#681 The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon RonsonThe Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

Jon has heard that there is a man who stared at a goat and killed it. The whole thing was a very hush-hush military experiment. Somewhere, the goats have been debleated and now they’re experimented on. No one would guess that there is a building full of goats on a military base.

The men who did stare at goats are a combination of new age and karate master, well, most of the time anyway. Jon tries to find out who actually stared at the goat. It may have been this one guy, but he died, but maybe it was this other guy. Jon finally finds out exactly who stared at the goat and it turns out that the guy still stares at small animals every once in a while, and they subsequently drop over dead.

As the book progresses, Jon moves on to other fringe military experiments, like MK Ultra and sound frequencies that make a person have diarrhea. Jon speaks with the son of a man who was killed in relation to MK Ultra and LSD, but his entire family was always told it was an accident. The idea of psychic warfare seems crazy, but the military certainly doesn’t think so.

What I liked

If you didn’t know anything about MK Ultra or experimentation with certain sound frequencies, this might be a good book to read.

What I didn’t like

I hate these fringe things. Look, fringe is interesting, but I have heard enough conspiracy theories to last me a lifetime, a lifetime; I’m serious. I don’t know about the goat thing, but all the other stuff in this book–real. The military actually did and experimented with everything mentioned in this book, except for the part about the goats, which I’m not entirely sure of in my personal knowledge of strange military experiments. The military spends some money on some weird stuff and some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Along the way, the military happily destroys lives. Yes, people have actually been killed and scapegoated for the things Jon mentions in this book. Do people care?

No, honestly, not really. The public hears that the government experimented with LSD and they’re like, “Whatever.” It’s not a concern for most people that this stuff goes on. Should it be? Maybe.

The thing about the frequencies was tested and disproven on Mythbusters, but who knows, maybe the government knows something that the Mythbusters don’t.

I don’t like all this fringe conspiracy stuff. This stuff isn’t actually conspiracy, because it actually happened, but “conspiracy theory” is how most people tend to define the particular things mentioned in this book. The thing about weird government experimentation, which does happen, in any government, is that you can’t really do anything about it. It’s upsetting to hear about. They say knowledge is power, but if knowledge doesn’t get you anywhere, why know? You can’t march up to the government and be like, “Hey, stop experimenting with weird fringe science stuff, like giving people LSD.”

Part of the reason all of this stuff is still defined in the realm of “conspiracy theory” is that it sounds silly. Like, you mean, the government actually experimented with certain audio frequencies that would make people poop their pants? Absurd! It can’t be real! It can’t be a thing the actual government did! You, sir, are crazy!

Look, the government is weird. Just accept it. They’ve probably funded research and experimentation about whether or not the pink goo from Ghostbusters could actually animate toasters.

You might read this book and have a good laugh because some of this sounds so absurd, but the government really did think that some LSD and code words could make an ultimate soldier.

Overall

Well, if you ever see a goat drop dead, maybe it was just a government experiment.

Weigh In

Does it get us anywhere to know about these experiments?

Will people ever accept some of the government’s weird experimentation as things that actually happened?

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#645 Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington and Nugi Garimara

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington and Nugi GarimaraFollow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington and Nugi Garimara

Molly, Daisy, and Gracie live in Australia. At first, they lived with their families near a settlement, but because all three girls are half white, it is deemed that they would be better off educated and taken care of by the government. They are taken away, over a thousand miles away from their home to a school where children are treated brutally. The girls decide that they’re going home.

They sneak out of the school one morning and go off into the bush. The girls learned the ways of the wilderness from their families. They know how to catch their own food and find water. They elude capture after capture along the way.

The journey takes over a month. The girls find the rabbit-proof fence and follow it. They eventually make it home. It is deemed that it has been too costly to reclaim them and that they should just stay with their families.

What I liked

I’ve seen the movie that was based on this book a couple of times. It’s a bit inflated compared to this book, but still not a bad representation of what the girls went through. This is a true story. These girls were real. They really did take off from a government-funded school and trek across the Australian wilderness to get home. Doris is the daughter of Molly. Her aunt helped her fill out this story. This is a great piece of family history for Doris.

These girls were strong. They were brave. Do you know a single young girl that could take off in the wilderness and survive for over a month at a time? I don’t.

I liked that I learned a bit more about Australian history with this book.

What I didn’t like

Despite the fact that these three girls were brave and defied the Australian government, that didn’t make them immune to the Australian government. There were challenges each of them faced as grown women in Australia. They still weren’t treated as they should have been.

This account shows us that the United States wasn’t the only country that took natives and tried to wipe out their culture and raise their children.

Overall

These girls were definitely brave.

Weigh In

Could you survive this journey?

Do you know anyone who could survive this journey?

#638 Why Smart People Hurt by Eric Maisel

Why Smart People Hurt by Eric MaiselWhy Smart People Hurt by Eric Maisel

When you’re smarter than the average bear, it may seem like an advantage and a blessing, but it can also be a curse. Smart people can be put down by society for being smart. Sure being smart is good, depending on your background. What if you’re born into a poverty line family? What if you’re born into a poorer region of the country? What if your social norms say that a girl cannot be smart?

Even if you are encouraged to be smart, your smartness will be put into a box. You have to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever it is that smart people do. Going even further, you have to be a pediatrician or a criminal lawyer, not just a lawyer. You are not free in society to be the many things you may desire to be as a “gifted” person.

Going even further, the gifted person is more understanding of the nature of life due to the extra intelligence they possess and all the thinking they do. Smart people are more prone to be depressed, have OCD, or have anxiety.

On top of that, brains don’t come with off switches, so smart people have to learn how to harness their thoughts to better themselves rather than to run away with their mind and ultimately cause problems in other areas of life.

Eric encourages smart people to find something in life that gives them meaning and to work on harnessing their thoughts. The thing that gives your life meaning may not necessarily be religion, or lots of money, but could be something simple that a person enjoys doing and uses their intelligence.

What I liked

This book was very informative and Eric is absolutely right, about pretty much everything. Smart people can be ostracized. Don’t rock the boat. How dare you propose that society operate any other way than what is does? How dare you challenge people to think for themselves? If you think outside of the norm of society, you’re seen as weird, even if your thoughts are highly intelligent and rational as presented to certain problems.

Smart people from the poverty line are definitely not encouraged to be smart. Let’s take my extended family, for example. My family is super smart, yet, hardly any of them have been to college and may appear and sound as country people upon first speech with them. My grandfather can build things from scratch that you couldn’t imagine. He could put a model T back together from memory. One of my great uncles can solve complex physics problems. Another built his own generator. I have a cousin who can pick up languages in nothing flat. My mom could be a volcanologist. Given the chance to have gone to college and to be educated, these members of my family would be rocket scientists and doctors and not what they are today. My family comes form a migrant farming background. Intelligence isn’t really lauded in that background.

I grew up in an area where smartness was not praised. Being stupid was. I know, and knew, people who bragged about never finishing a single book. You were supposed to brag about failing that algebra test. You were supposed to brag about how college wasn’t going to do you any good. That was the thing to do. Newsflash–those people who bragged about this stuff work minimum wage jobs and barely have the money to get by and can’t see why their lives are so tough. Guess you should have tried a little harder on that algebra test.

I think it’s definitely true that gifted, smart, or creative people are more subject to mental disorders. Look at Van Gogh. Look at Robin Williams. Name almost any artist or musical genius or top scientist and you will find that there is a mental disorder lurking somewhere in there. I think smart people definitely are more subject to mental maladies. They can’t turn their brain off and stop thinking thoughts. They can’t be satisfied with the mediocrity that less smart, or less gifted, or less creative people are satisfied with.

I know that I would never be happy in a subdivision because it’s boring and not creative, but I know many, many other people are perfectly happy in subdivisions.

I think this book could be very helpful, but it takes more than one read-through. This is the type of book that takes at least a couple of reads and some note-taking.

What I didn’t like

This book takes more than one read to get a lot of benefit out of. I think a person would have to sit down with a notebook and read this book. There would need to be highlighters and pencils involved to use this book to the optimal degree.

Overall

Being smart is cool, guys.

Weigh In

Was smartness discouraged in your culture?

Is smartness discouraged in your family?

#615 Sophia’s Story by Susan McKay

Sophia's Story by Susan McKaySophia’s Story by Susan McKay

When Sophia was six years old she was raped by her father. It wasn’t the only time it happened, in fact, it happened repeatedly for years. Sophia did not stop getting raped and beaten by her father until she went away to college, even then, Sophia still suffered emotional abuse from her father. Sophia wasn’t the only one. Her siblings and mother were all abused by her father.

On the outside, he looked like a normal guy, and was maybe perhaps charming, but behind closed doors, or when people turned their heads the other way, Sophia and her entire family were terrorized.

It wasn’t as if people didn’t know. Sophia told authorities and hospital workers that her father had broken her nose, when she was about nine. People heard it and some steps were made to do something about it, but nothing was ever followed through with. Sophia’s older brother, Gerry, ran away from home repeatedly and told people he had been abused by his father and that his sister Sophia was also being abused, but again, nobody stepped in.

Sophia’s mother could not speak up, and some blame her for what happened, but Sophia’s mother was emotionally and physically abused. She was a mental prisoner to her husband and couldn’t say anything.

It wasn’t until after Sophia graduated college that she was able to come forth and tell the world what had happened to her and her siblings. The court case that ensued was the largest court case of its type in Ireland. Sophia and her siblings were able to go after the local government for not stepping in. Her father was sentenced to some time, but not very much for what he did. Ultimately, Sophia left Ireland. She talks about her experiences and has made a life for herself, but many do not hold a lot of hope that a lot has changed in Ireland.

What I liked

There isn’t a lot to like about this book. It’s a story of caution. The system can, and does, fail. Children and women fall through the cracks. The laws and measures put in place to safe-guard them are sometimes not enough or not followed through with and this book is an excellent example of how that can happen.

What I didn’t like

I will never, never, never understand how someone could treat their own child like this. I don’t understand how anybody could treat anybody else like this, but your own kids? How in the world could you look at the child that you’re supposed to be protecting and be like, “I’m going to beat the crap out of you then I’m going to rape you, for the heck of it”? The cruelty of humanity is ever-surprising to me. What’s even worse is that people sometimes look the other way. People don’t want to rock the boat so they don’t say anything.

Oh, they know about what’s going on down the road, but it’s family business and they keep their mouths shut. You’re supposed to stay married and you’re supposed to honor your parents, so buttoned-lips for all around. This is so disgusting.

Recently, on my personal site, I wrote about the hypocritical idea that some supposed “Christians” espouse the idea that you’re supposed to stay married no matter what, even if there is emotional, physical, or sexual abuse going on because that person could repent. “Could repent” and “actually repenting” are two different things. In reality, people are not supposed to stay in dangerous situations because someone thinks “they’re supposed to.” If you’re standing next to a bomb, but you have plenty of time to move out of the way before it goes off, you should move out of the way; it’s only common sense. Why can’t this idea be taken up where abusive situations are concerned?

Why can’t it be as simple as, “Well, you’re being abused…you should leave.” It’s not complicated. It’s not rocket science. Why can’t we hear about a child being abused and then wheels be put into motion to get that child out of that situation in a speedy manner because abuse isn’t good for you. Why can’t we tell women who are being emotionally and physically abused by their husbands to leave and them not be criticized for leaving their marriage?

Everyone failed Sophia. Everyone. The agencies that should have helped her, didn’t. Her mother was too emotionally abused to be able to say anything. Her brother tried, but no one listened to him. Neighbors turned their eyes in a different direction. What the heck?

Ultimately, it doesn’t sound as if a lot has changed in Ireland for the betterment of abused children and women. People still have a pervading attitude that some things just aren’t talked about. No, let’s talk about those things. Let’s talk about how so-and-so was raped by her father or so-and-so is manipulated into submission by her husband. When you don’t talk about something, you make it taboo, and things that are labeled as taboo are seen as bad and rare, and as a result, even more people don’t want to talk about them. So we end up in an almost-never-ending spiral of making crap taboo and covering problems that should be out in the open.

Overall

I don’t know if there is a follow-up for this book or not, but I really hope that Sophia and her siblings have managed to have lives. I really wish them the best.

Weigh In

Is there a situation where you wished you would have said something, but didn’t?

Do you think we still have this attitude of “we don’t talk about that” in today’s society?

#614 Citizen Keane by Cletus Nelson and Adam Parfrey

Citizen Keane by Cletus Nelson and Adam Parfrey Citizen Keane by Cletus Nelson and Adam Parfrey

Once upon a time, way back in the 1960s, Walter Keane was known as the man who painted the big-eyed waifs, but in turns out, he wasn’t really that man. It was in fact a woman, his wife, Margaret, who had painted the big-eyed children and Walter had perpetuated a lie. Margaret had been painting them the whole time, but the story did not come out until after the two had divorced.

Both Walter and Margaret were married before they met. They both divorced and later married to each other. They were both artists, or so it was thought. Walter Keane became a sensation. He wasn’t a classy artist; he was an artist for the masses. He sold posters and postcards and cheaper versions of his art for the every-day person to be able to afford. Despite the fact that Walter may or may not have actually been an artist he was definitely a promoter.

Walter lived large on the wealth of Margaret’s paintings, but Margaret became dissatisfied and asked for a separation. She recounts that she was too scared to say anything about the paintings actually being hers. The arrangement went on for some time after the marriage ended, but Margaret finally found the courage to say that the paintings were hers. Walter could never show up to paint something to prove that he could paint the big-eyed girls as well. He later became something of an alcoholic and ended up losing his third marriage as well.

Margaret enjoyed a renewal of interest in her art in her sixties and ended up being quite content, even if that wasn’t always the case.

What I liked

This story is so interesting. I’m glad it’s a book and it’s also a movie, which I have not seen yet. Artists, or scam artists, have made claims to the artwork of others to get personal gain. It’s happened all throughout history. People have taken credit for the work of others because the work was good and the other person knew they could get away with it.

While the story is a bit sad, because it’s obvious that Margaret was emotionally abused to an extent, it’s also a good story to tell because people need to know things like this happen. Why on Earth would you allow another person to take credit for your work? Well, if you’re terrified of that person, you might just let them do whatever the Hell they want just to keep them off your case. It’s called mental abuse. It happens to people and other people should know that it does happen to other people so they don’t feel alone if it happens to them.

What I didn’t like

Walter doesn’t sound like a nice guy. I’m sure he had his good points, as in he was a wonderful promoter and I’m sure he loved his family, but he did a lot of crappy stuff to people he supposedly loved. Look here, if you love someone, you’re not supposed to do crappy things to them like this. You’re not supposed to steal their dreams and take credit for their work or threaten them to keep quiet.

Overall

This was a very interesting story.

Weigh In

Has someone ever taken credit for your work, but you felt compelled to stay quiet about it?

Do you think Walter ever felt bad about what he did?