Friday, February 27, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 15

While we're on the subject of the many flaws of the worst book of the 1980's, there is one specific flaw I feel like I really need to mention. It isn't nearly as big a flaw as, say, the racism or the fact that the thing sparked off a goddamn ridiculous moral panic, but it's still a pretty grating flaw.

Basically, Dr. Pazder simply won't shut up about how awesome he is.

This problem started early on in the book. I noticed it then, but I was reluctantly willing to put it down to changing cultural mores at the time--like, maybe there was more machismo floating around in 70's professional culture, and "talking yourself up" like this was a more accepted practice. But then I read chapter 15, and now I'm convinced that the bragging wasn't a strange archaic social convention of bygone days, and Dr. Pazder probably is just the kind of blowhard who loves to hear his own voice.

Imagine you were in charge of editing the manuscript for this book. You're going along with your red pen, marking typos and doing your editor thing, and suddenly you come across this monster of a paragraph:

     Lawrence Pazder had a knack for what one of his friends affectionately termed "creative tardiness." Dr. Pazder himself would admit that punctuality was not a fetish with him. There were so many people crowding in on his life--colleagues, patients, family members, friends, comembers of the many committees he found himself agreeing to serve on--that there was always a call or an impromptu visit to delay him. His openness and, more than that, his commitment were such that fending off interruptions did not come naturally to him. Colleagues, patients, family friends--they all learned to accept the fact that this energetic and altogether engaging man, important in all their lives, was unlikely to appear at the designated moment. It was best to allow fifteen or twenty minutes. Perhaps half an hour. And then, well before acceptance yielded to irritation, the tall, lithe fellow with the high, broad Polish cheekbones and the warm, white-toothed smile would come striding in, his expression a mixture of sheepishness and self-amusement. 

This massive sumbitch takes up half a page in the book. Half. A. Page. And it doesn't even contain anything particularly important, like a significant revelation or development to move the plot forward; it's only there to give us a piece of information that could have been adequately conveyed with two sentences (Dr. Pazder never meant to keep a patient waiting, but he was a very social man and often got sidetracked by chance encounters with friends and colleagues. It was best to allow him fifteen to twenty minutes.) and to give Dr. Pazder another opportunity to remind us that he's too sexy for his shirt.

Considering that this chapter is coming on the heels of a horrific "Satanists molested me with a dead fetus" scene, the tone of this paragraph is really, really jarring and super-inappropriate.

Not that being a perfect pure charming handsome Marty Stu saves our good doctor from a major case of interpersonal relationship fail. He reveals that he told his wife (his first wife, the one who isn't Michelle) about Michelle's "therapy."

"You were kind enough," he began, "to let me discuss this work with my wife." Dr. Pazder had been anxious to have his wife comprehend something of the nature of this extraordinary endeavor--so that she would understand why he was seeing less of the family these days, and spending so much additional professional time with one patient. He had wanted his wife to understand how important the work was, and to have her support.

Predictably, this does not go over well:

"I tried to tell her something about the nature of your remembering," Dr. Pazder continued. "...I'm afraid I just wasn't able to say enough about it so that my wife could understand and feel at peace about it."

Yeah, you're skipping out on family time to spend more and more suspicious amounts of time with your pretty young female patient and you cuddle with her on the floor of your office. Your wife's not stupid. Did you really think she was going to swallow that mealy-mouthed explanation?

Michelle did not reply. Dr. Pazder began to feel that he had perhaps made another mistake--in telling Michelle about the mistake he had made in telling his wife.

Oops. The Other Woman is mad now too. Mr. Perfect just can't catch a break.

I think this scene is meant to show how hard it is to treat someone who was abused by Satanists, and how it'll eat up all your time and attention and emotional fortitude and your family will have a hard time understanding, but I look at it and just wonder if we've been granted a glimpse of the precise moment when Pazder's first marriage started to fall apart. I got more of a feeling of intimacy, of something private we weren't meant to see, from the scene than I have from any of Michelle's recovered memories. I feel a little unclean for reading it, to be honest.

Dr. Pazder also does some research into Michelle's background in the name of corroborating her memories, but it mostly consists of talking to a doctor at the local hospital who remembers Michelle's mother vaguely and Michelle even more vaguely, and recalls that Michelle had a tonsillectomy as a child and maybe also "something about a car accident." Dr. Pazder seems much more excited about this discovery than he ought to be, considering the doctor's "confirmation" of Michelle's car accident ends with him apologizing for not being able to remember any details and for his not having access to the hospital's old (accidentally damaged) files.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 14

So in the decon of an earlier chapter of the worst book of the 1980's, I touched on the idea that the Satanists tormenting the unwilling Michelle could have gotten better results by just raising a kid in their faith and thus making a willing sacrificial victim out of said kid. But that's not the story we got (sigh. That would have been a much more interesting and suspenseful story) and the next chapter focuses on the cult's attempts to systematically break down Michelle's will after she ruined the last ritual with her non-compliance, so let's take this opportunity to examine their brainwashing techniques:  

1. Intimidation

In the days following the ceremony in the round room, [the nurse] never left the tiny girl alone. Her training was unremitting. Sometimes they would sit together and look at photographs--but they were all pictures of corpses, and all the people had died violent deaths...The nurse never said, but Michelle had the feeling that it was these dead people who had provided them with blood for their ceremonies with the white thing.

Pros: Scares the kid into silence, maybe.

Cons: So you've done a little body snatching--and maybe also a little ineptly disguised murder--to obtain human body parts for your Satanic blood rituals. Both these activities are crimes. Photos of the victims' bodies are evidence of those crimes. Which means that to use this intimidation tactic, you have to 1) hang onto a big stack of evidence which could incriminate you and 2) show all of said evidence to a witness who could incriminate you.

2. Emotional abuse

     Every day the nurse would take Michelle out in the car...They drove directly to a street where Mrs. Harding [Michelle's mother] lived, and the nurse parked and let Michelle watch. She saw her mother leave the house and walk down the street, but the nurse kept Michelle from jumping out of the car and running after her mother...After a few days, Michelle began to wonder whether maybe her mother knew that she was there.
     One day, after they had been parked for a while, she saw her mother coming down the street, walking with another little girl. The girl was holding Mrs. Harding's hand. Michelle wanted to chase after them, to take her mother back from the other little girl, but the nurse smacked Michelle and forbade it.

Pros: Breaks the bond between mother and daughter and makes Michelle more pliable and submissive to her "new mother" the nurse, I guess.

Cons: Where'd they get another little girl? And even when they had her...Look, I've lived in suburban areas for most of my life, and I can tell you from experience that suburban neighborhoods--and I am getting the feeling that Michelle's mom is a suburb dweller--often have certain residents who drive all the other residents crazy by being nosy and paranoid as fuck. You're telling me Michelle's mom's neighborhood doesn't have even one old biddy who eats, drinks, and breathes neighborhood gossip? Because someone like that is totally going to notice that a neighbor of his/hers has suddenly started walking around with some strange kid who's not their real daughter--not to mention that strange car that's taken to hanging about the curb for hours every day. Also, kids are pretty damn unpredictable little critters. I'm sure the nurse thinks she has everything under control, but my parents also thought they had everything under control up until about half a second before my then-five-year-old brother started trying to kill my younger sisters by pushing them off the top of a McDonald's Playland slide.* With just one moment of distraction on the nurse's part, Michelle could slip out of the car and cause the whole plan to devolve into chaos.

3. Messing with her sense of food safety

The nurse would give her a bowl of soup for lunch, but the bowl would have a mass of bugs or worms at the bottom. Michelle would eat a few mouthfuls before she saw them, then vomit up what she had already swallowed. Eventually she just refused to eat at all.

Pros: Um...boosts your evil cred, I guess?

Cons: This seems like a pretty counterproductive breaking technique. I guess it's meant to scare Michelle into obedience, but what good is obedience if your prisoner is too weak from hunger to do your bidding? Also you'd have to make the soup, obtain bugs and worms to put in it, and make sure the bugs and worms are hidden exactly right, so the victim will take a few bites--but no more than a few bites!--without seeing them. In soup, which is kind of hard to hide solid things in on account of it usually being either opaque-but-smooth creamy goop or veggies and meat chunks floating in slightly cloudy water. All in all, this seems like not a terribly good return for all the work you'd have to put in.

4. Imprisoning her in a grave and pelting her with dead kittens (seriously).

Pros: Same as #1, I suppose.

Cons: So according to Google Earth, Victoria has some cemeteries (and some things which aren't cemeteries, but which Google Earth helpfully tagged anyway), and none of them are at all far away from human habitation. Michelle says that upon realizing that the things being thrown down on her were dead kittens, she burst into "high, uncontrolled shrieks that in her terror she hardly heard." I bet the people who live near the graveyard would hear, though. For a group that's supposedly been a clandestine secret society for hundreds of years, these people sure do suck at being inconspicuous.

5. Sleep deprivation

She was exhausted, but there seemed to be no regular time when everyone would sleep...The nurse tormented her all day, but the nights were even more frightening. Every night the women came into the round room, and every night they would "point" with Michelle.

Pros: Well, some people do put a lot of stock into sleep deprivation as a torture, I'm sorry, "interrogation" technique.

Cons: So, nurse, it's all very well and good that you're depriving Michelle of sleep, but how are you staying awake for these long, irregular periods of time? Are you stealing amphetamines at your nursing job--which you apparently don't show up to anyway because you're spending all your time torturing Michelle?

I'm sure you've figured out by now that these methods don't seem so hot to me. They require a lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of risk in settings where one wouldn't necessarily have a whole lot of control, and also they're cartoonishly stupid evil.

But maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe the Satanists have finally managed to scare Michelle into submission with their regimen of torment. As luck would have it, another ritual takes place at the beginning of the chapter, so we can read through and see whether Michelle shuts up and plays nice this time.

So the Satanists do their "pointing" ceremony with Michelle (why are cardinal directions evil again? If you don't explain this to me, Michelle Remembers Satanists, I'm going to be quite perturbed with you) and force Michelle to lie down on a stone slab so they can perform some sort of mock birthing ceremony with a dead baby (Nope. Once again, no idea why. Sorry). She is terrified, but cooperative. So far, so uninterruptedly profane.

But then Michelle flips out over being so close to a dead baby, and this happens:

     Frantic with fear, she ran across the room, through the chanting circle, and made it to the round bed. The cross [which she stole in an earlier scene] was still under the mattress, and now she brought it out for the first time. She had to help the baby. She knew they didn't like crosses.
     She held it up high, and the room went wild. Everyone was shouting angrily; again she was disrupting their ceremony.


Well, that was a whole lot of work for absolutely nothing. Next time, Michelle Remembers Satanists, you should really just squeeze out some kids of your own for your creepy rituals. You'll save yourselves a lot of bother.   

*This was the same McDonald's where I, as a three-year-old, punched another little girl in the face because my parents applauded her for going down the slide by herself and I was jealous. I think it was also the same one where my brother got his head stuck in the men's room door. My family doesn't go to that particular McDonald's anymore.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Music Video Monday: You're So Vain

Up next on the "Worst book of the 1980's brain bleach" playlist: Marilyn Manson's cover of "You're So Vain."

Why? Come Friday, I think you'll be able to figure that out.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 13

So Michelle has remembered once again, and is understandably disturbed by her memories. She is initially convinced that she must be crazy, and struggles to come up with a way to make sense of it all:

"I must have just made it up," she said firmly.

YES. Someone get this woman a gold star!

But of course Dr. Pazder talks her out of believing this, and we're right back to babbling about the Creepy Coven of Confabulation again.  

Michelle goes on to tell us more about the cult's rituals. She recalls that Malachi would sometimes magically appear from a cloud of smoke at the height of the ceremony. She was impressed by this until she made a fateful discovery:

One afternoon while the nurse was busy elsewhere, Michelle was playing under the stage when she discovered a hole in the floor. She crawled up and found herself inside the white statue...Looking back, now, she realized it was a gimmick Malachi had used to impress the others, Malachi and the nurse believed in the Devil, but they needed the others to believe as well.

This isn't a bad detail, considering the long and proud history of phony trickery-produced "miracles" as a religious conversion/follower-controlling technique. So it is at least somewhat realistic. The only problem is that it doesn't really make sense in the context of the book's world, where we will soon be shown (spoiler!) that Satan is a really real being--and not just in an "abstract negative spiritual force" sort of way, but in a solid, visible, "often appears to his followers in human form" way. Oh, and he can be summoned. Malachi shouldn't need to resort to stage magician shenanigans to make his followers believe in the Devil. Just give the Horned One a ring and say, "Hey, Lucifer, I've got a gaggle of newbies coming to our meeting tonight. Would you mind popping in for a minute or two, with the fire and the brimstone and all? Gotta make a good first impression."

Granted, Michelle Remembers Satan is kind of a shithead. I can see him getting pissy for some stupid little reason and refusing to appear, just to make Malachi look foolish in front of everyone. Though that begs the question of why anyone worships him at all.

Then Michelle talks some about a ritual the coven practiced every night, in which they would rub the blood from a severed finger or arm on the idol. All these body parts came from different people because the cult couldn't go the more efficient route of just "kill[ing] one person and pour[ing] all the blood on that thing in the round room." Then, for one shining, glorious moment, it looks like we might finally get a more in-depth explanation of the cult's beliefs and the meaning behind their rituals.

"Somehow that wouldn't be evil enough."

That sad, squeaky noise you hear is my hopes and dreams deflating.

Also, there's this:

     "...Where would they get them [the victims]?
     "I'm not sure, but I think...that they got them from accidents and hospitals. It seemed better for them if the person who died had been bad--like a drunk driver or something."

That's it. That's all the explanation we're given. The Satanists in this book don't have theologies. They don't have personalities or fears or wants or superstitions or concrete, comprehensible motivations. They torture Michelle because EVIL. They kill kittens and eat babies because EVIL. They don't even seem to be getting anything worth having out of their worship of Satan, which they only seem to do at all because EVIL. They're not people. They're part of the scenery. They're stiff, shadowy cardboard cutouts looming in the background to provide local color for Michelle, the only "real" person in the flashback scenes.  

That's not how you write a proper villain. Or a proper anything. Book, you fail at world-building forever.

By the way, this is the chapter where Michelle and Dr. Pazder finally figure out what we've known all along: The people abusing Michelle are devil worshipers. This is the actual dialogue from that scene. I swear I didn't make it up, it actually appears this way on the actual pages of the actual book:

     "The only group I know that fits your description is the Church of Satan."
     "My God. You mean, like Satanists?"


1. The Church of Satan didn't even exist until 1966, well after Michelle's "childhood abuse" took place.

2. BWAH?! The people who worship a statue of Satan, told a kid to denounce God, and spent most of the book up to this point doing conspicuously diabolical things turn out to be Satanists? What a tweest! I can't believe it only took you thirteen chapters to come to this conclusion!

3. No, Michelle. He means, like Unitarians. Seriously, who else would belong to the Church of Satan but Satanists?


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 12

In chapter 12 of the worst book of the 1980's, the nurse takes Michelle to a building that appears to be a temple of some sort, and we see what appears to be our first full-blown Satanic ritual. Ready?

Michelle's description of the building isn't bad at all, from a storytelling standpoint. She says it was a round, fortress-like structure made of stone, with a dirt floor and either no windows or windows set so high up she can't see them. There are candles, a monolithic statue/idol of Satan dominates one end of the room, it's cold, and the place is infested with spiders. The writing still isn't the best, but all in all, it's a fairly eerie, evocative scene.

It's really too bad that, like everything else in this book, it just doesn't add up.

I was bored and playing with MS paint today. Here's a (very poorly drawn) artist's impression of the Satanic temple in Michelle Remembers, based off of Michelle's descriptions:

First off, there's a big honkin' bed in there. Michelle describes it in detail: it's big, round (could you even get a round bed in the 50's? That strikes me as more of a late 60's/70's design), and has satin sheets emblazoned with the cult's specific and distinctive 13-pointed religious symbol, which I'm sure they were able to buy off the rack at Sears and didn't have to special order at all. Her description is not, however, clear at all as to where in the room the bed is. And really, what are you supposed to do with a piece of furniture as unwieldy as a bed in the middle of a ritual space where people presumably need to move around to carry out their religious rites anyway?

Another thing--Michelle straight-up says this room has no door. This makes the bed make a little more sense; she's imprisoned in the room, so maybe the bed is there for her to sleep in. But this raises the question of how the adult Satanists are getting into and out of the room. Are they climbing through those windows that are too high up to see? That seems like a great way to lose most of your followers to broken necks.

Also, why is the devil statue white? not a color Western culture generally associates with demons and hell. Okay, so maybe the cultists have some myth or symbolism specific to their belief system that explains the connection. Too bad Dr. Pazder hasn't made any attempt to discover anything about the cult's theology, despite supposedly having access to a survivor who understands the cult's inner workings. That might actually be interesting.

Oh, and here's a little pro-tip for anyone thinking of kicking off a moral panic: When fabricating your moral-outrage-generating story, pay attention to little details that can make your story that much easier to check out, like saying you were abused in a round room made of stone. Round buildings are 1) much rarer than regular square/rectangular ones due to being much harder to build and 2) tend to be highly recognizable historical landmarks. There can't be that many windowless stone towers in Victoria. I would think that if this building actually existed, Victoria natives would have been able to identify it from Michelle's description. Especially since it possesses the additional--and I would think highly unusual--identifying feature of having no doors.

Then we get to the ritual part, and...hoo boy, this book. I don't do many trigger warnings, but...


Michelle is held prisoner in this room for thirteen nights. Every night a man comes in and dismembers a white kitten in front of her, ritually smearing its blood on the statue. Michelle is horrified by this but is powerless to stop it.

At the end of the thirteen-night period, all the cultists come together in the room, wearing ceremonial robes and bearing more white kittens. While candles burn and organ music plays (damn, I've got to add an organ to my drawing too? How big is this place?) this happens:

Then Michelle got very scared, because they bent and took the kittens in their teeth, holding the cats by the napes of their necks. And then Michelle started screaming, because now they were biting the kittens, and the cats were howling, and they were pulling the kittens apart with their teeth, chewing at their paws to make them come free, stopping only to spit out hair. Then they rubbed themselves with the cats' blood, slowly, as they continued their catlike dance.  

*catches breath*

Scenes like this, I think, are a big reason for this book's success. There are certain subjects that just sort of...automatically flip off the logical part of most people's minds, in favor of passionate, white-hot moral outrage. Senseless cruelty to innocent, helpless things--particularly children and small cute animals--is a major one. This book does quite an excellent job of hitting those hot buttons. And once those buttons are hit, it's very easy for legitimate questions and doubts--could this really work in real life the way it's described? Why are they even doing this? What do they get out of it?--to be lost in the rush of OMG ASSHOLES KILLING KITTIES anger.

So let's take a dispassionate look at the situation for a moment.

First off, where are they getting the kittens? Thirteen kittens for the nights leading up to the ritual, plus one kitten apiece for however many cultists there are on the big night...adds up to a lot of kittens. Especially when you throw in the special restriction that they have to be white. (Again, why white?) I know the mid-twentieth century wasn't exactly a golden time for animal rights, but I can't imagine that even the most lackadaisical 1950's pet store owner wouldn't get suspicious if the same group of people kept buying him out of white kittens roughly the same time every year. 

I suppose they could be picking up strays off the street, but that brings us to another set of problems. Cats can transmit certain diseases to humans. Feral cats that you picked up off the street are much more likely to be carrying those diseases, including rabies. Even if you dodge the rabies bullet (and you'd better pray you do, Michelle Remembers Satanists. If you get infected and miss the window of opportunity to get vaccinated against the extremely deadly brain-destroying virus before it takes hold, your only other treatment option won't be invented until 2004), that leaves ringworm and toxoplasmosis and random bacterial infections from getting scratched and bitten. Oh, and food poisoning from ingesting raw blood.

(New pet theory--the Satanists in this book behave so erratically because they're all in the late stages of crazy cat lady syndrome.)

Also, I'm pretty sure that this is a good way to break a tooth. The force of a human bite may be a lot stronger than we once thought, but our teeth aren't exactly built for crushing bone or tearing through loads of tough tissue. Humans aren't bears.

These Satanists would be so, so easy to spot. Just be on the lookout for weirdly behaving, "off" people with ravaged teeth who display too much interest in acquiring cats, particularly white ones. Or hell, just contact the local hospital and ask if they've had a rash of patients complaining of animal bites and scratches lately. Or set up a sting with the local housewares store and take them into custody when they arrive to pick up their tacky custom-made 666 satin sheets for their stupid round 70's porn bed.

The chapter ends with Michelle throwing up on Malachi, which somehow screws up the ritual and lands her in deep shit with the nurse, who vows to "teach her" and I'm so sorry we had to slog through this. Here's some brain-bleach in the form of cats hilariously being mean to other animals for no reason:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Music Video Monday: Gutter Ballet

Next up on the "Wow, are these songs ever much, much better art than the worst book of the 1980's" playlist, "Gutter Ballet" by Savatage!

My goodness, but this video is pretty. Also, it opens with a rat scurrying back and forth across the keys of a flaming piano, which makes a thousand times more sense than anything in Michelle Remembers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 11

This is another fairly short chapter. I'd bundle it into the next one; but despite having a low page count and not a whole lot going on, it still manages to be packed so full of fail that it warrants a post to itself. So. Let's get the talking points out of the way, one at a time:

Exhibit A: This book is racist.

     These things do exist in the world. Dr. Pazder knew that from his own experience. In Africa he had encountered beliefs and practices that, had he not observed them directly, he would not have believed could exist within humanity--sacrifices, cannibalism, rituals of every sort that responded to inconceivably complex psychological or mystical requirements. And in his own work as a psychiatrist he occasionally had patients with dark drives and fears and desires that, if encouraged by persons similarly afflicted, could surely have been manifested in bizarreness and cruelty on this order.

All the reasons I hate this paragraph, in no particular order:

1. Class act, that Pazder. He doesn't come right out and say that he thinks native African religious practices are the products of diseased minds, oh no! He just alludes to them as part of his past experience, making them sound as awful and creepy as possible. Then he describes in the very next sentence (non-African) patients of his who totes would've done the same sick things if they'd had gross uncivilized people around to convince them to give in to their unnatural urges, and leaves us to make the rather obvious inference.

2. Tarring a whole continent with the same brush is not cool. While there is cannibalism in some African cultures, not all cultures practice it. Also, did you know that one African country has been a predominantly Christian nation, with a large Jewish population (two religions I'm pretty sure don't practice cannibalism) since the fourth century? You'd never know if you asked Pazder, who seems to think that the place is just crawling with nothing but gibbering be-loinclothed people-eaters.

3. Traditional African faiths =/= Satanism.

4. Yes, some African religious beliefs do indeed lead to problematic crap. Know what other set of religious beliefs can lead to problematic crap, Pazder? Your own beloved Roman Catholicism. Assholes justifying monstrous behavior with religious ideology is a problem for every race and culture, not just something antiquated and strange that those ethnic people do.

5. Look at the map above. That map is the result of attitudes like this (Africans are savage and backward; their "religions" are the product of mental illness) taken to its logical conclusion. Notice how very few areas are marked "independent?" Well, when you're a white person bringing the light of civilization to those poor benighted African peoples--who naturally need you to save them from themselves--you've got to keep an eye on them to make sure the lesson takes, right? So go ahead; park yourself there and declare yourself in charge! Nobody will mind--nobody who can stop you, anyway. And if you can make some money as part of the deal, then it's a win-win proposition for you! Just try not to cause the deaths of too many native workers, though, or history will hate you (though you'll still be rich as fuck. Because there is no justice in the universe.) 

TL;DR: One of the authors of this book holds some cringe-worthy views on native African religions, and I die a little inside every time he alludes to his experiences in Africa.

Exhibit B: Too much of this book reads like a bad romance novel.

He realized that her pain was affecting him deeply. It was not just her pain now, it was also in some measure his pain too. He was suffering with her. And he felt instinctively, like Michelle, that he too must cry, must give vent to his own feelings.

He had entered her pain and was there inside it with her.

Dr. Pazder did not look on her then as an attractive twenty-eight-year-old woman...Sometimes she would have her head on his shoulder. But he was careful about the way he touched her. 

You're not fooling anyone, either of you. This is some abstinence porn bullshit that puts Stephanie Meyer to shame and I'm getting sick of it.

Exhibit C: Michelle continues to have inexplicable sacredness-sensing superpowers.

The last scene of the chapter shows Michelle being forced to defecate on a cross and a Bible. We're told that she's "horrified" when she finds out what she's done, and tries to clean the objects up a little while the nurse's back is turned to avoid "falling apart from the guilt." I hate to beat this point into the ground, but...why? You told us that Michelle was raised without religion, book. Then you tell us she's overcome with horror at defacing holy symbols, for no other reason than the fact that she recognizes them as holy somehow. You can't have it both ways.

Exhibit D: The villains continue to be dunderheads.

After the scene at the graveyard, the nurse takes Michelle back to the house where the lump woman was killed in her unexpectedly and inexplicably cool car ("long and black with running boards and a silver statue of a springing cat mounted on its hood") and forces Michelle to walk with her. Like, literally forces Michelle to walk with her, as in she keeps the kid glued to her side and forces her to move her leg in synch with hers. The book says that they moved as if "they were joined together for a three-legged race," though it doesn't specify whether they're actually tied together.

Huh. I wonder how long that lasted. Did the nurse go to her day job (she must have; how else could she pay for her sweet vintage car?) with Michelle hobbling along beside her? How did she explain that to her colleagues? "Oh, it's Bring a Battered Child Captive to Work Day. It' obscure western Canadian thing. You wouldn't understand."

Also, the nurse keeps trying to teach Michelle stuff:

The nurse read to her frequently, but in a language she didn't understand, reciting passages over and over again...

Hey, rote learning! Raise your hand if you had a teacher in school who tried to get you to learn something by repeating it to you--or making you write it--over and over again. Now keep those hands up if you hated this teaching technique with the screeching fury of a million demon-possessed electric guitars wielded by the vengeful ghost of Jimi Hendrix and promptly dumped whatever knowledge that teacher was trying to beat into you from your memory forever out of pure spite.

Oh. Just me, then? Huh. No wonder I still suck at math.

     "Denounce God," the nurse said to her. But Michelle did not know what "denounce" meant.
     "I don't know how," she told the nurse with a trace of defiance.
     "Well, you'd better learn," the nurse told her. "If you don't learn now, you'll be in big trouble later."

ASDFGHJKL;ASDFGHJKL; YOU ARE THE TEACHER, WOMAN. If Michelle does not "learn now" because you jump in with thesaurus a-blazing, using big words that the six-year-old child doesn't understand and then don't bother explaining them to her, that is entirely your fault.

By the way, nurse, you could have avoided all this trouble if you'd just been thinking. If only you'd bought yourself a newborn baby and raised it in your faith, you'd already have a child who knows exactly what to do when ordered to denounce God and you wouldn't have to wrangle some stranger's recalcitrant, clueless six-year-old.

Then again, given your and your colleagues' level of competence so far, you'd probably find a way to make a hash of that, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 10

Worst book of the 1980's, take ten. This chapter opens with a strange little interlude. It's very short, so I'll share the whole thing with you:

     "Did you listen to CFAX this morning?" Michelle asked Dr. Pazder, wide-eyed, as she was taking off her coat. He said he hadn't. "Well, they were talking about The Victorian and the different things that are written in The Victorian, and the guy, the announcer, said, "Black magic is being practiced in Victoria and has been for years, and if you want to read about it, get a copy of The Victorian." And he was talking about how it really shocked him, this cultism, and about a woman who'd been their victim. Poor woman--I wonder if she still lives here."  
     "Did you go buy a copy?" Dr. Pazder asked.
     "No way!" 

I like this passage because it manages to capture perfectly (and most likely unintentionally) what it's like to make any attempt to track the lore of the Satanic Panic. When you first approach the subject, it has the illusion of being well-documented. Every believer seemed to know that there were Satanists out there murdering children; most were positive that they had seen a TV news report or read an article, and many could even name the show/magazine/newspaper that ran said report or article. When pressed for more information about the report/article, however...well, most of the time they can't or won't give much more detail than, "I heard the president of Procter and Gamble told Phil Donahue that his company donates a percentage of their profits to the Church of Satan on live TV!"

Even when you do track down such "sources," they are invariably disappointing. For instance, the article* Michelle was talking about is included in the appendices at the back of the book, and for all its sensationalist claims that, "Witches practicing black magic sounds like something out of a medieval myth but they are right here--in Victoria," the article is based on the testimony of a "former" member of one of these covens who sounds a tad delusional at best, and it includes a statement from the police chief that the report this fellow filed did result in an investigation which turned up no evidence of any witch coven. There's not even any mention of the woman Michelle was talking about who was a victim of witches, except for a vague assertion that said witches try to recruit "young girls."

Hell, the source doesn't even give any names. Despite ostensibly being a former insider of this group that supposedly included "prominent business people" whose names would move a looooot of copy if you could pin a scandalous story on them. Which you can't, because this whole stinking thing is an urban legend that spun out of control and anyone whose real name you attached to this malarkey could sue you. 

Anyway. More evil Satanists doing evil things.

The nurse abruptly drags Michelle out of the hospital (somebody must have filled out her discharge paperwork off-screen), bundles her into a car and drives until they come to "a large, rambling, turn-of -the-century house in poor repair." I like to think it looks something like this:

The nurse then proceeds to lock Michelle in three different closets, saying the name of a different direction each time. As in, she locks Michelle in the first closet, waits a while, and then says, "North," while dragging her out. Then she repeats the process and says "West." Then a third time. "South," and this book still isn't bothering to explain just what the hell is up with these people and their points-of-the-compass obsession. Cardinal directions are not evil.

With the last named direction, east, Michelle finds herself locked in a basement instead of a closet. And left there, for a very, very long time. Every now and then the nurse returns to crack the door open and tauntingly say Michelle's name, but she doesn't let the kid out or even bring her any food or water. Once Malachi comes down to hang some ducks he shot from the basement rafters, but he ignores her. This goes on so long that she's forced to eat splinters from the wooden stairs and drink her own urine to stay alive. Dr. Pazder will later theorize that this was a sort of brainwashing technique to make her compliant to the cult's desires.

You know, Michelle Remembers Satanists, there's a much more effective way to make children share your beliefs and do what your faith demands of them. It's called indoctrination. All you have to do is start feeding your beliefs to them from the cradle. Make sure they grow up with the message that your particular brand of Satanism is the one and only "right" way to live ingrained deep, deep into their minds. It's an extremely effective technique. Your enemies the Christians have used it to terrifying effect.

Also it's a lot less risky than stashing a kid away in some creepy abandoned house (which may not be as safe a hiding place as you think--places like that tend to be magnets for urban explorers, teens looking for a place to make out/drink illegally, homeless people in need of shelter, and various other nosy folks) and camping there for gods only know how long, worrying that the kid might escape while you sleep or that you might accidentally starve her to death before whatever time your deranged mind has decided is a proper incubation period for brainwashing has passed. Not to mention, despite all the fears of scary Communist mind control** that were floating around in the 1950's, the truth is that brainwashing--especially this kind of break-their-spirits brainwashing--isn't quite as effective as it's cracked up to be.

Michelle eventually escapes the basement (by opening the unlocked door. These particular Satanists apparently believe that once you shut a door behind someone, they're honor-bound not to open it until you say they can, or something.) only to run into her mother who drags her into another ritual. First, Malachi and the nurse try to make her eat some foul-smelling, ash-laced paste out of a bowl. She refuses, and the adults handle her refusal in a manner both douchey and surreal:

     The nurse addressed Michelle's mother. "Give it to me," she said, and Michelle's mother handed the nurse a doll.
     Oh, no, not again, Michelle cautioned herself, There's probably a dead bird under it. I'm not going to be fooled again.
     Suddenly the nurse flung the doll to the floor, smashing its head, and a seething glob of little bugs came out. Michelle screamed. The moment she screamed, Malachi shot the horrible stuff in the bowl into her mouth.

Snerk. So now I'm imagining the nurse spending hours on end picking up ants from the yard with tweezers and gently dropping them into a cheap doll head, just in case she has to freak out a recalcitrant child today. Also the use of the verb "shot" makes it sound like Malachi squirted the smelly crap out of a Super Soaker. This book would be a lot better if he had.

We get more creepy rituals: The adults take Michelle to a graveyard, sacrifice a cat ("What the hell do people think Satan has against cats?" is a question I will be asking a lot over the course of this book) and imprison Michelle in a grave. That conveniently happens to be empty, and "cracked on top" so that it's easy for the nurse to open. I guess this world's cemetery groundskeepers aren't much more competent or attentive than its police.

The ceremony ends with the ceremonial "rebirth" of Michelle to the nurse, and her mother revealing that she intends to give Michelle up to the coven. The book wants us to believe she's evil for this. To me, though, it reads more like something she was forced into doing. Oh, and we learn that the ashes in the stuff Michelle was forced to eat were from the murdered lump woman. Lump woman, we hardly knew ye.

One more note before we close out the chapter. When Michelle is being lifted out of the grave, she pretends she's a ghost. "Just like Casper..."

Damn it, Satanists, which one of you was letting her watch TV and/or read comic books? Everyone knows that exposure to secular culture is poisonous to religious indoctrination! Not that you made much more than a half-assed, inefficient attempt at indoctrination anyway. Oh well...

It's pretty amazing Michelle can find the time to absorb pop culture in her busy schedule of being horrifically abused nonstop anyway.       

*If you're curious, the article is titled "'Witchcraft in City' Claim," and it's from the January 28, 1977 issue of The Victorian, which I assume is a local newspaper (Or possibly was. I haven't been able to find any evidence of it on the web so far.)

**At least in the States. I don't know how much those ideas spilled over into Canada, but if they did, I can see them being a possible source of inspiration for Michelle's fantasies.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Anti-Vaxxer Movement Is The Satanic Panic Of My Generation

Anyone who has been alive and on the internet for the past few months knows that there's been a recent rash of outbreaks of measles and pertussis in this country due to a small number of parents opting out of vaccinating their children, and that a great many people are rather upset about this. As one of the more recent outbreaks was in my home state, I admit to being a bit put out myself.

Now, there's a lot of reputable scientific literature floating around on the net about the thoroughly debunked relationship between vaccines and autism. I'm not here to talk about that. Nor am I here to talk about the futility of trying to keep all "toxins" out of one's child's--or one's own--body, and how there's more mercury in most of the delicious, healthful fish we love to eat than in all the vaccines you're likely to get over the course of a lifetime (plus, the mercury in fish is not the same kind as that found--in negligible amounts--in vaccines). Plenty of people are already talking about the bizarre beliefs, questionable tactics, and the social consequences of the anti-vaxxer movement too, so I won't touch on that subject any more than I have to for the purposes of this post.

Instead, I'd like to tackle the subject from a somewhat different point of view.

*  *  *

Let's take a look at the proponents of vaccine denial. First off, they tend to be white, affluent, and well-educated. While there are folks who distrust or shun vaccines on both sides of the USA's partisan divide,  they do seem to tend toward one end of the political spectrum. And at the heart of their "movement" is a terror of some sinister external enemy closing in to harm and corrupt their children. Along with a fervent, almost religious zeal to do anything in their power to shield their children from corruption.

Now, where have we seen this dynamic before? 

*  *  * 

Flash back to the late 1970's.

The divorce rate has seen a dramatic rise--from 33% at the beginning of the decade to 52% just five years later. Economic woes are putting stress on families, causing them to break apart or forcing them to take measures that aren't very attractive to them to get by. More mothers--divorced or otherwise--have to take jobs to support their families, leaving their children in day care while they work. The result is a widespread anxiety, a feeling that society is losing its way and that parents have lost control.

There's another factor at play as well. People are becoming more aware of child abuse. Of course children have been abused before the 70's, but as Malcolm McGrath, author of Demons of the Modern World, points out, "public concern over child abuse that began with the Battered Child Syndrome in the sixties and feminist consciousness raising over sexual assault had emerged into a new heightened public concern over the sexual abuse of children. At the same time as awareness over these public issues was growing, a new generation of 1960s idealists was leaving college and moving into the workforce, many of them taking their ideals into the public health system."

So we have a heightened awareness of the existence and horrors of child molestation, timed perfectly to coincide with a time when many parents were leaving their children "with strangers" while they worked, and often struggling with anxiety and guilt over it.

This will turn out to be a fertile breeding ground for wild fantasies of strangers abducting children for nefarious purposes. The rumor mill will blow stories of malevolent kidnappers out of proportion, lumping them together into a vast secret society of child-murderers. One whose uniform is the familiar black robe of the pop-culture Satanist. 

*  *  *

Fast forward to the late 90's.

Diagnoses of autism in children have seen a dramatic rise; 1 in 500 children is now affected, up from 1 in 2500 in 1995. 

Many of these diagnoses can probably be accounted for by better diagnostic practices, and a broader understanding of autism as a spectrum of conditions rather than a single, static disorder. Still, the sudden uptick in numbers made parents everywhere uneasy, and parents of affected children quite understandably wanted to know what caused this, and what could be done about it. And the scientific community at the time seemed to have not terribly many answers. None that were neat and simple, anyway. 

In retrospect, I'm not surprised that some of the more desperate among these parents latched on to the first person who could give them a clear-cut explanation for their child's condition, as well as something to blame for it. And when that person's explanations were exposed as complete fabrications, I'm not surprised these people kept clinging to them anyway. Hope--and the need to maintain the illusion of control, of the world being fair and of there being, somewhere out there, a remedy for every ill--springs eternal.     

*  *  *

In his excellent book Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Urban Legend, Jeffrey S. Victor examines the structure of the kind of kidnapping rumors you'd be likely to hear when the Ritual Abuse Moral Panic was in full-swing. 

"Why," he asks, "do these particular kidnapping stories feature a blond, blue-eyed virgin, rather than, for example, a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty...?" His assertion is that the answer lies in traditional European symbolism. Blond hair and blue eyes do, after all, commonly serve as shorthand for purity and innocence in much of our folklore.

I think there's another, deeper element to it as well. In the same book, Victor describes the kind of person most likely to buy into the Satanic Panic: "They are...those people who have held most uncritically to traditional American cultural values, such as the ideal of hard work, the ideal of unquestioning patriotism, the ideal of religion as a force for morality in society, and the ideal of the family as the central source of stability in life." These are recognizably the values of the American middle class. 

Which was, and is, predominantly white.

Not many people of color seem to have bought into the Satanic Panic. Balancing childcare and work tended not to be such a novel idea to them, and anyway I would think that systemic racism makes for a much more immediate, dangerous and exhausting enemy to fight than some nebulous group of "Satanists" maybe kidnapping children somewhere "out there." 

In the end, the imaginary child-murdering Satanists were almost exclusively the boogeymen of white middle class Christians. It was their cultural background the mythology sprung from, and they were the ones with the time and the money to spend crusading and "raising awareness" against this perceived evil. The main proponents of the panic were almost all white people who appealed to other white people

Although the white cheerleaders of the Satanic Panic weren't--and still aren't--adverse to appropriating mythology and iconography from other people's religions and using it to their own ends.

*  *  *

A certain congressperson recently asserted that measles and other diseases are brought into the country and spread by unvaccinated illegal immigrants.

His claim is untrue. And blatantly offensive at that.

Immigrant populations in the US have a high vaccination rate. For heaven's sake, up-to-date vaccines are a requirement of getting a green card! 

People who don't vaccinate are overwhelmingly white. They're the ones who have enough wealth, privilege, and social clout to opt their children out. They are, unfortunately, also the demographic least likely to have experienced deadly childhood diseases first hand.       

*  *  *

The Satanic Panic was largely the province of religiously conservative Christian suburb- and small-town-dwellers. As mentioned above, though, a few liberal feminists whose goal was to draw (much needed) attention to the problem of child sexual abuse were also proponents. Kee MacFarlane, who interviewed alleged child victims for the disastrous and extravagantly expensive McMartin Preschool trial, seems to have come from this background. Tipper Gore, founder of the Parents Music Resource Center and tireless crusader against "degenerate" influences in popular culture, was the wife of a Democratic senator.

*  *  *

Meanwhile, Rand Paul rails against the evils of autism-causing vaccines and Chris Christie says vaccination should be a "choice" parents make for their kids. Now, these men haven't a prayer of squeezing any votes out of the Santa Monica crowd no matter how hard they pander, but the idea of vaccines being a "choice" must be quite appealing to certain libertarians. And when any social movement has supporters and followers on both sides of the divide, that gives it a certain illusion of legitimacy. Even if said movement is nothing more than a shoddy, flimsy patchwork of junk science and urban legend.

*  *  *          

So what will happen, ultimately, to the anti-vaxxer movement?

We don't yet know. We do, however, know what happened to the Satanic Panic.

It fizzled out because people realized it was bullshit and wasting a lot of resources that could be put to better use. It left a lot of collateral damage in its wake, but it's gone. You still encounter the odd holdout here and there, but the majority of people find it embarrassing that we ever believed any of that nonsense in the first place.  

I rather believe that vaccine denial will follow the same trajectory. And I hope that it does so sooner rather than later. 

After all, the Satanic Panic landed innocent people in jail and probably prevented legitimately mentally ill people from getting the help they needed in favor of bogus "recovered memory therapy." But at least most of those victims still have their lives.

I'm afraid, however, that for vaccine denial to finally go away, children will actually have to die from or be maimed by childhood diseases that we've had the power to prevent for nearly half a century. Diseases that had been all but eradicated in the US until some quack told concerned parents that the vaccine would give their children a neurological disorder.   

And that's abuse far, far worse than anything any dagger-wielding cultist could inflict.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Whew! Thanks for bearing with me, everyone--I had to get that off my chest. We'll return to our regularly scheduled Music Video Monday post next week.

In the meantime, please enjoy this short video of what Jenny McCarthy probably thinks vaccines are like:


Friday, February 6, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapters 8 and 9

Chapter 8

Chapter 8 is also pretty short and doesn't have much going on. Michelle is at home, tape recording furiously away, but it's just not the same without Dr. Pazder there, dammit! Meanwhile, Dr. Pazder is on vacation in Mexico with his wife (the one who's not Michelle).

Then Michelle starts to have another breakdown and goes to Dr. Arnot, who advises her to call Dr. Pazder. Well done, Arnot. You've successfully avoided getting caught up in this sordid little psychodrama.

Then Michelle decorates Dr. Pazder's office with some potted plants she grew and calls him in Mexico. Apparently several times. And Pazder stays on the phone with her, despite "the distance and his wife's obvious confusion as to why he was sitting with the phone to his ear for a quarter of an hour without saying anything."

You know, it's a shame this book wasn't written by someone other than the protagonists. In the hands of the right writer, this could become a gripping psychological thriller about two people slowly becoming dangerously obsessed with each other. Without any of the evil-cult-is-totally-real bullshit, of course.

Chapter 9

Dr. Pazder returns from Mexico and goes to see Michelle the very next day because he can't wait to get in her pants she's a speshul dellycate widdle snowflake who needs his immediate attention.

Michelle says she's remembered so much while he was gone that she has to "talk really fast and jump around." Oh joy, more incoherence.

So Michelle is still in the hospital. Late one night she's awakened from a sedated sleep to meet her new "special nurse."

     "...I saw this pretty lady all dressed in white, and I started to smile--and's horrible!...I recognized her...
    "It was...she was that lady! You know, the lady, the one who'd been at the house the night the lump was killed...the lady in the black cloak who did those things to me with the colored sticks..."

Oh, hey, that weird high priestess lady from a few chapters back works at this very hospital! That seems awfully convenient. Still, I'm gonna give Michelle a teensy bit of credit here for imagining her Satanists as people with regular jobs instead of implying that they just hang around their creepy Victorian mansions doing evil all day.

Evil!nurse tidies up Michelle's room a bit and then ostentatiously takes the crucifix off the wall, telling her, "You won't be needing this crucifix anymore." That's a strange way to put it. No one really "needs" a crucifix in their hospital room. I realize that if you're Christian--and we've been explicitly told that Michelle (supposedly) wasn't raised Christian--its presence could bring you comfort, but it's not like you can, I don't know, take it off the wall and use it to call God's personal phone line or something. As far as Michelle is concerned, it's pretty much just a strange wall decoration.

Also, if I was an evil death-cultist I'd leave the damn thing up during my scary torture-rituals so my victims could see it and be reminded that THEIR PUNY GOD FAILED THEM MUAHAHAHAAA! Damn it, Michelle Remembers Satanists, I'm just an amateur and it's still obvious that I'm way more competent at villainy than you are.      

Anyway. Michelle's mom is there too. She gives Michelle a gift-wrapped box which turns out to contain a doll with its eyes "poked out," apparently as some sort of bizarre threat. Also:

"I took it out of the box...and underneath it...there was a dead bird! It was my bird, my budgie, all dead!"

Wait, since when did she have a bird? Also, why do the Satanists let her have a bird? Granted, most budgies aren't very expensive, but you also have to buy a whole bunch of other stuff, like food and a cage and toys, to keep the bird alive and happy. And although this website describes the budgie's voice volume as "quite" (I think they mean quiet), even "quiet" birds can still kick up a pretty big din when they're bored or excited. Also they can "talk" and imitate random sounds. If you're a clandestine evil cult grooming a child for sacrifice, I imagine you'd probably prefer to give said child a much less gregarious pet to keep her company/use to extort good behavior from her.

Michelle implies that her mother gave her the grisly box o' bird corpse on the orders of someone else, either the nurse or Malachi. She also describes her mother vaguely apologizing to her that "this had to happen" and fidgeting nervously, which makes me suspect that she is very much not calling the shots here and you should probably stop hating on her so much, book.

Oh, and the dead bird was disgustingly rotten and crawling with bugs. I guess Malachi and the nurse really liked Un Chien Andalou (WARNING: Gross-out link). I would think that the nurse at least would seriously object to such a thing being brought into the hospital where she works for fear of getting caught. Smuggling stank-ass old bug-infested animal carcasses into sterile areas strikes me as pretty solid grounds for firing a healthcare worker on the spot.

Then the nurse sneaks into Michelle's room at night and forcibly gives her an enema, causing her to soil herself. Just because. Then she puts "bars around the bed" (I'm having a hard time picturing this. Did she put Michelle in a giant crib of some kind, or in one of these?) And apparently makes her sleep in the mess. Because...evil, I guess? We're never given any reasoning behind her actions.

Michelle's session then ends with the revelation that (gasp!) the reason she blacked out so much while she was in the hospital was because her mom was fiddling with the valve on the oxygen tank and trying to suffocate her! What a bitch, amirite?


What if we look at the scene another way? If she's been forced into this life somehow (and the fact that she's been so passive so far seems to suggest that), she might not see a way out. She might not see any way to protect her daughter from daily abuse by the cult.

Except, say, by mercy-killing the kid so the cultists can't hurt her anymore.

It's not a very good solution. But it may be the only one she feels is available to her.

Besides, it's way more than anyone else is doing to protect Michelle. (I'm looking at you, stupid, Malachi-believing, Chief Wiggum-ass cops.) And let's not forget, none of this shit actually happened and Michelle's mom didn't join an evil cult or try to kill her daughter and this book is slandering a real human being for the sake of selling some idiotic crusade against imaginary forces of evil. If you're going to do that, at least have the decency to make her a complex, interesting character with real, comprehensible motivations for doing the stuff she does, for fuck's sake.

Seriously, book, stop fucking hating on Michelle's mom. It's really starting to piss me off.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 7

Chapter 7 opens with a half-page-long filler description of Michelle's Christmas. I'll spare you most of it, but here's a sample:

It was the nicest Christmas Michelle had ever had. She and Doug were in their beautiful new home together. He gave her an afghan and a pretty brass lamp--warmth and light, ideal gifts.

LOL, Michelle's domestic bliss! It's funny because her affair with her therapist is going to break up her marriage!

Okay, that was snarky and judgmental of me. But it's my fucking birthday today, and I'm gonna be as snarky and judgmental as I want. Plus...well, given that our chucklehead protagonists both left their respective spouses for each other and then openly worked together as a married couple, starting a chapter with three paragraphs' worth of glurgy gushing about Michelle's lovely fantastic perfect happyhappyjoyjoy Christmas with this other dude (who has no idea what's about to hit him) just feels slimy and disingenuous. Not to mention depressing.

Michelle's "memory" for her next session with Dr. Pazder involves being in the hospital after Malachi's idiotic attempt at staging a car accident last chapter. And honestly? It doesn't start out too bad. She describes being disoriented; being terrified of the people in white looming over her, stripping her clothes off and prodding her; and resisting when someone tries to take her temperature rectally. That seems like an actually fairly realistic description of how a young child's mind would process treatment at a hospital.

Then the damn red shoes pop up for another cameo:

...out in the corridor she saw a table on wheels and, on the table, a long plastic bag. Instinctively she knew that the bag contained a body...and Michelle saw something that froze her heart: Resting on top of the plastic-clad corpse was a pair of red shoes.

Yeah, I don't think cops/morgue workers just leave random bits of clothing from murder victims lying on top of their body-bagged corpses for the world to see; they bag those clothes as evidence and store them separately. Stop laying it on so thick, Michelle. You already dropped the red-shoes bombshell on us once, and it wasn't all that compelling the first time.

So Michelle gets put in a hospital room with a crucifix on the wall, and she pulls out her IV tubes and tries to run away and gets tied to her bed and called a difficult child for her efforts. Then her mom comes to visit her:

"Good morning, Michelle." The child looked up and saw her mother. Several people in white stood by as pale, beautiful Jessica Harding came to the bedside and tried to show affection. But to Michelle her caring was plainly artificial, done not for Michelle's comfort but for the benefit of the people in white. Michelle pretended to fall asleep.

Sigh. Poor Michelle's mom. The narrative is just determined not to let her win. No matter what she does, it's treated like the MOST EVIL THING EVAR and much hate is heaped on her. More on that in later chapters. Seriously, it gets really obnoxious.

Then Malachi shows up in Michelle's room and keeps being a painfully obvious villain:

"She was one of my closest friends," he was saying to them, referring to the dead lady. He was pretending to cry. "I'll never forgive, that isn't right, she's just a child...but it seems so cruel that a wonderful woman like that could be killed just because of a child's misbehavior."

Yeah, old what's-her-face was one of my closest friends. She was such a wonderful woman and best true friend WHOSE NAME I DON'T EVEN KNOW. Malachi, I don't even. That's the sorriest excuse for a cover-up I've ever heard. Those characters who get killed in the first ten minutes of the horror movie are less dipshitty than you.

Incidentally, all you cool, perfectly nice people out there who identify as Satanists? I'm so, so sorry that Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder dreamed up this bird-brained, two-bit Charles Manson-wannabe and tried to crudely paste your spiritual identity over him. You deserve much better.

Anyway, it's okay that Malachi is a dullard who can't come up with a convincing alibi to save his life, because we're in the world of Michelle Remembers and every cop there is dumber than a bag of hair, the policeman Malachi is telling this story to just swallows it without question, having apparently forgotten the very dodgy circumstances of the "accidental" car wreck last chapter.

Michelle shares more details about her stay in the hospital, including some that suggest she was in an oxygen tent for the burns, was intubated to drain blood from her stomach, and possibly also contracted some sort of infection. Gee, she sounds awfully badly injured and weakened to have been acting up as much as she said she was.

The chapter ends with Dr. Pazder advising Michelle that he's leaving for vacation in Mexico tomorrow, so she should keep the tape recorder handy in case any more memories come up and to call his colleague, Dr. Arnot, if she needs to talk to someone.

Oh, and he leaves her a comfy old coat of his to snuggle for comfort. Because we've gone, like, a whole five pages without creepy therapist-on-patient romance vibes.        

Monday, February 2, 2015

Music Video Monday: Poison

So. I'm still reading the worst book of the 1980's. And it's rapidly turning into "Toxic Relationship: The How-To Manual."

Therefore, this song seemed like an appropriate next entry into the playlist:

(Also, this Wednesday is my birthday. and it has come to my attention that I share a birthday with one Vincent Damon Furnier, better known to the world as Alice Cooper. Happy birthday to us!)