Friday, April 25, 2014

Fiction Friday: April 25, 2014: The Man in the Rockefeller Suit

Madame L here again, with a review of a book that is not fiction. The one Madame L reviewed last Friday (Confessions of a Sociopath), is supposedly not fiction, either, but since it was the story of a sociopath, written by that same sociopath, and was full of manifest lies, Madame L figured the whole thing qualified as fiction.

In contrast, "The Man in the Rockefeller Suit," by Mark Seal, is not a bunch of lies, even though it's about a sociopath, or psychopath, who made his way through the world by telling lies. Madame L includes it here as part of a thread of books about this mental disorder. She reviewed "The Sociopath Next Door" almost three years ago on her own blog, and hopes to be reviewing another one in this series ("Blood Will Out") soon.

What makes the man in the Rockefeller suit different from the self-diagnosed and delighted-with-herself sociopath M.E. Thomas, or from your ordinary everyday office or neighborhood sociopath?

The man in the Rockefeller suit, who made a lot of money off a lot of people including his clueless wife by calling himself Clark Rockefeller for a few years, was German-born Christian Karl Gerhartsteiter, who came to the U.S. at the age of 17. He immediately took advantage of people he'd met earlier, as he met new people whom he could take advantage of, changing his name as he moved from place to place. This alone makes him more of a crazy (super-professional word, I know!) and dangerous person than the everyday sociopath.

In addition, he killed at least one person as he made his way up the social ladder. He impregnated his wife when she tried to leave the marriage, knowing she would stick with him out of her sense of the importance of family; and then, when she finally left and got custody of their child, he managed to kidnap the child.

But Madame L isn't reviewing this book here just because it's part of her sociopath series:(. She's including it here because it is written so well, so much like a novel with a plot and characters so fascinating, that Madame L could barely put the book down when she had to move on to other things.

"The Man in the Rockefeller Suit" is available now in paperback at from about $8.00 on up, but Madame L checked it out of her local library.

Madame L recommends this book as an antidote to the self-congratulatory tone of the book she reviewed last Friday. Here you see as real people the men and women who were duped by the murderous and fraudulent Clark Rockefeller; and you sympathize with them, you understand why they fell for the man in the Rockefeller suit, and you start looking at the people around you who might just be duping you, too.

On the other hand, if you think reading a book about rich rubes and the charlatan who ripped them off would be bad for your soul, not to worry: Madame L has given you all you need to know about it, saving you and your soul from that reading experience. You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day

There are so many ways to celebrate Earth Day, and I'm not particularly doing any of them. For instance, I'll be driving my car for many miles on freeways to do some necessary chores, I'm using my computer and lots of other electricity-hogging devices today, and doing a couple of loads of laundry which I'm not hanging out on a line to dry (because that's against my homeowner association rules).

But yesterday I saw some beautiful sights at Round Lake Park, near the place where I often go jogging. I went fairly early in the morning, and then again in the evening with Jason so he could see the beautiful meadow of lacamas lilies. These are some of the reasons I care about Earth Day.

Early morning: This robin is catching breakfast.

 But this mallard is still asleep, one foot tucked under.

Above the regular hiking trails is the meadow.

Our town was originally called Lacamas, for these lilies (changed by the USPS because it sounded too much like the name of some other town).

The Lacamas lilies bloom for only a couple of weeks in April.
Lacamas lilies aren't the only flowers there.


Monday, April 21, 2014

More About My Easter Greeting

You know that "Happy Easter!" message with the L.D.S. Church's "Because of Him" video that I posted Saturday night?

Well, I also posted that video on my Facebook page, e-mailed it to some friends, and texted it to a couple of other friends. I was really worried that some of these people might be bothered, thinking that I was trying to convince them of my religious beliefs. (Which I wasn't doing at all, because I only sent it to people I had talked to about religious and spiritual things, people who know I'm only thinking of their happiness.)

But all the responses so far (nothing yet on Facebook, two responses on my blog) have been very positive. For example:
"Thanks for the thought and for the well-wishes, Louise. I actually don't celebrate Easter or other holidays of pagan origin, but I do celebrate the biblical holy days. We kept Passover last week. Tomorrow we'll be celebrating the last day of unleavened bread, a festival that pictures putting Christ into our lives."

"Good video, although I do have a slightly different opinion and belief of the whole religious thing, it is all the same, just different perspectives."

"Thank you for your email. May this note find you tremendously blessed, abundantly happy and overwhelmingly successful. Feel embraced..."

"Thank you for sharing the video with me. I love to see and appreciate everyone's spiritual quest. I, being a creative body, believe that music transcends; thusly heaven speaks without words. I hope you likewise blossom with your endowed potential. You were a delightful light when I worked with you, and I am grateful still for your presence. Love and light...." (This one made me cry with gratitude for this person's love!)

"So true! It IS because of Him!"
And that's the thing: Even when we don't have exactly the same beliefs and practices, we're all moving toward the Light of God's love, however we define it.

So it turned out to be a huge blessing to have shared the video, a blessing I'm grateful for. I learned from my friends' messages lessons of tolerance and love, as well as respect for other ways of celebrating God's love.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Handel's Messiah

Live, tonight, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: I think using this link will get you there.

And in the meantime, you can listen to this bit from it.

Fiction Friday: April 18, 2014: Confessions of a Sociopath

Madame L is delighted to have been invited again by Aunt Louise to share a recent fiction experience with Aunt Louise's readers.

Madame L chose to write about "Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight," by M.E. Thomas, in order that no one else will feel compelled to read it.

Madame L chose to write about "Confessions of a Sociopath" as FICTION because that's clearly what it is. It's not a novel: it has no plot and no sympathetic main character who changes over the course of the book. But it's fiction.

It's completely made up, just as the lies of your ordinary, everyday, scumbag sociopath (or psychopath, or person "suffering" from "antisocial personality disorder") are lies. And it's a completely made up bunch of lies for the same reason any antisocial personality disorder person tells lies: to manipulate you, to get something from you, or, often, simply to cause you some pain or suffering. In this case, the author wants to take your money for a worthless lying piece of garbage. (See the last paragraphs of this review for an experienced psychiatrist's analysis of the lie.)

The author, writing under the pseudonym of M.E. Thomas, claims to have been raised in a "good" Mormon home by basically "good," though neglectful and narcissistic, parents. The author even claims to still be a practicing Mormon who, according to the jacket cover, "donates 10 percent of her income to charity, and teaches Sunday school."

Yes, Dear Readers, you may wonder, as does Madame L, what this person is teaching in Sunday school. Because in the book she confesses that she finds many ways to circumvent the Mormon church's health code, the Word of Wisdom; and its morality code, chastity and fidelity. She confesses to many misdeeds and crimes, but brushes off her stories of "ruining" (her word) acquaintances and work associates by saying she didn't cause them any permanent damage. In fact, the author has a convenient justification for having broken every rule and norm she has ever broken, plus the grand-daddy of them all:

That she is nothing but a product of nature and nurture: genetically predisposed to this character (which she refuses to acknowledge as a flaw) and then allowed to exhibit it by parents who didn't raise her correctly, in spite of their supposed religious affiliation.

Wait, you may be asking Madame L: Are you saying the whole book is a gigantic scam, a bunch of self-serving lies and manipulations to get the unsuspecting public to buy and read this book and feel nothing but pity for the next manipulative lying narcissistic scumbag they stumble across?

Yes. That is exactly what Madame L is saying. Don't buy this book. Don't even check it out of your local library, even when you see it on the "New Books" shelf, which is where Madame L found it, and certainly don't waste any time reading it. Madame L has performed that onerous chore for you and resents having wasted the time she spent, even speed-reading it as fast as she could.

If you're interested in finding out about sociopaths (or psychopaths, or antisocial personalities) because you think you're working with one, or married to one, or living next door to one, Madame L suggests you read books of fact, not fiction, to find out more. Some good ones include:

The Sociopath Next Door, which Madame L recommends highly as a help in figuring out (1) if that weird neighbor or boss really is a sociopath of just a disagreeable person and (2) how to deal with him or her;

The Psychopath Test, written by the same guy who wrote "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which Madame L also recommends highly; and

The Mask of Sanity, by Hervey Cleckley, the original book defining "psychopathy" before the same character flaw was re-named sociopathy and later antisocial personality disorder. (The link provided here is for one chapter of the book, "Discussion of of Psychopathy Traits"; Madame L does not provide a link to the entire book because it's a very expensive textbook and the edition available on Amazon is not the most recent revision.)***

You should also read the LDS Scientist posts on sociopathy, or, as it is known in some circles, evil. These are "Evil? Or Broken?" and  "Evil? Or Broken? Part Two (An Example of Bad Science)." This LDS scientist points out that bad science --- inaccurate results, or reading results wrong, or trying to fit your results into your pre-conceived notions of what science should be, or trying to act like morality or religious proscriptions against hurting each other are wrong --- leads to false conclusions.

The LDS scientist cites a recent article in a pseudo-intellectual magazine which furthers the psychopath's agenda of getting us all to feel sorry for him/her: Oh, poor little guy just couldn't help it. It's that nasty combination of nature and nurture. True, I have no conscience, but I'm just human, just like you, so be nice to me. If you're not, I'll hurt you and not think twice about it. If you are, I'll still hurt you and not think twice about it. Because all those pseudo-explanations and justifications for psychopathy do not hide the fact that the psychopath has no conscience. And if the particular one you know has not killed anyone, yet, that's not reason enough to pal around with him or her, is it? Madame L certainly thinks not.

***In fact, Hervey Cleckley tells us precisely what the author is doing in this book:
Occasionally, however, [the psychopath] will perfunctorily admit himself to blame for everything and analyze his case from what seems to be almost a psychiatric viewpoint, but we can see that his conclusions have little actual significance for him. Some of these patients mentioned spoke fluently of the psychopathic personality, quoted the literature, and suggested this diagnosis for themselves. Soon this apparent insight was seen to be not merely imperfect but a consistent and thorough artifact. Perhaps it was less a voluntary deception than a simulation in which the simulator himself fails to realize his lack of emotional grasp or that he is simulating or what he is simulating. The patient seems to have little or no ability to feel the significance of his situation, to experience the real emotions of regret or shame or determination to improve, or to realize that this is lacking. His clever statements have been hardly more than verbal reflexes; even his facial expressions are without the underlying content they imply. This is not insight but an excellent mimicry of insight. No sincere intention can spring from his conclusions because no affective conviction is there to move him.
...Yet the psychopath shows not only a deficiency but apparently a total absence of self-appraisal as a real and moving experience. Here is the spectacle of a person who uses all the words that would be used by someone who understands, and who could define all the words but who still is blind to the meaning. Such a clinical picture is more baffling to me than any of the symptoms of schizophrenia, on which attempts have been made to throw some light by psychopathologic theories.79,89,129,269 Here we have a patient who fulfills all the ordinary theoretical criteria of a "sound mind," and yet with this apparently sound mind is more incomprehensible than the psychotic patient.

Voting for Mugwai Still On

Vote for Mugwai!

(She's number 252, or you can find her page by searching for "Megan" and clicking on this photo.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse

I hope everyone will be able to stay up and watch the eclipse tonight. Here's what Madame L wrote about it:

Dear Readers,

Thanks to Ellen for asking about tonight's so-called "blood moon." This eclipse should be visible from anywhere in North America and South America, as well as Australia. It will be seen as a partial eclipse in arts of Asia, Africa and Europe.

Just find a comfy place (and a warm blanket, maybe some hot cocoa, and certainly some friends) to enjoy watching it!

You can read more about it in this article.

Even better, though, is the NASA explanation for the moon's "blood red" color in the eclipse: "What you're seeing is every sunrise and sunset on Earth--all at once. This ring of light shines into Earth's shadow, breaking the utter darkness you might expect to find there."

Madame L knows that Ellen and all her other Dear Readers are interested in the science and not in the creepy-crazy pseudo-religious nuts who are saying this eclipse has anything to do with anything outside of the normal life of our solar system.  Here's a NASA scientist explaining this lunar eclipse:

5 Times Per Day

Thanks for asking! I was assuming it was once a day, but I just checked the official rules, and they say, "...during this first public voting period listeners can vote for their favorite entry(ies); limit five (5) votes per email address per day. " That's up until April 22, at which time the second phase of the contest will begin. And then, same thing: 5 times per day per e-mail address.

So I'm going to vote 4 more times.

And thanks, everyone, for voting!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Voting Begins

To vote for Mugwai and Lola, go to the PAW{arazzi Pet Photo Contest and in the Search window, enter Megan, and you'll get to the page with the photo of Mugs and Lola. Click the "Vote" button there and enter the words that ensure you're not a robot or spam machine, and then click "Save Vote" or whatever it says.

Remember, these are the cutest dogs in the world! So vote for them!

Protecting Freedom of Speech

I hope you'll read this opinion piece written by Cassie, published in the Deseret News late last month.

Cassie writes that in a case involving a photographer's declining to take photos at a wedding of a lesbian couple, "...the central issue is not discrimination at all but actually freedom of speech."

She adds, "It is the right of every American to choose what messages he or she will communicate, whether by speech or through artistic talent. To deny an individual this right is to reject the First Amendment... it is against our foundation as freedom-loving Americans to force people to participate in activities whose very purpose contradicts their religious beliefs. As similar cases are brought up, and related legislation is being debated in several states, it is our responsibility to examine each carefully and stand up to protect our freedom of speech when it is threatened."

Thanks, Cassie, for writing thoughtfully about this sensitive issue. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fiction Friday: April 11, 2014: Gone Girl

"Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn, is one of the best novels Madame L has read in a long time. It's a story of love gone bad, a murder mystery, a family drama, and a horror story.

Madame L is delighted to give this book her highest recommendation if you want to be intrigued by the twistiest plot Madame L has ever read, startled by the awfullest-while-still-true-to-life characters Madame L has ever encountered in a work of fiction, and blown away by the high concept.

What high concept? A woman disappears, leaving blood remains and a murder weapon, as well as a diary recounting her unhappy married life, and tons of additional evidence pointing to her husband. He becomes the prime suspect and cannot prove his innocence.

What's so high concept about that? Ah, there's the rub! Madame L cannot reveal more without spoiling the whole plot for you, Dear Readers.

Even when Madame L had correctly figured out where the plot was going, she had to keep reading to see how the author would accomplish the fact.

However, Madame L did not buy the book and does not recommend that her Dear Readers buy it, either. It's still out only in hardcover, which Madame L's friend at the bookstore suspects is because the publishers are doing because the longer they can keep selling this book for $29.95, the better for them, even though it's not so good for ordinary Dear Readers.

Even if you can get it for $14.12, new, or $4.72, used, at, don't do it.  You'll enjoy the book, but you'll have no need to keep your own personal copy in your home library. In fact, Madame L found it at her local library, enjoyed it, and returned it. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Top Indoor Water Parks

Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington, is sixth among the top eight water parks in the world. Check out the story (and the great photo!) in Conde Nast Traveler.

The travel magazine notes, "One of a dozen in Great Wolf’s roster of lodge-themed water parks (the largest collection in the country), this western Washington park is diversified by jaw-dropping slides and kiddie-pool areas." 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vote for Mugwai and Lola!

Check it out: My grand-dogs are in a photo contest. They definitely should win, don't you agree?

That's Mugwai in front, mugging it up, and Lola, chilling on the couch.

You can vote starting April 12.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How Do You Console the Bereaved?

In addition to watching general conference yesterday, I did some reading in the April 2014 Ensign magazine, where I found a story called "The Promise Gave Me Hope." It's in a section called "Latter-day Saint Voices," along with some other church members' personal experiences.

Juliana Fayehun, a church member in Lagos, Nigeria, tells about losing a child. In her mourning, she studied "Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith." Here, she read:
"I have ... asked the question,  why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us. … The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape … the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again... A question may be asked—‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life, for their debt is paid." 

(Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 176, 177.) 
This reminded me of another quote I read recently, in an address given by Elder J. Thomas Fyans in 1982. He told of having a friend visit, not a member of the church, a very smart and educated man, and telling him about the church. After taking him to visit various church leaders and see how the church organizes teaching curricula and welfare services and all those things we do for our members, Elder Fyans asked his friend, “What questions do you have?”

He said, “How do you console the bereaved?”

Here is how Elder Fyans answered:
We opened up the Old Testament, and then we read from the New Testament. Then we looked in another testament, the Book of Mormon. We studied from Alma and other parts of this testament that Jesus is the Christ. We then moved on to modern-day scriptures and studied the 76th and 138th sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. We also read from the Pearl of Great Price.
And we talked about the cross-referencing of these scriptures. They are not isolated one from another. They are one integral whole and have come from one source—the Lord God, and his Son Jesus Christ, who through prophets over the ages have inspired those thoughts and had them recorded so that they would lift us to an understanding of the pearl of great price.
We have many wonderful teachings in this Church, all of which contribute to an uplifting, wonderful life. And yet as we look through all these trappings, and down to the very center core, we find that there is the message: yes, the Lord Jesus Christ came in the meridian of time. There he called others—Apostles and seventy, and others—to assist him in the task. He was placed on the cross and then in the tomb, and on the third day he arose. He lives today, and because he lives today, we will live tomorrow. That, I told my friend, is how we console the bereaved.
That is how we console the bereaved. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Psych: Dule Hill on Tap and Dominoes

I've been enjoying the re-runs...and this is one of my all-time favorite scenes:

And here's Dule Hill talking about tap dancing ... and dominoes:

"You HAVE to do all you can!"


Saturday, April 5, 2014

General Conference

Wow! What great messages, and we got to watch the priesthood session at home. In between sessions we took our turn to clean the chapel and then went grocery shopping. What a great way to spend most of our day!

When I first posted this link from YouTube, I thought it was only a clip from the priesthood session. But now it appears to have much of the whole general conference. Which is good!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tired Meerkat

This meerkat looks like someone's dad in church (or me in so many biology/chemistry/physics lectures where I was supposed to stay or at least look awake, since I was the T.A!).

(Thanks to Dave for sending this)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman

Kristen Bell (aka Veronica Mars) can really sing:

This article gives more information  about her on-stage career, and also provides a more complete version of the song.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy April Fool's Day

One of my "Facebook friends" wrote this morning that she loves President Obama and thinks Mrs. Obama is looking great lately. I thought, well, isn't that nice, because I'd thought this "friend" was very conservative. And then I saw the comments from her other Facebook friends, who I suppose are real friends of hers in real life, all laughing along with her April Fool's joke.

I'm thinking that "friend" of mine doesn't have the same idea that I have about April Fool's Day (nor about much of anything else). And that's okay.

I thought it was about doing fun things with and to your friends and family members, like putting salt in the sugar bowl, hot peppers in the salad, and so on.

Or, like the BBC did in 1957, airing a story about the Swiss spaghetti harvest. You'd think people would see through that immediately, right? But they didn't. According to Wikipedia, about 8 million people watched the show and "hundreds phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story or ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC reportedly told them to 'place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.'"

Here's one that happened to a friend of mine this morning: She goes to a gym in Portland where her trainer told her --- and a lot of other folks --- that his pal Richard Simmons was going to be leading the aerobics class at 5:30 this morning. So they all showed up at 5:30, much earlier than usual, and found out that, of course, Richard Simmons was not there. But at least they all had a great early-morning workout.