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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Michelle Remembers

by Michelle Smith and Dr. Lawrence Pazder

Publisher: St Martins Press (September 1980)

Hardcover, 330 pages

Finished 10/17/2017

Amazon Listing



    “Dr. Pazder would often look back upon this day- he would think of it as the day the war began. It was a cosmic battle Michelle was describing, lasting many weeks, with the Devil and his followers on the earthen floor of the round room, attempting to proceed with their dreadful and apparently crucial ritual, and, somehow in the air above, other forces bearing down, disrupting the ritual with an interference that was not physical but spiritual. In that battle, Satan would attempt to use the child Michelle as his pawn….”
    The above snippet is a good example of the sort of torturous prose one can expect in this book. Michelle Remembers is the text which set off the “repressed memory” craze among the mentally ill in the 1980s. This fad added to the already simmering Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic, allowing mentally ill people to “recover” memories of satanic abuse as children (that is recover, not falsify) to gain attention and acceptance in the society they were ostracized from. Not to sound too cynical, but this entire book has been thoroughly debunked so many times, the only reason to read it now is for ironic purposes or to see how such a massive deception is achieved. Remember this text was taken very seriously at the time of its publication and propelled the career of the doctor involved. For the next decade, he toured around giving lectures and being a consultant for police on ritual abuse cases. 
     Obstensively this book revolves around a woman who, with the help of her psychoanalyst, begins to relive a series of abusive events at the hands of a group of people. Much of the memories are foggy, up to near the end where the memories become very specific. Each memory apparently is emerging exactly 22 years after they first occurred. According to Michelle, she was sold by her mother to a group of Satanists. This group abused her for various fuzzy reasons, most of which involved some sort of sensory deprivation, anal wand dowsing for prophetic purposes, the mutilation of baby corpses, possessed women drooling insanely, and the actual murder of a teenager. She is witness to a murder, which is made to look like an accident. Then, after an 81 day ceremony in a graveyard in Victoria, British Columbia, the group succeeded in summoning up the Devil. She only survives through the intervention of the Virgin Mary and goes back to live with her mother. 
 
Michelle recounting her "memories" under hypnosis
    This is all recovered by the use of  hypnosis at the hands of her therapist, Dr. Lawrence Pazder, who up until this book seems to have a stellar record in the field of psychotherapy. The problem with “recovered” memories, especially with the use of hypnosis, is that they are prone to false memory syndrome. This is a condition in which a person's identity and relationships are affected by memories that are factually incorrect but that they strongly believe, and can be triggered and often accidentally implanted by the person doing the hypnosis. Here the author, a deeply Catholic man, begins to make connections between his subject’s babblings which she might not have. Michelle, a chronically depressed woman who had been seeing Pazder for four years previously, might indeed believe her story. But her belief in the ridiculous ramblings does not make them at all true. 
     The depiction of Satan in the text is odd. He is alternately shown to be beastial, a constant shape-shifter, who roars in a blood chilling manner and plays with the bones of a freshly slaughtered teenager, but then he speaks only in rhymes (bad ones at that, which might be in character). These make him seem like a mischievous leprechaun more than the Lord of Evil. The text claims there are numerous examples throughout history and in religious texts of the Devil speaking in rhymes, but this is news to me. They certainly aren’t Biblical examples, as the red devil only appears in it a handful of times and none of the translations rhyme.  I wonder if they’re confusing Faust or Dr. Faustus as historical documents?
Obsessive Compulsive Rhyming Disorder is an actual thing however. It is characterized by distressing, intrusive thoughts that may leave one’s stomach tied up in knots. Sufferers neutralize these obsessions by creating lyrical successions that, at least in part, resemble a rhyme. I only mention this because it seems to fit in with the mental illness the protagonist suffers from. There are pages and pages of rhymes from “the Devil” listed here. I just find it unlikely that a person could remember all of them in such detail after 22 years, especially when they are in a state of terror, hunger, and malnutrition as the authors claim Michelle was. 
 
The authors, patient and doctor. Later to be husband and wife.
What is just as interesting in this text is the material left out. Namely was that, Michelle had two other siblings living with her at the time of her “abuse”, an older and younger sister. Both of them have refuted any of the supposed blood orgies described (Michelle claims several of them happened at the family home) or Michelle’s supposed 81 day absence. Her father, still alive even though the Mother was conveniently dead, states that his former wife would not indulge in any such activities.
Most damning of all, these two ended up divorcing their spouses and married. Doctor and patient, now man and wife. The subtext of their mutual attraction is rampant all throughout the book. It is written in the third person, but the protagonists described in the book did write it. Little hints here and there, suggest their intensive psychotherapy sessions spilled over into inappropriate lust. This is further foreshadowed in the descriptions of their old spouses. Neither of whom seemed to understand the importance of this 14 month “investigation”. It seems likely that this all started by a young girl wanting to be closer to a man she admired and began making stuff up to get his attention. When it succeeded, she kept on adding to it until, like the proverbial big fish story, it grew to ridiculous proportions.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History

By Charles M. Sevilla (With illustrations by Lee Lorenz)

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 1999)

Softcover 255 pages

Finished 10/6/2017

Amazon Listing






    Police Report
“The accused was observed parked on Downing Street at Peck Street in the middle of the intersection for several minutes talking and cleaning out his truck. His actions did make it difficult for the residents and narcotic buyers to pass: he was charged accordingly.”
A fun book filled with actual statement, misstatements, quips, and jokes that occurred in courtroom across the United States and beyond. This is a conglomeration of the choicest snippets from a column he writes. On television dramas, scenes of the courtroom are depicted as scenes of high tension where both sides are emotionally invested in seeking the truth, often with the District Attorney as the shining angle, and the defending consul as the almost-literal Devil’s Advocate. Sometimes vice-versa. But it is almost always a struggle of the pure versus the corrupt. Never simply two people doing their jobs. This book punctures that viewpoint, just a little bit.
This book is not some grand vision, but a humorous pause for fun in a serious literary curriculum. A pause to realize that even in the most serious of jobs, there is room for humor and mistakes. In short, it makes a great bathroom book.
Author Charles Sevilla

 
 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Across the Wounded Galaxy

by Rex Hurst

Softcover 267 pages

Amazon Listing 











        A forced grown Gen-Human, only three months from his decanting bottle, is shanghaied by a sadistic pirate clan. Three aliens track a gleeful villain who is hell-bent on destroying his own world. A military failure on a ruined planet finds only one chance left for personal glory. All their paths collide together in a galaxy at war. Worlds destroyed. Civilizations ruined. Cities devastated. Join them on this trek across a wounded galaxy. Included here is Chapter 1.


Across the Wounded Galaxy- Visual Glossary

Muzachan

Zen Rigeln

Phentari

                   Chapter 1

 Species: Gen-Human

Planet of Origin: None
Description: An artificially engineered species, designed to shore up the ranks of the genetically wounded Human race. They are force grown in vats with an average gestation period of four months. Their occupations are predetermined according to commercial demand and a skill set is chemically implanted into their brains. They are mostly employed in bureaucratic and middle management careers or commissioned as lower echelon military officers. While their memory and physical skills are a step above the average Human, their emotional growth varies greatly from their parent race.
Freaky Fact: Due to a lack of childhood indoctrination and societal bigotries, Gen-Humans tend to be attracted to people who they feel are “interesting looking”; ie those who differ wildly from the high standard of beauty to which Gen-Humans themselves are sculpted. Those people usually believe that they’ve hit the jackpot.
 
***
            There was a splash of gore and intestines. The masked Phentari whirled, a chainsword clutched in each of its four tentacles. The guard fell apart before him, sliced into four sections across the torso. Ah what skill, what nerve, it took to do that. An accomplishment requiring hours of practice. The Phentari swiped at a cowering nurse, carving off half her face. It was an act of pure sadism, doing nothing to advance the plot. The Phentari revved its swords and lurched into the maternity ward.
            BEEP
            There were two guards in the ward, both firing pistols with impunity. Rather risky thing to do in a hidden room filled with babies. After taking a few hits, the Phentari summersaulted over a crib and speared one guard in the abdomen while simultaneously decapitating the other. The obstacles dealt with, the Phentari raised its weapons. Remember, babies were worth 10 points and preemies 20.
            BEEP
            With the second warning Drake flipped off the game, Lone Phentari 2: Mass Murder is My Hobby, and sat up in his steel chair, pretending to be engaged in his work. He had uploaded a restricted program into his system that warned him whenever the supervisor or any of his cronies were logging in to monitor Drake’s work, giving him time to spruce himself up.
            Drake- DKE-k0018 (as was his full name) was employed in an administrative capacity on the Brethia Stargate Project. Stargates created a stable wormhole from one gate to another. They allowed a ship to move easily from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, without needing to employ warp drive or dip into hyperspace. Easily the quickest method of travel, the demand was so great that a ship could wait for weeks before getting clearance to enter. And with the energy required to maintain these holes, the cost for Stargate travel was appropriately astronomical.
            The Brethia Stargate was an attempt by the Mutzachan Trade Council to create a structure to power hundreds of stargates. To achieve this, they were building a Dyson sphere around the system’s star (with a surface area of 92 billion Earths) to absorb every iota of solar energy emanating from the heavenly body and, after 104 years of construction, it was only 35% complete. It was, quite simply, the single greatest feat of astro-engineering ever attempted. And Drake was bored silly by it.
            By its nature this amazing attempt created incredible amounts of administrative difficulties in all areas- from storage of construction supplies, to housing the ten million workers, to the acquisition of enough paper products so that everyone could clean themselves. This is where Drake came in, or rather Drake’s batch. The entire DKE series, all 50,000 of them, had been developed to address the organizational issues, specifically spoiled food indexing, hazardous material disposal, and septic management. Laugh if you want, but the amount of excrement generated each month could have created its own small moon orbiting the station.
            Day after climate controlled day it was the same grind. Type figures, check figures, adjust figures, order figures. Then walk back to his designated rest area, consume the daily food allotment, complete the regulation exercise regimen, engage in the compulsory social hour with his assigned friend group, watch the film being shown that night, and pass out in his sleep cylinder. One day meshed invisibly into another.
            A waterfall of tiny numbers streamed over Drake’s monitor. It took all of his effort not to sigh or yawn. To the average supervisor (and Drake’s was very average) it looked as if he was sitting in rapt attention, taking in each integer flooding his vision. In reality, his mind was elsewhere.
            After I take care of the Maternity Ward, I should double back and see if any patients have respawned in the Leukemia Ward. If they haven’t, I can toss an incendiary device into the Burns Unit and see who blows up. If that goes well, I should have enough points to earn the Blood Soaked Achievement!
            A further buzz indicated that his Mutzachan superior’s omnipresent eye had cast his gaze at another hapless middle manager. Drake slouched back in his chair and sighed. He wasn’t bad at his job. He couldn’t help but be competent. Having been decanted only three months prior, practically the only knowledge rattling around in his head was the implanted managerial skill suite. It’s just that the thing he was bred to be good at didn’t interest him. 
            Technically the Gen-Human species were designed to be fanatically enthusiastic about their assigned field, but as Drake himself was a living testament to, it was extremely difficult to genetically engineer a body’s personality. One minor fluctuation in the DNA coding could result in a host of new quirks and mental disorders. It was probably why the species had such an abnormally high rate of schizophrenia.
Jake-DKE-r0865, Drake’s co-worker from down the hall, popped his head into the pod.
“Hey,” Jake said. “Did you see? I got in the upper twentieth for Mazian Bubble Bounce this week! Now that’s a feat!”
“Great, buddy. Congratulations.” 
Mazian Bubble Bounce was a game where you tried to keep an amorphous grey blob afloat using a combination of green, red, and blue bubbles, while avoiding random dropping needles. This was a favorite among the DKE series as it depended primarily on muscle memory and required no actual higher brain usage. Some of the others had created a secret leaderboard where they competed for the high score, but Drake didn’t partake. He just liked to lazily shoot things.
“When are you gonna join in?” Jake asked. “That way we can challenge each other. It’ll be fun. Match our wits.”
“I dunno if I want to.”
“Ahh you never know what you want,” Jake said and left.
            What did he want? He wasn’t so sure. Something exciting that he could brag about. Something on the edge. Something that others would ooh and ahh over when they heard. Like a hero from the movies, or the Spiff Blasthandy Tri-V show. They’d slap him on the shoulder and call him brave, maybe buy him a beer. He’d never had any alcohol, but the vids made it look great. Yeah that was Drake’s dream, as vague as it was.
            He snapped to. There had been a noise far far away, one that was distinctly different from the usual hums and buzzes of his artificial environment. He couldn’t exactly place it. Then his screen flickered and the near fleshless face of a Zen Rigeln appeared.
 Drake knew the species without having met any, they being one of the 12 core races making up the Galactic Alliance. They tended to adhere to a religious philosophy of pacifism and healing, codified in a series of interminable rituals and exhausting canons that was of little use to any outsider except as a cure for insomnia. The Zen’s had a reputation for being sanctimonious, but this one seemed different.
“Hello,” the Zen said in the standard trade dialect, “I don’t know you… but I hate you!”
            Drake heard the words echoed in the hallway and stepped out to see that every monitor and screen had been hijacked. If this unknown person had managed to send his message to the entire station, it was indeed an impressive hack.
            “I hate you because you live. I hate you because you breathe. I hate you because you can think. I hate you because you have ideas other than my own.”
            All of the overhead lights turned to a warning red and the evacuation alarm boomed, drowning out the rest of the figure’s words. The monitors cut in with a yellow circle- the universal symbol for emergency. Drake panicked. He knew the routine, had been drilled on escape procedures, but when imminent atmospheric collapse loomed all discipline deserted him.
            He ran down the hall screaming and shoving others out of the way. The hysteria was infectious. Soon the entire section broke down into a free-for-all with Gen-Humans, Mutzachans, Orions, Goola-Goolas and a host of other races all pushing, kicking, tripping, and biting each other to reach the survival bubbles.
 Drake had just accidentally knocked another Gen-Human down a flight of stairs when an explosion rocked his section, bowling everyone over. Then what had just been a confused struggle turned into a murderous riot. People clubbed and stabbed whoever was ahead of them. Mutzachans let loose fatal blasts of matrix energy to clear the decks. Sporadic gunfire was heard further down the section.
“Remain calm! Remain calm!” a voice yelled over the intercom.
But the toothpaste was out of the tube. Drake stumbled, his knees nearly buckling with fear, and steadied himself on a desk. He picked up an oblong paperweight and judged that it might be a good weapon. Several voices, overlapping each other, squawked through the monitors. 
“Sebe engaging… electrical systems compromised, launching fighters… flux shield holding… configuration unknown, seems to be a hodgepodge of inconsistent parts…..”
Was the station under attack? No way, it had to be sabotage. This was the best defended area in the quadrant. They had three battle cruisers in rotation around it at all times. Any assault would be a suicide run. And yet…
White gas vented into the room. Definitely not part of the evacuation procedure. It was some sort of acidic mist that liquefied any flesh it alighted upon. The mist was scrubbed away in seconds by the station’s atmospheric conditioners. But the damage had been done. Jake, who had somehow gotten ahead of Drake, lurched before him, screaming. He had taken a spritz dead in the face. His eyes had melted and were running down his cheeks like giant globulous tears. Large chunks of meat still clung to his face, attached by thin strands.
It was enough to make a person vomit and Drake was no exception. He heaved his stomach contents onto the floor as a further explosion shook the station. Drake knew that he had to get out of there now. He readied his paperweight and…
“Help… help me,” Jake hoarsely cried.
… paused. Damn it! He couldn’t just leave the guy. He’d known Jake his entire life (all three months of it) and he deserved better than this. Drake hoisted him up and helped him walk down the hall. Unfortunately this slowed them down greatly.
“Hold on buddy,” Drake said, “We’re almost there.”
“Drake?”
“Yeah.”
Jake said nothing more. Most of his tongue had plopped out of his mouth and was smeared down the front of his shirt, yet the jaw continued moving in a foul mimicry of human speech. Drake vomited a second time.
By the time they finally managed to make it down to the evac chamber, most of the section had already ejected. There were a few broken figures lying about, some burned, some bleeding, some trampled, but otherwise it was empty. He boarded the bubble (a device designed only to be a short term solution) and hit the large, idiot proof, eject button.
Hope you enjoyed it. Here is the Amazon Listing for a full copy.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Venus in Furs

by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 1, 2013)

Softcover 156 pages

Finished 10/1/2017

Amazon Listing



 
    “The more devoted a woman shows herself, the sooner he man sobers down and becomes domineering. The more cruelly she treats him and the more faithless she is, the worse she uses him, the more wantonly she plays with him, the less pity she shows him, by so much more will she increase his desire, be loved, worshipped by him. So it has always been, since the time of Helen and Delilah, down to Catherine the Second and Lola Montez.”
    The infamous work by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch from whose name the term masochism or “the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from one's own pain or humiliation”  is derived. This work was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its time. This was meant to be part of a six volume epic cycle called the Legacy of Cain. Each of the volumes was to have six novellas attached, but like The Canterbury Tales the author never completed the series.
    It is told in a framing story. That is, a story within a story, as the entire tale is being related to an unnamed narrator by his friend, Severin. It is interesting that Von Sacher-Masoch took pains to distance himself from the material and there seems to be little evidence that he himself was a masochist. It is simply an irony of fate that this predilection is named after him. In fact the story discourages such activity, likening it to a madness that one needs to be cured of. 
Author Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch
    Severin meets a beautiful woman Wanda (modeled after writer Fanny Piston) with whom he falls madly in love. She states she cannot fall in love with any man longer than a month, unless he dominates her completely, treating her as a servant and controlling her every action. The problem is that the author gains his greatest sexual thrill over being humiliated and whipped. He tells her, begs her, to dominate him, to treat him like dirt, to humiliate him in any was possible. He will treat her like a goddess and she will use him like an object. This continues on, growing in intensity, until she meets another man with whom she falls in love. He is a lion and dominates her to his will. As a final act of humiliation, she has Severin restrained and her new lover whips him into unconsciousness. After that he is broken from the spell and deems that no woman will ever have a hold over him again. 
The author and his inspiration Fanny Piston- as Venus in Furs

    In this case the protagonist's sexual appetites don’t merely extend to humiliation and whippings, but also include a fetish for furs. He manipulates Wanda into becoming his Goddess of Love wearing furs. Hence the title. It is interesting that she resists at first and then seems to grow into the part, a little too much.  There is often use of the term “supersenual” in the text, and the main failing of the protagonist is that he is “a supersenual man”. This isn’t a word used often in modern argot, if at all, and means a person who is carried away by his sensual dreams to the point where he is powerless not to act on it. A sexual fantasy that the person cannot resist. Thus even though the protagonist tires of the game, he cannot break away from his sexual enjoyment of it all.
    The author’s point, apart from titillation, is that a relationship between men and women cannot be equal. It is a constantly shifting power balance, and for a marriage to be successful one must take lead over the other. That lead should be taken by men, to the author most women crave to be mentally dominated and broken to a man's will. For the man this is not his source of pleasure, but it is his only chance for a peaceful household. 
Venus in Furs from the author's draft notes

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Light

By Rob Cham

Publisher: Lion Forge (October 11, 2016)

Hardcover 108 pages

Finished 9/26/2017

Amazon Listing



    A short and sweet graphic novel about a hero who descends from the light to the land of black, finds a companion, and quests for five glowing gems in the realm beneath. It is one of those rare graphic novel which are completely silent, apart from a few sound effects, “yoink” and so forth, no words are used.
    The graphics in this case are all the more important. Each page is one complete panel, creating a mosaic effect. The light represents the upper world and our hero is clad as such. The upper world has almost too much light. Scenes of it are depicted in purely black and white. It isn’t until we descend into the darkness that we get variations of color against a black backdrop.
 
    The use color in the underworld are what makes the book stand out. Beautiful explosions of color against the dark. The faint outlines of rocks in purple melding into indigo, then orange and red, defining how close to a light source the object it. Plus the wide variety of bizarre and interesting monsters.
    As to what happens. The gems are reunited into a large pearl or opal, rendered in white. That actions seems to have fundamentally changed the nature of the dwellers in dark, or at least, their perception of our hero. Former enemies become friends, vicious monsters are docile or easily cowed. The orb then is brought to the surface and restores color to the world above. There is an excellent scene of it rippling across the planet’s surface.
    The silent graphic novel is a rare thing, but the first of them dates back to the origins of comics as a medium. In fact the original wood block carving novels of Franz Masereel and Lynd Ward date back to the 1910s and 20s, well before the the comic medium exploded across America. While these stories are more humanistic, rather than the outlandish exploits of Superman, they are no less explosive and impactful. Reading this book makes me want to go back to those old masters and give them another gaze.
 

 
 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Stranger

by Albert Camus (translated by Mathew Ward, introduction by Peter Dunwoodie)

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (1993)

Hardcover 153 pages

Finished 9/25/2017

Amazon Listing



    “He said the truth was that I didn’t have a soul and that nothing human, not one of the moral principles that govern men’s hearts, was within my reach. ‘Of course,’ he added, ‘we cannot blame him for this. We cannot complain that he lacks what it was not within his power to acquire.’”
Originally published in French in 1942 under the name L’√Čtranger, (which can also be translated as The Outsider). It is the breakthrough novel of Albert Camus, a nihilistic text in the absurdist tradition, about a bland man who commits a murder and his subsequent incarceration and trial. Considered by many to be a masterpiece, to me it did not live up to the large amount of hype attached to it. The main character is an unpleasant man who feels nothing, merely trudging through life, without joy or passion.
One of the protagonist’s main problems is that he constantly answers truthfully to any direct questions about his feelings. Like Prince Myshkin, in Dostoevsky's The Idiot, he cannot recognize the danger he puts himself in by not lying or at least pretending to conform to society’s norms. Unlike the Russian character however, our anti-hero is not open hearted and good. He is in fact a sociopath who sees no need to conceal himself, who has not learned the art of faking emotion. This is what makes him The Stranger, he doesn’t know the rules of the game. 
Author Alfred Camus
    He is devoid of anything but the idea on continuing through life. He takes no pleasure in it, has no love. He agrees to things, like his engagement, simply because it was there to do. He wants nothing. His time in prison complements his flat personality, his lack of emotional connectivity. It is almost a non-existence, with the constant regulations, isolation, and one day bleeding into the next. He is a character that it is impossible to feel any pathos for. It is almost as difficult to truly hate him. The murder he commits is an accident and apart from that, he commits no evil against others.  
    His lack of emotion is ultimately his undoing. It is interesting that during his trial he is condemned more for his treatment of his mother (he places her in an old age home) and the lack of remorse at her funeral, than the actual murder. His execution by the state is more of a cleansing of the hive from those who are different than an act of justice. It is a warning to us all, the nail who sticks out gets hammered down. 
Cover of the book's first printing

    I have never been a fan of the flat deconstructionist style of writing- though whether this is deconstructionist is a matter for debate, the author claims it be of the absurdist style. But to me the absurdist tradition is proto-deconstructionist. One naturally became the other. The novel was a great influence on the writers of this genre (Raymond Federman for example), hence it’s constant laudation over the decades. There was a time when I did enjoy it, having read so much I was keen to grab onto something new to quell my book lust, but have since grown cold towards the genre. The banality of it, the simplicity, almost comes across as a lack of effort. While not an entirely fair assessment, the text being in first person, the style reflects the mental state of the protagonist, but it still makes for a somewhat simple read.
    It has always been a bauble for the literati to masturbate over and feel superior to the unsophisticated masses who prefer emotional substance in their reading material. I’m aware that the book was a breath of fresh air in 1947. The writing is miles away from the heavily florid descriptions and overly dramatic characters popular at the time. It was very timely. It was something new for the hungry young writers to rally behind. In retrospect it is somewhat passe. I’m aware that last statement is tantamount to literary heresy to say the volume has no dust jacket, but the book, while still readable, has been done to death. To many imitations, good imitations, have been created in its wake. 
Poster for the 1976 Italian film adaptation of the novel

    I think part of my blah attitude is that I am reading it for the first time after a long career of catering to my reading addiction, and this book has been touted for years as a masterpiece. It is consistently placed in top 100 book lists, many of my old college professors raved about it. It had just always slipped through the cracks before now. So I was expecting something else, something new. The build up and expectations in my mind might have been too great. It’s not a bad book, it’s just not the writing achievement I was lead to believe it would be.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Turmoil in the Toybox

by Phil Phillips

Publisher: Starburst Publishers; 3rd Printing edition (September 1990)

Softcover 191 pages

Finished 9/20/2017

Amazon Listing 



    “After extensive research Christian Life Research  and other experts have concluded that Dungeons and Dragons is not a game. Instead they claim that it is a teaching on demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, Satan worship, gambling, Jungian psychology, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, and divination.”
    Looks like I’ve been playing a different game.
    An unintentionally hysterical book on the Occult terrors lurking in the toy boxes of American children. This was originally written in the 80s and revolves around most of the toy lines I grew up playing. And while I did become a Satanist, I doubt it was because I once picked up a Cabbage Patch Kid.
    Make no mistake, this is not really a full sized book. Ostensibly it is 191 pages, but seventeen of those are the gallery filled with pictures of toys which you already know how to visualize, ten of those are footnotes, and the font size is extra large. I will get something out of the way, to the author's credit he doesn’t claim the problems with the toy industry is due to a Satanic cabal as did many of his brethren. He is more focused on occult influence from humanist and eastern religions, but his worries are exaggerated to a ridiculous degree. 
The face of evil
    Pastor Phil Phillips (No to be confused with the singer of the same name, the one who gave us “Sea of Love”) was an evangelical missionary. That is one who roams around in revival tents and so forth, with no permanent flock to call his own. In order to make an impact, give himself some distinction, he decided to “bravely” go after the toy industry (not any specific company mind you- don’t want to get sued) for inserting occultism into their daily lives. Currently he’s running a non-profit in Texas, called God Loves Kids.
    The author has a shaky idea of what should be considered occult. He never fully explains it, either because he doesn’t know, or perhaps it was more effective as an ill-defined catch-all term for non-Christian. Or should I say non-evangelical fundamentalist Christian, which is its own thing. This was written during a time when there was a big anti-Catholic push in the fundamentalist community. The pope was the antichrist and spreading the word of Satan. Anything not part of foot-washing baptist dogma was suspect, which is why you have doom peddlers like the author lumping Buddhism, Judaism, Wicca, Satanism, and Hinduism into the same evil lump. I suppose, though, from his perspective it is.
    The author does make some good points about parenting. Rather, he parrots some good points. Much of the useful information here is cited from other sources, which I will give him credit for. He has done research and does not plagiarize. Though much of what he has to say is common sense. Pay attention to what your kids are watching on television, limit the amount they watch each day, make sure they are eating healthy. Howver, as most of the toy lines he mentions here Rainbow Bright, He-Man, Crystar, etc are dead franchises, which tends to lessen the impact of his message. 
 
Glamor shots of author Phil Phillips
    He saves special venom for Masters of the Universe and Dungeons and Dragons. Apart from the supposed occult angle, was use of cartoons to push toys. This was a hot button issue at the time, and He-Man was the first cartoon and toy line to be produced simultaneously. After their massive success, nearly all  new toys and cartoon followed the same pattern. He rails against this as a brainwashing of children to be mindless consumer drones, and so on. The occult angle is specious. Skeletor had a staff with a ram’s skull on it, a sign of evil. This offended our author even though the character is clearly the series main villain. He-Man is the most powerful man in the universe, when that should be "Je-Sus".
    He then goes on to bash various other toys and cartoon. He does state that while the toy may appear to be harmless, they in conjunction with the cartoon may call up occult practices. My Little Pony is evil because, “the unicorn is a symbol of the antichrist.” In this case he’s getting his occultism mixed up. He writes, “the New Age, also known as the Golden Age, is referred to as the Age of Aquarius or the Eon of Horus.” Now this perhaps a little esoteric but New Age has nothing to do with the Eon of Horus. The latter is part of the philosophy of the Thelemites, the religion promoted by Aleister Crowley and associates. Lumping them together as if they are the same thing demonstrates a lack of understanding on the author. While there may be some similarities, there is a significant enough difference in my mind.  Care Bears, G.I.Joe, E.T., Star Wars toys and so on are attacked next. Basically anything you enjoyed as a child was evil in some manner and that's why you're such a horrible person.
    The purpose behind this occult influence is prompt the kid to act out occult practices with the toys, while the child is under the impression that they are just playing. The toy acting as an occult avatar or surrogate for the helpless child. Then the child will supplant the toy and perform the evil rituals or rites or what have you themselves (the specifics are unclear), allowing them to be seduced into the homosexual lifestyle, abortion parties, and general evil. 
Seducers of the innocent.
    The condemnation of Dungeons and Dragons (which my parents briefly fell for) centers around the same hoary old chestnuts anyone who played tabletop RPGs in the 80s will be familiar with. Most of it is typified by the quote at the beginning of this review. RPGs are Satanic, they teach occult practices and evil magic, they cause the loss of a personal ego into a paper homunculus, etc. The author only mentions D&D by name, but I assume his ire extends to all other RPGs as well, though he more than likely doesn’t know what they are. 
       I’ve heard all of this before. It sent me back to a frustrating time when I had to patiently explain to my parents how bullshit it all is. They didn’t believe me, but I eventually wore them down until they shut up about it.  "The book says", "The book says" was their mantra, as if the printed word couldn't be a lie. Guess what, it can and does!
    In general this book takes a lot of material gathered by other groups on toys, films, and cartoons in the 80s and puts a paranoid fundamentalist spin on it. As I wrote above, the fact that most of these cartoons and toys are now defunct, and that those who played with them are all adults, shines a bright light on how crazy these suppositions are.It's fun for all the wrong reasons.