of God-- a religious thriller and also fiction.  Like his first book, there is a beautiful woman and a hint of romance.  There is killing and research of the sort that may cause a bad international incident or may bring peace through nefarious means.

Dr. Ethan Lightman, following in the footsteps of his more spiritual mentor, is conducting research in a University lab when things begin to go haywire.  The research initially involves temporal lobe epilepsy which leads to profound feelings of an intertwining deity.  [Deviating somewhat from actual present-day neuro-theological research,] The Jericho Deception posits a relation between stimulation of the temporal lobe and intense conversion experiences, or sometimes experiences which remain within the realm of a person's own chosen religion.  There is a sort of prison in the book, some jet travel, killings, a complicated getaway, and nefarious American government agencies.  

sapphoq reviews says:  Although elements of The Jericho Deception were similar to those of Small's previous book, the plot and geography are different enough to render an entirely different story.  Less convincing are Small's arguments for the synchronicity of all religious beliefs [present in both books].  Also not convincing is the idea that temporal lobe epilepsy can explain all visions received by various pundits of various religions throughout the ages.  Even so, Small's gift for invoking a sense of place is very much present in this book and adds greatly to the execution of his storyline.  While the potential for insulting various religious groups remains, The Jericho Deception itself focuses more on the intensity of the chase.  Recommended for those who like thrillers and suspense, even the non-religious [like me] among us.  

The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small

The Breath of God: A Novel of Suspense, Jeffrey Small.  Atlanta: Hundreds of Heads Books, 2011.  e-book.  405 pps.

I tried to get through The Da Vinci Code but failed.  When I spied The Breath of God, I was initially hesitant.  I wasn't sure I would like a Dan Brown clone anymore than I like Dan Brown.  But the free sample and the predominantly positive reviews persuaded me.

The Breath of God is Jeffrey Small's first novel.  Small is personally well-qualified in theology to write this fictional work.  There have been various supposes about what Jesus was doing between the ages of twelve and thirty.  I had heard the idea that Jesus had traveled throughout India and Tibet before.  Small takes this idea, blends it with a bit of romance, and works the whole thing through to a satisfying conclusion.

There is a student by the name of Grant Matthews who books a kayak guide and coincidentally winds up at a monastery in Bhutan.  He meets an attractive American tourista and a lot of Buddhist monks.  There is some conflict, a few loonies from the states, and content which is sure to offend both traditional Christians and traditional Muslims.  [I suspect that the Buddhists and possibly the Hindus would be less offended].

sapphoq reviews saysThe thing is, The Breath of God is a novel.  It is not a historical novel, although bits of village legends involving a Saint Issa are included within its' pages.  It is a work of fiction.  Fiction by definition is fictional.  As such, I found Jeffrey Small's first novel to be full of intrigue.  I thought the characters were well-developed.  I found the uber-Christians to be quite believable.  So although I personally reject the evidence that supposes that Jesus traveled about the sub-continent, I really liked this book.  Folks who are fans of Dan Brown [judging from the negative reviews] may find The Breath of God to be too much of a clone of Dan Brown's style of writing.  I found it to be just what was required for a long night's reading material.  Highly recommended for the rest of us who have never read Dan Brown.

a few thoughts:

Jesus did not travel to India, Christians say no:  

Jesus did not travel to India, a Unitarian Universalist minister says no:  http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/03/was-jesus-buddhist.html 

Jesus did travel to India, Herbert Armstrong and a bunch of others say yes.

Maybe he did and maybe he didn't, a Wikipedia summary of pro and con arguments:


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

E-Reader Thoughts

With my traumatic brain injury induced perceptual and eye muscles problems, I am only able to tolerate the printed page for a half hour or less.

I got an e-reader a couple years ago-- it's a Barnes & Noble Nook. [Note: I'm not thrilled that they are hooking up with Google now but that is another story]. Now I can comfortably read for as long as I wish to. As long as it is on the e-reader.

The B&N store [so far, sometimes things change] has a library sort of back-up thing. I can put my e-books into storage at the B&N site. Also, I can reload them onto the Nook if I ever have to do a hard re-start on the Nook [which I've had to do once}. Some of the books can be lent by me to other users of the Nook too.

The other thing is the freebie and cheapie e-books. There are a bunch of freebies. Some of them are by authors who publish via Smashmouth, Tor, or self. [I hope to be one of those some day soon]. And they make for a good read. Others are reproductions of historical documents. And those can be interesting.

B&N has a deal a day of their choosing [most aren't my cup of tea but a few have been], a book given away of their choosing on freebie Fridays [same: a few have been excellent, some are by authors I've heard of], and now this new "show up at a B&N store on weekends" and get two e-books [out of 16 or so, their choosing] for the price of one [less practical but one I may hook into if I see two books I want].

And then there are pdfs. Which I can download and then sideload onto my Nook. And read at my leisure. Those I get from other sites. Cory Doctorow releases his books for free and also as pay. Some I've gotten free and others I've paid for depending upon my finances. I give him props for that.

I know Amazon and other places have their own deals and freebies.

The drawback to all e-readers is that unless one roots them, they are meant to work with the stuff you get from the company that you bought the e-reader from. This was a predictable move in the e-reader market but most unfortunate.

The cool thing about all the e-books for me is that now that I can read comfortably again, I've been publishing reviews on my review blog. And that's kind of fun.

sapphoq reviews

p.s. I've read that the iPad [along with the iPad price, sigh] will work on e-books from anywhere. I haven't been able to verify that yet. On the other hand, I don't perceive getting my hands on the funds to pay for said iPad at any time in the foreseeable future anyway. 

     No copyright infringement or trademark infringement was intended by posting this post.  I am not going to run off claiming that any of the brand names I mentioned are mine.  Just Saying.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant

Fat Vampire, Johnny B. Truant.  self-published: 2013.  ebook, 330 pps.

Reginald works in an office.  He is friendless and a bit clueless.  He is the butt of jokes.

Maurice works the night shift in the same office.  He is a young goth.  More importantly, he is cordial to Reginald.

One night they go bowling.  Then the universe gets all twisted up.

There is also a gathering of snobby "beautiful people" types, a ten year old named Claire, and a sexy co-worker.

sapphoq reviews says:  Fat Vampire is the first of a trilogy by Johnny B. Truant.  It is a book that really deserves to have a careful and encouraging editor.  Bits of the plot to take over the bad guys could have been fleshed out more.  The story itself would have benefited with increased length.  Even so, the conversations were believable, Reginald's predicaments were realistic, and the author's humorous treatment of the subject matter was delightful.  Recommended.   

Lawful Interception by Cory Doctorow

Lawful Interception, Cory Doctorow.  New York:  Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC., 2013.  ebook, novella, 121 pps.

Cory Doctorow can be found on Twitter as @doctorow.

Cory Doctorow characterizes Lawful Interception as a Little Brother story on the book cover.  It is that and a bit more.  The setting is San Francisco and Oakland across the bay.  The main characters are Marcus Yarrow and his sidekick Ange.  This is during and after a Seneca earthquake.  Parts of the city are a mess.  FEMA is there-- a bunch of suits with paperwork and desks; as is OccupySeneca-- regular folk with determination to get done what needs to be done without all the red tape.  In Occupy, the people help each other.  The Anons are in evidence also.  A paste dump is made that reveals Oakland's not so humane plans to bulldoze what rubble remains of the project housing units and replace them with units that the rich and affluent would snap up.

The cops are in evidence and trouble is caused.  Kettling is explained to the uninitiated.  Drones fly around and QR codes are put to good use.  And there is a hackerspace, or a Makespace.  It's all glorious and chaotic but a bit scarey too.  Marcus Yarrow has a psychological awakening involving a feeling of helplessness which melds nicely within the circumstances.  A less skillful author would not have gotten away with that little extra tantalizing bit.  Under Doctorow's hands, it serves to remind us that Marcus and Ange are human, just like us. 

sapphoq reviews says: Lawful Interception is a masterful short novella for us nerds.  As in all of Cory Doctorow's fiction, evidence of developing technology being used for nefarious ends are right there.  The future that Doctorow paints is already happening.  Part fiction but also part instruction manual, Doctorow continues to serve up the radical cyber dishes which I fully enjoy.  Highly recommended.

Angel's Ink by Jocelynn Drake

Angel's Ink: The Asylum Tales, Jocelynn Drake.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers: 2012.  ebook, 310 pps.

Angel's Ink is the first of a trilogy written by Jocelynn Drake.  It is urban fantasy at it's best.  In the techno world where some magic works, Gage makes his living as a tattoo artist who gives a bit of a zing along with the body art.  An elven beauty by the name of Trixie and the troll Bronx are his employees.  Gideon is his watcher from the Towers and his nemesis.

The trouble starts with a tattoo of angel wings-- with a bit of a zing-- done on the back of a female patron.  The trouble doesn't end there.  Along the way are complainers, snobs, an old woman and a talking cat, werewolves, an ex-mentor, and some good old fashioned hullabaloo.  

sapphoq reviews says:  I enjoyed Angel's Ink.  I was quickly immersed into the world that Jocelynn Drake created with an urban buzz and equally quickly involved with the serpentine plot.  Angel's Ink is the first of a trilogy subtitled The Asylum Tales.  There are also two short stories available which contribute nicely to the series.  For those who like a bit of gritty with their fantasy, highly recommended.   

Accident Man by Shane Griffin

Accident Man, Shane Griffin.  self-published2012.  previously published: 2002.  e-book: short story.  16 pps.

Shane Griffin has written a slew of short stories, all within the realm of soft sci-fi/fantasy.  Accident Man is the one I shall review, but know that if you are taken with one Griffin short, you will be taken with the rest.  

The third person narrator of Accident Man is all-knowing.  The voice contributes to the tale's darkness.  In the first pages, we are introduced to Mr. Smith, a singularly unremarkable man except for a singularly remarkable implant.  It is through this implant that Mr. Smith makes a living.  The reader journeys with Mr. Smith through a typical mundane workday to a twisted and fun ending.

sapphoq reviews says:  Accident Man, like all of Shane Griffin's writing, excels in atmosphere.  Every word contributes to the short in a masterful way.  Highly recommended.

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Jay Lifton

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of 'brainwashing' in China.  Chapel Hill NC:  University of North Carolina Press, 2012 and 1989.  ebook, 525 pps.

In the preface to Thought Reform, Robert Jay Lifton notes that he now views his seminal work as "...more an exploration of what might be the most dangerous direction of the twentieth-century mind-- the quest for absolute or 'totalistic' belief systems."  He lays out a simple definition of groups which take over the lives of their followers [popularly known as "cults"].  
     There is an inspired text or group of writings which are pedaled as the sole and only truth for everyone whether they accept it or not. The leader or head of the group exploits the resources [which may include sexual, physical, intellectual, emotional, social, financial resources] of the followers. 
     There is an active discouragement against consulting outside sources along with psychological measures designed to stop independent thinking.  Confession as used by the group induces a split between the old ways of being and the lifestyle deigned optimal by the groupMethods may employ separation of the followers from their loved ones and friends who don't subscribe to the group, imprisonment or isolation from general society, and prescribed activities.
     There is finally a military or military-like fierce mandate to crush the perceived or actual enemies of the ideology which may or may not involve nuclear warfare.  There may be talk of taking over a government or a people or a planet.  The more political groups may have actual plans in place.  The more religious groups may look to a leader to set a nuclear cataclysm into motion in order to achieve something like an apocalypse.

In the fifties and sixties, Communist China actively campaigned for the people to be educated into Chinese Communism.  This started with the students.  Universities had required trainings which then escalated into longer periods of isolation for the students and the faculty members.  There was at first a bonding of the groups within their living facilities.  Then deep confessions were required with a heavy emphasis on denouncement of the old ways-- which included giving the axe to filial duties and other things central to the Chinese family-- and indeed a denouncement of one's own family.  The confessions were not automatically accepted.  The students and faculty spent long days re-writing them until they reflected exactly perceived wrongful thinking which had created individualism among the People.  Those who were able to escape afterwards did so.  Some were forced to remain in now Communist China.  Some converted to Chinese Communism and wanted to stay on.

But there were also prisons.  Westerners were imprisoned along with Chinese nationals.  The treatment at the prisons was harsh.  Again there was a living group-- now the inhabitants of a prison cell-- and confessions.  The older prisoners would try to cue the newer ones into how to confess.  A few resisted mightily at first, but since the punishment for this resistance was physical and severe any sort of protest tended to die away.  Thus Christian missionaries, Roman Catholic priests, and other Westerners were forced into compromising positions.  There was sleep deprivation too-- at times for several days on end-- with the other prisoners taking turns at night to ensure that the target prisoner remained awake.

Lifton's study began in 1955 and 1956 in Hong Kong with newly released Westerners and Chinese.  Lifton was able to follow-up long-term with many of the original ex-prisoners.  Thought Reform is a record of what he found.

sapphoq reviews saysI found Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism to be an excellent and scholarly read.  Lifton combines historical events with personal accounts of some people who lived through them and searching opinions.  Although a few critics are quick to pronounce that Lifton was against his book being used as a study in the "new religions" [read: religious and also quasi-religious groups which coerce their followers into a party line and employ various techniques of stopping independent thinking], Lifton himself indicates in his preface his acceptance of the wider implications of Thought ReformHighly recommended.