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Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
by M. E. Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.86
63 used & new from $7.10

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The sociopath as Eve, September 23, 2014
Is M.E. Thomas a sociopath?

In common with many other reviewers, it would appear, this was the question that raised itself throughout the book. Maybe M.E. Thomas is a researcher thinking herself into the mind of a sociopath … and what a great angle!

Having lived with a sociopath for 20 years, and known a couple more - yep, I am that unlucky or perhaps an ideal target for them - there are a number of traits of sociopaths M.E. Thomas seems to lack. All sociopaths I have met have had childhood grudge stories, almost as justifications for their relentless anti-social behavior. M.E Thomas describes a fairly sociopathic father but doesn't seem to be carrying a grudge. The sociopaths I have met have also been much attached to their own property, however little the value. They want, to an extreme, what they have accumulated. M.E. Thomas says she doesn't care for things. Sociopaths are also notorious for trying to destroy their marks, long after the relationship is over. M.E. Thomas did not describe even one such incident.

What M.E. Thomas is describing in this book is a socialized sociopath, which you would think would be a contradiction in terms - someone whose mindset is actually useful to society, who benefits society, whose ice-cold reasoning might be more functional than the relatively tortured, misguided and misled logic of empaths - which is interesting, and maybe true, so long as you discount the one defining feature of a sociopath - that nobody in the world matters to them other than them.

M.E. Thomas criticizes this as a moral judgment: It doesn't matter what the state of your motivations are, only what the outcome is. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so maybe the road to heaven is paved with egocentric ones.

This, of course, is a political theme - those who believe in extreme greed, megalomania and ruthlessness are the ultimate architects of our civilization, of our material success, of human achievement. And maybe this is so, depending what you mean by 'civilization,' 'success,' and 'achievement.'

That is a chilling thought, or perhaps it isn't. Perhaps it is just, 'It takes all sorts to make a world.'

In a way, M.E. Thomas has written a parable of the Garden of Eden as written by Eve. That takes some mulling.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 6, 2015 7:11 AM PST

Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story
Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story

5.0 out of 5 stars Whoever or why ever it was written, it's a moving book, April 15, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I thought I,d read everything on this case, I,ve always felt Until The Twelfth of Never, truly told both Dan and Betty's experiences fairly and didn't leave the reader wondering how such a terrible thing could happen. It's a great book. But it left me wondering and worried for the kids. Kim for one is obviously a really nice woman, maybe a better woman than most would be after enduring that nightmare. I,m sorry to see that she says this isn't her story because reading it kind of gives hope for every child who grows up under far less than ideal parents, and goes onto be the sort of fine smart, caring person that anyone would be glad to know.

When I'm President
When I'm President
Price: $10.99
36 used & new from $6.67

5.0 out of 5 stars I never thought I would call Ian Hunter consistent, February 21, 2013
This review is from: When I'm President (Audio CD)
Most of us Ian Hunter fans have been around for a long time, forty-two years in my case, from the release of 'Mad Shadows' which Ian hates but I still like.

However, much as we liked Mott, much as we liked Ian, there was one thing we could all agree on: although he could write tens, now even hundreds, of great songs, blimey could he lay in the odd really embarrassing one, sometimes whole albums of them, like 'Overnight Angels'.

But not any more.

For some the change came with 'Rant'. For me it came with 'The Artful Dodger' because I like his pub rock songs too.

'When I'm President' has quite a few pub rock songs, indeed it is generally more rocky than his recent albums, maybe because the critics accused his excellent 'Man Overboard' album as being somewhat lifeless, somewhat clapped-out.

It was a complete nonsense but Ian seems to have taken it to heart, or may be he is now simply in a more rockabilly phase. So what we have here is one show-stopping ballad, 'Black Tears', and a bunch of songs he could more or less have written in his sleep, but his sleep is what, for most of us, our dreams are made of.

Don't expect any challenging songs this time around, just lots of strum-along rock 'n' roll. but Ian's core fans won't mind - we'll dance around until the next one.

Thanks, Ian. You have saved my life many times around, and now this is just for fun. Sorry to have missed your gig in San Francisco.

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
by Errol Morris
Edition: Hardcover
104 used & new from $0.01

25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jeffrey MacDonald didn't kill his wife and children? How embarrassing!, September 22, 2012
It is is case little known in Britain but well known in the USA, that on February 16 and 17, 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald's family - his wife Collette and his daughters Kimberly and Kristen - were virtually butchered. Jeffrey MacDonald claimed their home had been invaded by a band of four drug-crazed hippies going, to the effect of, "Yummy, yummy, yummy, acid is groovy, kill the pigs" who stabbed Colette, Kimberly and Kristen an insane number of times, but Jeffery MacDonald just the once with a surgical strike to the left lung.

You certainly want to believe ol' Jeffrey. After all, drug-crazed hippies at the heart of the Vietnam war were famous for hating women and children but loving trained Green Berets, as ol' Jeffrey was.

Er ...

Errol Morris, fearless champion of the criminally mistreated, swallows it all in 'A Wilderness of Error', as indeed did the officials at Fort Bragg, but not Federal prosecutors a decade later who brought Jeffrey MacDonald to trial and had him convicted.

Now, I am someone, like Erroll Morris, who believes that the criminal justice system gets it wrong, sometimes innocently, sometimes deliberately. I trained to be a lawyer in the 1970s in Britain when you were automatically guilty of anything if you were Irish or poor, and I saw some horrible cases where people were convicted despite the fact that the magistrate thought they were innocent and where barristers were walking into court having been handed their brief at 6 o'clock the night before and hadn't even read it before appearing in court. Time after time in the UK, the famous murder trials have been proven to have got it wrong, and the Innocence Project has done much the same for executed black 'murderers' in the US. So bad have perversions of justice been both sides of the Atlantic that I used to joke that, 'Has an innocent man ever been found innocent and has a guilty person ever been found guilty?'

How embarrassing, therefore, it must be for Erroll Morris that he has picked the one case in the entire history of his country where a guilty man has been found correctly guilty to endow with his forensic talents to prove he was innocent.

And such forensic talents they are. Chapter 1: Alexandre Dumas wrote 'The Count of Monte Cristo' - all true. Chapter 2: Sharon Tate was murdered and Lee Marvin was frightened - true too, at least the first bit. Chapter 3: David Lean got it wrong in his movie, 'The Sound Barrier' about the controls of a jet reversing at Mach 1 - could be. Chapter 4: psychopathy is a complex diagnosis - yep, true again. Chapter 5: Franz Kafka wrote, 'The Trial' - undoubtedly, I think.

It's a bit of a shame that that is where Erroll Morris runs out of facts.

Let's take this drug-crazed murderous hippy theory. How often in the history of the world - yes, not just of the US of A - has a drug-crazed gang broken into someone's home and murdered everyone they found (except that Jeffrey MacDonald wasn't actually murdered, of course)? Well, er, never, actually. The case prominent in Jeffrey MacDonald's mind was the murder of Sharon Tate et al by the Manson Family, prominent because it had only recently happened. Not that Tex Watson and Susan Atkins were drug-crazed, just crazed and psychopathic. I've seen it in a few racist 1950s 'C' movies when a bunch of supposed Africans have danced around a cauldron after drinking some elixir worthy of 'Asterix the Gaul' and before eating a hearty white missionary, and I have seen it in a James Bond voodoo movie set in the Caribbean, but in real life? Drugs don't do that. You talk a load of repetitive rubbish about how wonderful it would be if Mitt Romney and/or Sarah Palin were elected President of the USA, you jump out of windows (preferably the same people), but go into murderous rages ...? There has been the odd person who claimed LSD turned his wife into a snake, but that was his wife. The only drug that does this is Meth, and who took that in 1970? Well, Jeffrey MacDonald, actually, as Meth was a key component of the diet pills he was taking.

And what about his story of the hippies breaking into the MacDonald house in the early morning of February 17, 1970 and wiping out his family? There is one fly in the ointment on that one - Kristen MacDonald actually died, according to her autopsy, several hours before the rest of the family, nearer 7pm on February 16, long before the hippies supposedly turned up. There may even be a second fly, albeit somewhat tenuous: Colette MacDonald's teenage diary recorded that Jeffrey had a history of abusing her and hitting her.

The whole of Jeffrey MacDonald's defence, in truth, is a complete nonsense. The house itself was virtually untouched apart from some inept designer trashing. Kristen was brutally murdered then returned to her bed with her bottle and Kimberly with her teddy bear - oh, aren't those crazed hippies sweet? Jeffrey MacDonald was a pampered brat who could not bear criticism of any kind and was desperate to get away from his family before doing something awful to them, but sadly failed to escape.

Looking at the reviews for his book on Amazon, Erroll Morris has to be at least a little embarrassed. He has picked a case to overturn where even the overturning of the sitting-room table on the night of the murders stands against his construction of events. He should stick to fiction. 'A Wilderness of Error' is rather a silly fiction with rather obnoxious under- and overtones.

Next, Erroll Morris writes, 'The King is Still Alive' and 'Abraham Lincoln was Assassinated by Aliens'. Well, you have to draw attention to yourself somehow.

Still, I have to give it two stars: Erroll Morris writes in complete sentences (sometimes) and the book is well punctuated.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2012 4:04 PM PDT

The Island of Whispers
The Island of Whispers

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cross Animal Farm with Watership Down and what'ya got?, December 16, 2011
I've been meaning to read this book for a long time because it has a great reputation among writers, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

I cannot speak for how rat colonies operate, but it certainly has a strong resemblance to how human colonies operate from a good, solid Scottish Socialist point of view, and I am not disputing it.

Here we have the fat and megalomaniac rulers, their coddled and lazy offspring, the ruthless enforcers, the purveyors of intelligence and news, the slaves, and the few who dream of being free of all the chains that bind. Give me death or give me freedom - but they would prefer to be a little surer of the freedom before they risk their lives.

As one who is sick and tired of famous American actors impersonating cuddly animals which are so human they might as well show the actors' faces and have done, it is a real pleasure to be back in the land of sharp political allegory, anthropomorphic or otherwise.

Guaranteed for an enjoyable read and heated bar discussion afterwards with all your Tea Party / Tory friends.

Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly impressive, December 16, 2011
This review is from: Decisions (MP3 Music)
There is a raft of excellent female singer-songwriters out there characterised by their soft, rich and powerful voices, beautifully cadenced tunes and intelligent lyrics reflecting perceptively on what it is to live their lives - Sheryl Crowe, Lene Marlin, Ann Pierlé, Edwina Hayes, Cathy Burton, Amy Wadge, Meredith Brooks - I am sure you can add your own favourites.

And Emilia Quinn is right up with there them, which is extraordinary given she is at least fifteen years younger than any of them. She sure doesn't sound it.

'Decisions' is an impressively strong and consistently excellent album, assuredly performed, interestingly arranged (Neil Young voice-box effects 'n' all) and all soaring effortlessly to the lead of her superbly paced and pitched vocals which seem to be able to carry, and distinguish, any kind of song she wishes to turn her songwriting talents to.

Favourites? 'In August', 'N-O spells no' and 'Dance with me'.

Dislikes? There are no bad tracks here. I don't particularly like 'I like to be' any more than I have liked 'I have a brand new pair of roller-skates' by Melanie, but some people I know have claimed it to be their favourite track on the album.

If you are looking for a no-brainer buying decision, probably years of enjoyment and an album from a huge talent waiting to be discovered, look no further.

The Interpreter: Special Military Edition
The Interpreter: Special Military Edition
by Shah Wali Fazli
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have never fought in Helmand but ....., December 15, 2011
I cannot speak for how much of this book was written from personal experience, but it certainly feels that way.

This is a blow-by-blow account of the American NATO war against the Taliban written by a real Afghan interpreter who has either lived it or lived around people who have.

It shows how the war is in effect one of bare containment, with no likelihood whatsoever of actually defeating the Taliban militias that come and go more or less at will, living off the local population, and planning and executing their next hit and run attacks using rockets, landmines, suicide bombers, mortars and machine gun fire, with an added twist of black propaganda.

There are certainly many activities that are more fun than to sit in a mud hut being mortared with impunity or to stealthily penetrate a town waiting for the first shot to be fired, but the NATO forces are described as being made up of thoughtful, decent people doing a daily job within a massively complex environment militarily and politically.

The Case
The Case

5.0 out of 5 stars Completely empty or completely full?, November 28, 2011
This review is from: The Case (Kindle Edition)
I am sure I have reviewed this book before on Amazon, but my review seems to have disappeared.

Never mind, this is an absolutely brilliant book, so I will give it 100 reviews, if necessary.

First, let me say it is very, very funny.

Then may I say it is about nothing whatsoever, which does not detract from its appeal in the slightest degree.

You can just about write a book of 100 pages that is brilliant and about nothing, and Mel Nicolai is here to prove it.

As it is about nothing, I cannot tell you what it is about, but I can tell you that you will never stop chuckling, and that you should simply buy it.

Trompe-l'oeil: Or, the Old In and Out.  Of Love.
Trompe-l'oeil: Or, the Old In and Out. Of Love.
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, October 28, 2011
In a perfect world, lust, romantic love and universal love would co-exist. That, at least, is the modern fairytale of the Romantic novel we all get suckered and entranced by.

In reality, lust, passion, love, compassion etc. are all over the place and those who have unravelled already are either wound as tight as a ball or unravel again as soon as they are picked up and thrown around a little.

This is such a story, where the horror of the past poisons the affairs of the present and Kit, I am afraid, appears to be too dumb to notice its insidious influence.

This is a tale that starts as an intriguing romp and ends in one of the best and most affecting denouements I have ever read, pitched up right next to Marguerite Yourcenar's Coup de Grace, and that is one of the best compliments I can think of for a wild, reckless, threatening and haunting tale.

Unfamiliar Country - A Short Story
Unfamiliar Country - A Short Story
Price: $1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and intriguing, October 7, 2011
Dead people are meant to stay dead, right? They aren't meant to come back to haunt their killers, although they probably often do, at least under the guise of conscience.

That is what this 'short' is about - a low key, well-grounded short story set in Wales about what happened after the contract killer fulfilled his contract.

You can read it as a literal ghost story or you can read it as an allegory of how a killing plays on a killer's mind, driving him into making mistakes and betraying himself.

Very nicely written. My only reservation is that at around 50 pages in conventional terms, I found it a little too short to mine the full richness of the seam T.S. Sharp has discovered here. I hope he will expand it one day into a full-length novel because there is every scope for him to do so and his writing style and handling of the plot are, well, seamless.

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