head
   He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he gaze long into the abyss... only to find his own reflection.

Book Reviews

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

The authors are "Motivators and Marketers" -- rich motivators and marketers.

The book is full of feel good stories, poems, fables and anecdotes, by various authors, some anonymous -- the stories can truly "tug at the heart." It is also full of misogynist, bigoted shit which I shall explain. I shall label the stories I relate by number -- which is not related to their numerical position in the book, but my numerical choices of which stories to write about. I shall summarize what I think of them at the end.

Story One was of a "sociology class" professor who "took to the slums" to "get case histories" of 200 boys. In every case we are told the students wrote about "hasn't got a chance" -- apparently to succeed at anything.

Twenty five years later another professor followed up and found that a high majority actually "achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors and business men."

A large percentage of a group of the boys were "pulled out of the slums into successful achievement" by one teacher. How did you do it the teacher was asked at the end of the story. "I loved those boys," she said.

Story Two was of a man on a beach seen throwing starfish out to the sea. "Why?" someone asked him. "It's low tide and they'll die out of the water," he replied. "There are many beaches," the questioner said. "You can't possibly make a difference." The man threw another. "I did for that one!"

This story was by the book's authors. The questioner was "friend of ours" on a Mexican beach and the starfish guy was a "local native." The "local native smiled" they made a point of saying.

Story Three was of an old man on a bus who gives flowers to a girl. "These were for my wife," he said. "But I think she would want you to have them." He later gets off the bus and goes to a cemetery.

Story Four was of a little girl getting a blood transfusion from her little brother who thought he was going to die to save her life. "Will I start to die right away?" he trembled.

"That's courage," she later said.

Story Five was of a New Yorker bringing everyone he meets "a little love." You're a superb driver," to a Cabbie. "That's a magnificent job you men have done," to a work crew. "All these people will benefit from happiness," the complementer said.

"Nobody tells post office employees what a good job they're doing."

"They're not doing a good job," says his friend.

"They're not doing a good job because they feel no one cares if they do," he replied.

"You just winked at a very plain-looking woman," said his friend.

"Yes, I know. And she'll be happy."

Story Six was a story about someone whose family once received food and a turkey on Thanksgiving when the family had no food and no money. "A friend of yours knew you would refuse his offer and I'm just delivering it. Bye." And he vowed to do the same thing when he grew up. And so he did; but not just for friends in need, he would buy food and "dress up like a delivery boy" and go to the "poorest neighborhood" and knock on doors.

He then goes on with a hint that he makes money and that he "received more" from that work than he has from "any amount of money I've ever earned."

And that's not all. Once, stuck in a hotel in New York during Thanksgiving, he and his wife want to "go some place were we can really appreciate who we are." He was saying that with great pride.

What's he say next? "Lets go to Harlem!" (His exclamation point.) For Thanksgiving is really "Giving good thanks, not eating turkey!"

And to do this, because he has a radio interview, he asked his "partners to get us a started by getting a van." But there are no vans in any rent-a-car places! So they go banging on van windows on the streets, and everybody is saying no to "drive us to Harlem to feed some people," or to "help some underprivileged people... to drive us to an underprivileged area." Even with the offer a $100.00!

But lo! They finally found a perfect van because it was "extra big and could hold all of us." "Could you take us to an underprivileged area?" And the driver said yes! Because the driver happened to be with the Salvation Army! And the driver bought his story that they wanted to "show gratitude for all that I had by giving something back."

And they did, and to a place where six people were living in one room, and to a place with "no electricity and no heat, surrounded by rats, cockroaches and the smell of urine." It was both an "astonishing realization that people lived this way," but also a "truly fulfilling experience to make even a small difference."

And the moral of this story is that "miracles like this happen everyday -- even in a city where there are no vans."

Anecdotes were like: A suicide prevented by someone being nice. A smile to his jailer get a prisoner out of a jail run by "Nazi Fascists." And old man on a train talking down a "filthy, drunken laborer." A boy who cons his father into giving him ice cream on a Saturday morning. A teacher having her students bury papers with the words "I can't."

The Leukemia Cure

One of the authors, Mark V. Hanson "cured a girl's leukemia." Her last wish (with three days to live) was to attend his seminar where he asks the audience to "learn a healing process that might serve them for life." He had them "Vigorously rub your hands together, separate them by two inches and feel the healing energy." And then with someone else to feel "the healing energy emanating from themselves to another." Everyone has healing energy, healing potential he says. Five percent "of us" he says, have it so "dramatically pouring from our hands that we could make it our profession."

He had the "frail, bent and weak" girl brought up to the stage and had the group "warm up their hands and send her healing energy."

"Two years later," he tells us, "she called to say she was married."

My Commentary

I will start with Story Six first. Guess who that fucking idiot is? Tony Robbins. And why am I risking slander/libel by calling him a fucking idiot? Because his story is totally fucking bogus.

Sure, the part of being a boy and his family getting food and a turkey is probably true, and probably sent him on a path of helping people, like dressing up as a delivery boy and helping people. But going to the "poorest" neighborhood to do so? How would one know who had "no food and no money?"

Was his town gentrified? Did he look at yards and houses and pass judgement on the kind of people there? Knock, knock, "Hello. Um, are you poor?" And how did he do it? Drive around with a car full of frozen turkeys? Carrying one to each "poor" home? Just what would these "poor" folk think of that?

But his Harlem story is simply a load of crap. They were in a hotel, remember? This was one van, remember? Also, remember the van was "big enough to hold all of us." (I doubt he was anthropomorphising the turkeys.)

So, several -- how many he never said -- "underprivileged" families got food and turkeys -- just how much food and turkeys and people can a van hold?

And, Tony, were the food and turkeys already cooked? What about that family without electricity? And if they were so disadvantaged, how many had big ovens, stoves and cookware? So all that is proof of lies.

And here is the stupidest part. If someone really wanted to give something back to a poor community he could have helped -- and helped a lot more people -- by donating food to a soup kitchen and volunteered for the day. How about donating money -- since he obviously had so much -- to the Salvation Army? How about volunteering there? And being "astonished" that people live that why is indicative of gross ignorance.

So he is a stupid, lying, egotistical bastard, making up stories to sell his books and tapes -- that's the fucking idiot part. Giving frozen turkeys to people are "miracles?" What a jerk. Miracles would be preventing gentrification, gerrymandering and systemic racism in state governments.

Story Five was written by Art Buchwald, a story of a self important egotist "helping" poor slobs less than himself. And winking at women is an old misogynist tactic that demeans women, treats women as objects for the sole purpose of men's desires. What woman wants to be winked at by an old codger?

Story Three and Four are rather cool -- and I am sure there are many such in the book (I did not read it all.) But are simply made up about people being nice to other people -- something that happens everyday.

Story Two is typical of a traveling American gawking at a "native." Saving a starfish probably did make the "native" feel good, but starfish live and thrive in the ocean and reproduce by the thousands, that some may die on a beach is natural, just as some are eaten by crabs and birds.

Story One starts off with a horrible, and ignorant, misconception about "slums" and their inhabitants. Slums are the creations of Federal and State Government housing -- putting aside, out of the way -- black people who were for over a hundred years since Jim Crow, denied jobs, denied the right to vote, denied equal access, frequently arrested and jailed, and otherwise beaten down. Is it any wonder their plight? Really? So, the poor and destitute were "provided" housing -- terrible, horribly built -- and away from white people.

And beaten, angry, poor people without resources don't live well, to say the least. But they are people. And that some among them are smart, determined and willing to better themselves should be of no surprise. But apparently to these so called "professors" there are none.

Yeah, sure, they had a loving teacher -- from a society that gives them no love at all. But those who became "lawyers, doctors and business men" are people, normal people just like the rest of us. Given equal resources there would be a great many more of them "lawyers, doctors and business men".

Last But Not Least is Hanson's "curing" of a girl's leukemia. First, the type of leukemia is not mentioned, nor if she has been going through treatment -- probably she was. Second, this "healing energy" is totally bogus. Go ahead and vigorously rub your hand together -- it generates heat -- heat that can be felt for a while with hands held two inches apart. That's scam number one. Third, on stage antics with audiences in awe is as old as mesmerism, patent medicines and analysing head bumps. Without doctor's reports and a medical history, the girl's story cannot be considered to have any merit. Asking the audience to "warm up their hands and send her healing energy," is scam number two. This has all the signs of fraud, as something that cannot be proven and accepted only by the gullible and the ignorant.

This is a sad, sad book and a poor commentary on American society.

Writing Down the Pain
I'd like just once to fall asleep feeling good about myself. Just once. Drunken stupors do not count.