Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Update 8C

Trauma & Therapy

Paint Therapy:
Drawing Out Demons

14 Year Old Finds Comfort with Wings


Introduction: 

I spoke with SaraH about Update 8B and mentioned the other dreamers who volunteered for the dream interpretations. I told her that I wish we could get all five of our group to submit testimonials, dreams, or therapy treatments that they are undergoing. SaraH corrected me and said our group consisted of 12 people. She said that she was never introduced to any of the others but there were definitely 12. 

I then contacted Evelyn, the Sheriff's deputy; she remembered 7 people. I asked her if she could talk with her ex-partner to see what he remembered. After some coaxing by me, she agreed to speak with Steve, who still services the city of Santa Monica in the graveyard shift. He may have kept his job on street patrol, but he got what the deputies refer to as the "Donut Shift", Midnight to Eight-thirty in the morning. He told her that he recalled 7 people as well. However, when they compared notes, they had different names among their list of 7. 

I decided to follow up on this discrepancy in our memories and try to get a list from all our participants about what they remember. After all, this could come under the category of "Incomplete Memories", the basis for nightmares, according to our research. 

But I digress.

While I don't want to get off track, I do want to anticipate what Update 9 will entail. But let's get back to Update 8C and discuss a form of therapy that I think will work nicely to help our group of volunteers find some commonality. 

It is called Paint Therapy.



An Overview of the Tools for the Therapy for Trauma

In "Treatment for Children: The Work of a Child Guidance Clinic" by David Maclay, M.D., he discusses how "paint therapy" in a clinical setting can provide a tool for understanding nightmares, improper behavior, and adverse responses to normal situations. While Maclay concentrates his examples and case studies to children from toddler to pre-teen, he does encourage the use of drawings for therapy post-trauma as well as an adjustment medium to prevent possible troubled behavior. But, even though Maclay believes in any tool that can help the patient, he writes, "It is, however, a cardinal feature of child psychiatry that we try to explain our children's problems on psychological grounds unless we can show that there is real substance in some constitutional factor." What he means here is that the ultimate goal is to adjust the child's environment, and if drawing helps to reach that goal, then so much the better.

For instance, if Billy disrupts his Kindergarten class beyond a normal range for a five year old child, the therapist may hold a session where he has Billy draw something about his class. If, in the drawing, Billy draws himself in a corner, and the rest of the students with the teacher, the therapist now has a tool to understand that Billy's disruptions are a cry for attention based on his painting of solitude in the classroom. The therapist can then address whether or not the parents at home are giving Billy enough attention. If the therapist finds that Billy's mother is caring for a newborn baby, he has the components to make an informed analysis: Billy feels ignored at home and rebels at school, the environment where he can exert more power over with his tantrums. The therapist may find that Billy's strong-willed father does not allow Billy such power in the home where the baby requires a quiet environment.

Maclay furtther clarifies the role of the therapist: "We have laid stress on the importance of trying to explain emotional illness on the basis of environmental influences, unless an organic basis is reasonably substantiated. It thus becomes almost a matter of policy in child guidance to seek the origins of the child's problem along avenues of emotion and cultural atmosphere." Paint therapy ties the goals of the therapist with the organic origins of the trauma or roots of the bad behavior.

The primary tool we want to address today is "paint [or drawing] therapy".  Those of you who are familiar with Dr. David Maclay's studies know that he doesn't discuss this therapy until chapter 12 of his book on "Treatment" for trauma. In the first 11 chapters, he tackles the process of building a "Case Summary" for the patient. Briefly, the therapist must "diagnose symptoms", that is, list potential "defense mechanisms" objectively (twitches, stuttering, short attention span, anger, etc). Secondly, he must list the environmental factors of the patient (school, home, work, play, etc). Thirdly, list potential "emotional illnesses" (ADD, Autism, etc). Fourthly, list potential "psychosomatic illness" (tummy-ache, sleepiness, etc). Once the components are listed in a patient chart, the paint therapy can begin.

Paint therapy does not necessarily refer to "paint". The drawings can be made with crayons, pencils, pens, water colors, or any means to put figures on paper. No drawing is too big or too small. No topic is too taboo. Although (for children) the subject matter of the drawings will be discussed with the parents, there may be instances where the subject matter will remain between the therapist and the patient, especially in adults. Here's how Maclay puts it, "If the child has elected to paint, ... I ask him to paint anything he likes, not anything he sees in the room, but something just from himself." Without the confidence that these drawings will not leave the room, the child may not elect to paint or paint something not from his own experience but something from his imagination unrelated to the reason for the therapy session.

With a few case studies, we can understand this therapy a bit better.

Case Study #1
Boy, 12 and a half years old; high IQ.
Bed wetter, stealing, loner.
Parents: Mother, warm personality; father, bitter streak.
Sessions: Boy does not communicate. Paint therapy tried.
Drawing: "the boy painted a country scene with two symmetrical hillocks, a river flowing between them down to the fields below, a bridge, three rabbits, a tree and many birds."
Possible Interpretation: "The hillocks and the river could have represented breasts and milk..., a wish to withdraw into a paradise of responsibility-free childhood."
Further Sessions reveal the boy's obsession with masturbation. Possibly punished by father for "deviant" behavior. Self-gratification conflicts with memory of punishment, deepening trauma.
Drawing Reinterpretation: The hillocks were testicles, the river a penis. "The birds in the painting could have possible relevance in that in current adolescence terminology the word 'bird' was widely used to mean 'girl'."
Further sessions were more productive with a more reliable interpretation of the drawing. We now had a tool to address the symptoms of distress and guilt that the boy felt by masturbating. The boy stopped bed wetting and has improved his grades in school.
Therapy continues.

Case Study #2
Boy, 9, average IQ.
Bed wetter, temper tantrums, fear of the dark, kleptomaniac.
Parents: Domestic difficulties raising four kids.
Sessions: Concurrent with speech therapist. Paint therapy recommended to minimize oral communication.
Drawing: "In the first of these sessions he painted a duck attacking a boat."
Initial Interpretation: The therapist interpreted "the boat as his mother, father and the home situation, which he, the duck, was attacking because he felt they were not being good to him."
Second Drawing: Boy "paints a submarine striking at a boat which was raising anchor." Upon further discussion of the second drawing, the boy mentioned how sad it will be to go home after the submarine blew up all the land.
Second Interpretation: The boy has come to realize how destructive his anger becomes to his family. He is destroying the home he must come home to. The realization, however, triggered a deeper trauma involving his destructive behavior (he beat his younger sister and an older brother severely beat him in retaliation). When the third painting turned to "two cows in grassland" with several cow feces (cow pies), the boy regressed to an "anal phase". He also began sucking his thumb around his mother in front of the therapist.
Therapy continues.

Case Study #3
Girl, 14, high IQ.
Quiet, ultra-religious, afraid of the dark, recurring nightmares.
Parents: Religious, strict but fair, very protective (perhaps overly protective).
Sessions: Although shy, girl likes to talk about school and temple (Buddhist). She talks of friends fondly and often speaks of them in the future tense. She avoids speaking in the past tense. For instance, she'll talk of her friends waking for school where she'll meet them, but she will not talk about any times she has met with friends. When the therapist asks about her school friends in the present tense (what did you and your friends discuss at school this morning), she'll answer evasively, "The same thing we'll talk about tomorrow morning". Paint therapy suggested. She eagerly accepted.
Drawing: Girl drew herself as a bird with wings and talons. No human parts but for the face and part of the head; the forehead was part beak.
Initial Interpretation: Birds fly above all their worldly problems. Just as the girl speaks in the future tense to avoid the present, she sees herself as a bird can fly on a whim. Oddly, she drew herself standing on the ground, rather than flying. When the therapist asked why she wasn't flying, she responded that she was awake. She only flies in her nightmares.
Therapy continues.

The 4th and 5th case studies included drawings that were supposed to be emailed to me. Case Study #3 sent in the bird drawing in the headline pic above. Originally, I'd hope for more drawings for Update 8C. I know I'm being pushy asking the volunteers who sent in their trauma accounts to draw a picture for me, and I do realize I'm being a bit insensitive. But just as the dream interpretations was productive in a therapeutic way, I thought the "paint therapy" drawings would serve the same positive productivity. I'll try asking again a bit nicer. My psychiatrist, by the way, thinks all this dream and drawing therapy is a waste of time. Yeah, like Xanax is the answer to troubled minds and haunted souls.

Anyway, we'll continue with the Trauma & Therapy Update 9 next time, hopefully with some drawings. Thank you, readers, for your patience and your readership.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #9

Porcelain "Bonita Muchacha"



Que Bonito El Bonito

In a small village in Mexico, an angry father went into the neighboring project to see about his sons being pelted with rocks. 15 minutes later, the man lay on the ground, his bloody hands holding in the guts spilling from the stab wounds in his belly. As the story goes, the wounded man said. "Que bonito el bonito."

People who understand a little Spanish would be quick to translate this phrase as "How pretty is pretty." But that would be wrong. The masculine use of "bonito" (rather than the feminine "bonita") changes the entire meaning. A more accurate translation would be, "How beautiful is life."

Take into consideration the circumstances of the man on the ground, bleeding out. Imagine the scene a few minutes earlier when the father confronts some older boys (bullies, gang members, or sociopaths), who react to the questions or accusations of the older man as annoying, bothersome, or insulting. Whichever the case, in the man's eyes, the older boys overreacted to his assertions about the pelting of his sons. This view by the man can be deduced by the use of "bonito", which has to modify a masculine subject (in this case, the stabbing, the knife, or the absurdity of the overreaction leading to his guts hanging out).

If the word were "bonita", the subject would have to be feminine (only "blood", namely sangre, is feminine); in which case, "Que bonita la bonita" could refer to all the blood escaping his open guts. However, he chose the masculine form to describe his situation to whoever was close enough to hear his sarcastic phrase. "Que bonito el bonito" thus refers most likely to situation rather than condition (being stabbed rather than bleeding out). In other words, he is saying, "Oh, what a lovely day" (Mad Max fans will understand).

The reason I bring this up is because it is a phrase that is common to my people. I really don't know the real origin of the words, but the above origin is the one that's commonly told to those who never heard the phrase. It doesn't work politically or emotionally; it only works in gory situations of life and death. A pane of glass falls from the window of a tall building during an earthquake and slits a pedestrian in two. While some people might scream or look away, others will say "Que bonito el bonito."

Atheists would use the phrase to mean "bonito" as God (in the words of Al Bundy, "Good one, Lord"). Nihilists would use the phrase to mean "It's a wonderful life." Horror fans could use it to give a perfect score to a horror film or book. Crazy people would use it to mean, "I'm the only one who sees life as it truly is, suckers."

Remember, only hardcore Mexicans use the phrase. It has never translated well for American born Latinos. When we see death in all its bloody glory, we tend to say, "Grody to the max" or "Splash, your table is ready." We refer to Freddy Kruger more than the actual beheadings by cartel hitmen. For Mexicans, they devise phrases more attuned to the cartel violence they see on a near weekly basis on the streets or a daily basis on the TV news; they avoid phrases based on the gory killings of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Yet in both American and Mexican cultures, we love our horror heroes, as long as they're not real.

Maybe Americans do tend to worship killers a bit too much (Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Ed Gein). But I can't think of any phrases that were born from sociopaths. I could be wrong. When I think of "Que bonito el bonito", I don't admire anyone. If anything, it's meant to elicit a chuckle, not admiration. It reduces visceral horror to a level of laughter. And what could be funnier than holding in your guts with both your hands!?


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Update 8B

Trauma & Therapy

Dilemmas & Dreams:
Incomplete Memories


Morpheus, the Winged God of Dreams




Summary of 8A

When we're awake, our brains gather information via our senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing). These sensory images are stored in a memory bank. We remember the smell and taste of hot dogs wrapped in bacon grilling on sidewalk vendor grills; we recall the sizzling sound and colorful sight of the green peppers and white onions cooking next to the wieners. We retain the touch of the soft bun warmed on the grill and the hefty weight of that sidewalk dog right before we bite into it. These memories are etched into our brain. So, too, is the memory of our getting sick with a tummy ache after eating the huge and spicy hot dog. We remember both the good and bad memories of those hot dogs. We also remember most sensory impressions as dualistic experiences. The concert was great; they played all our favorite songs, but half the concert was new music that wasn't too good. There was that overlong drum solo. And after the concert, you ate that bad hot dog. When we're awake, we have more control over how we remember our memories. We do have a tendency to suppress the bad side of our good experiences.

In dreams, however, bad memories may make up that nightmare and good memories may make up that pleasant reenactment, one where the concert was all good songs and the hot dog was delicious. Because The brain only requires half of the memories to make up a dream, it will randomly select only a portion of the memories and rearrange them to tell a narrative conducive to the waking experience. Since the cortex cannot make new images via the imagination (which is dormant during sleep), it randomly selects images from the memory bank stored from waking life. If you ate some bad pork chops before bed, your brain may select the closest memory to that final memory you had before bed--the bad eating experience--and select the bad hot dog memory to trigger you first dream. It might then segue to the boring drum solo of the concert to fit the rumbling of your stomach as the bad pork chops give you indigestion. And as the drums drone on, you may experience nausea, headaches, and incessant dreams where that drum solo just won't go away no matter how many times you wake up and go back to sleep. For dreams are half real waking experience and half memories from the storage bank.

In addition, as we discussed in Update 8A, the waking mind perceives "reality" with its limited sensory resources, the five senses. In the same way an illusionist or Las Vegas magician deliberately tricks your eyes with a sleight of hand to make a coin look like it has vanished, reality inadvertently tricks the mind to believe that which may or may not be real. From a certain angle, an old man may look twenty years younger, but upon direct observation, we see that he is indeed over 70 years old. Had we not observed the old man face to face, we may remember the man as younger than his true age. This is the incomplete memory, the false memory. Add to these memories the true memories, and you can see how the cortex when selecting memories from its bank to populate a dream, can use both false and true images. In dream, we may imagine a young man with an old face, or a young-faced man with an old body. The mind finds gaps left by perception in the false memories, and it uses true memories to fill each gap.

How the brain works to perform this ritual of creating dreams is what our guest Lorraine Mc will address by interpreting and deconstructing a set of dreams sent into our blog by volunteers who have been following our Trauma series.


Biography

Lorraine Mc was born and raised in Liverpool, England and immigrated to Canada in 2004. Lorraine has written fiction for many years and is the author of Euphoria, a novel set in Liverpool, England in the 1990’s. When in the UK, Lorraine co-owned two different businesses. Khamsin Jewelry, and The Print & Book Station. Lorraine had a great interest in photography, and later worked for a children’s photographer in Liverpool.

On arrival in Canada Lorraine mainly worked as a web designer and usability expert. Later, she also became a project manager and obtained her Project Management Professional certification. Despite the day jobs, Lorraine continued to pursue her creative interests. A new novel, Hallutown, grew bigger than intended, and is still a work in progress. Lorraine is also working on a children’s novel. In recent years Lorraine has returned to her photography roots, having a Your Shot National Geographic account to showcase her work, and in 2017 started to develop her new venture, Infinity Star Photography which launched in April 2018.

Lorraine has always been interested in the purpose of dreams. Many years ago Lorraine had a series of nightmares. In those nightmares she was unable to prevent an unseen person trying to attack her and was frozen in the dream. These nightmares felt extremely real as in the dream, she was in her bed, just has she had been when she fell asleep. Eventually the way she ended these nightmares was to “lucid dream” and walk up to and face the person she’d been unable to see. After she told that person to ‘go away’, the dream never happened again. The fear had been faced and was now gone. Several years ago Lorraine worked with a local group and developed awareness of how we can make our own life what we desire it to be. Part of this group work involved determining how we look at our dreams, and how to learn from them.

Lorraine looks at the dream and what’s happening, but equally, if not more important is the feeling that the dreamer has in the dream as that helps to interpret what's going on. Dreams are usually about what's happening currently with the dreamer. She listens to the dream and then asks the dreamer how they felt in different parts of the dreams. These could be big or small issues. Many dreams are a rehash of our day with no real meaning behind them. Other, rarer, dreams can be prophetic, but these are a minute percentage of our life full of dreaming.

Lorraine Mc explains, "I look at the dream, but equally, if not more important is the feeling that the dreamer has in the dream as that helps to interpret what's going on. Dreams are usually about what's going on currently with the dreamer, though occasionally there are prophetic dreams that accurately come true. So I listen to the dream and then ask the dreamer how they felt in different parts of the dreams." Nightmares or recurring dreams, she explains further, are more likely to be related to a situation/fear/obstacle that we’re either not recognizing or not dealing with. 

Lorraine is not a scientist, or a psychologist, and her dream interpretations are based on looking at the feelings inside the dreams and taking those feelings, looking at what occurs in the dream, and giving her interpretation to the dreamer. Lorraine is not responsible for any actions taken by a dreamer after delivering the interpretation as all choices and actions are each individual’s responsibility. Lorraine hopes to help people to see what is hidden in their dream-self so that they can better their sleeping life and chase away nightmares to enable restful sleep.


The Dreams and the Nightmares



SaraH Dream Image



Dream 1 – Pigeons
SaraH

SaraH's Account: I work for Starbucks. I am a Barista. I've known Anthony since last summer. I worked the afternoon shift, but I've been working mornings since last August 2017, after the incident that drove Anthony into his little "cabin in the mountain", as he likes to call it. I call it his fortress of solitude. Recently, like two months ago, I was transferred back to the afternoon shift and I ran into Anthony. He is not a morning person so we haven't talked since last August. He told me about his trauma series on his blog and asked me to write something about my trauma. Problem is, I didn't suffer any trauma, but Anthony asked me to write something anyway as he's having trouble reaching the people involved with our little party last year. Anyway, it is good to see Anthony out and about again, buying his coffees and croissants. He always feeds the pigeons at the bus bench outside the cafe with crumbs from his pastry.

Where do I begin? Well, I now wear glasses. It was the first thing Anthony noticed about me after seeing me for the first time since last August. Let's see, I like old style Punk Rock, like The Cramps, and new style, like GWAR. I go to community college. I study art history. I like to draw but I'm not that good, but I get good grades. I prefer the historical side of art better, but if I could make a living from my artwork, I would. I mean, I doubt it's anyone's dream to be a lifetime barista. I guess you want to know why I wasn't traumatized. Well, I wasn't in the sense of PTSD, I guess. I mean, except for the nightmares.

I dream about the night of August 9th, 2017. I am walking with Anthony, a man named Torinko, and a priest named Horaguchi. I met them that evening and we drove to pick up Torinko's daughter from this place in Santa Monica. We walk through this long tunnel until we find the girl and her friends. But I don't go into the tunnel in the dream. I wait outside by the van until they all return, except for Torinko. No one talks as Horaguchi drives everyone home. He drops me off at Anthony's (with Anthony) last and drives off. Anthony says goodnight to me, and I get in my car and drive home. But before I can get home, I'm back in Santa Monica. In the tunnel. Waiting for Anthony to come and get me. Did he forget me? Torinko is there with me. He speaks Japanese to me. I'm sure it's Japanese. Then it's not Torinko anymore. It's the pigeons. I have a croissant, so I feed them. And they grow bigger and bigger as they feed. But now I'm afraid and want to stop feeding them because they are growing so big. But if I stop, they'll get mad. What might they do? Torinko tells me to run and stands between me and the pigeons. I try to run, but I'm in my car again, driving into my driveway. I turn off the ignition and look around.

I'm in bed. I just woke up. It's morning. 7:00 A.M. But I don't have to go to work yet. I don't work mornings anymore. But I'm scared to go back to sleep. I do some homework and drink some coffee. The dream doesn't seem so scary anymore. It's just memories of the time I helped Anthony with his blog. I'm confusing his blog with the time changes in my job. It's just a dream. A silly dream.


Questions for SaraH from Lorraine: (SaraH's answers in italics)

I am walking with Anthony, a man named Torinko, and a priest named Horaguchi. I met them that evening and we drove to pick up Torinko's daughter from this place in Santa Monica. We walk through this long tunnel until we find the girl and her friends.
The dream starts with normal events that appear to be normal. But, in the dream, why are all four of them going to pick up the daughter? I get the feeling that the daughter is a teenager or young adult. Are they afraid for her safety in any way or are they just picking her up to give her a ride home?
What is the feeling at this point in the dream?
No feelings one way or another on my side. I’m just travelling with Anthony to help him out because he’s been sick. In the dream, I don’t know why the daughter is so important. At this point it’s just about taking care of Anthony.
But I don't go into the tunnel in the dream. I wait outside by the van until they all return, except for Torinko.
Because now the dreamer does not go into the tunnel. How does the dreamer feel at this point of the dream? Happy, sad, anxious, fearful, apprehensive?
Anthony asks me to stay outside for my safety. I know I’m supposed to be helping him, but in the dream, he seems to be taking care of me, so I do what he says.

When “they all return” in the dream, is the daughter with them? Who returns? Anthony, Horaguchi, and the daughter? Any of the daughter’s friends?
A lot of different people come out of the tunnel. I don’t know them. My only concern is that Anthony comes out. The rest seems unimportant. And yes the daughter is with them, but there are a group of young girls. I don’t know which one is the daughter. I remember Horaguchi holding one girl’s hand. She was a bit chubby.

No one talks as Horaguchi drives everyone home.
Does the dreamer (as the dream-self) know why no one is talking in the dream? How does the dreamer feel at this point because no one is talking?
I’m concerned that Anthony is not talking, but I remember that no one was talking on the trip to the tunnel either. It doesn’t seem important.  I guess I mean that Anthony doesn’t talk to anyone and no one talks to Anthony.  I’m concerned that they’re angry with Anthony about something.

Waiting for Anthony to come and get me. Did he forget me?
What is the feeling here? Fear, worry, abandonment, something else?
I feel worried about Anthony being with people that I never met. It worries me too when he comes out with even more people that I’ve never met. No one seems to know Anthony. And no one acknowledges me. It’s like I’m watching everything but I’m not there. But I am there. I know that sounds weird.

Torinko is there with me. He speaks Japanese to me. I'm sure it's Japanese.
The dreamer is not alone in the tunnel, Torinko is with her, he is the person who didn’t come out of the tunnel earlier. In the dream, did she want to go back in order to bring him out?
I was wondering what happened to Torinko when he didn’t come out. That’s when I was in the tunnel with him, like the dream shifted location because I thought of him.

What is the feeling here? Fear, guilt, confusion, something else?
I feel like Anthony forgot him. Like maybe he’ll forget me outside by the van. And when no one talks, I also feel forgotten, like I’m not there, like I said earlier.

Then it's not Torinko anymore. It's the pigeons.
There is a transformation here, a change. How does the dreamer feel about this change?  Happy, relieved, something else?
Anthony keeps talking about all the birds dying in Monrovia where I work. And squirrels too.  I don’t know why pigeons appeared. Maybe because I always see Anthony feeding the pigeons outside of my work. I guess I feel relieved because it’s a familiar sight. I really don’t remember how I felt in the dream to be honest.

I have a croissant, so I feed them. And they grow bigger and bigger as they feed. But now I'm afraid and want to stop feeding them because they are growing so big.
There is a feeing of fear here, but is there another feeling also? Why is it scary that they’re growing big? Will they explode, or become aggressive? Something else?
It seems like the giant pigeons will chase Anthony away and he might not come back. I guess it’s like the forgetting me thing. That Anthony will leave and forget me. And I’ll be alone in the tunnel. Maybe it represents my job. Sorry. That’s your job. J

But if I stop, they'll get mad. What might they do?
What is the feeling here? Is there a consequence that is feared? What is the consequence the dreamer is afraid of? What does the dreamer think they might do?
They might chase Anthony away. Maybe attack him for running out of bread crumbs. Actually I get kind of scared that they might attack me too. I don’t want them to notice me. And if Anthony leaves, I’ll be alone with them.

Torinko tells me to run and stands between me and the pigeons. I try to run, but I'm in my car again, driving into my driveway.
The dreamer is offered protection, a way out. When the dreamer tries to run she finds herself in the safety of the car.
What is the feeling when Torinko tells her to run, and does that feeling change when she finds herself in the car? What are those feelings?
I feel like he wants me to return to the van and wait for Anthony because Anthony told me to wait there, and I shouldn’t be in the tunnel. Anthony didn’t want me to go in. It just seems like Torinko is trying to protect me from getting Anthony angry.

I do some homework and drink some coffee. The dream doesn't seem so scary anymore. It's just memories of the time I helped Anthony with his blog. I'm confusing his blog with the time changes in my job. It's just a dream. A silly dream.
Homework is normal life. Coffee is normal life. Normal life shouldn’t be scary. The dreamer now convinces herself that everything was a dream and attributes it to a confusion of waking life events getting muddled.
What is the feeling? Why would helping with a blog create a nightmare?
Is there a feeling of complete relief, or, is there a feeling of relief mixed in with fear in the background?
This is relief. I’ll go to work and see Anthony later. I’ll tell him about my dream and how silly it was.  When I helped Anthony when he was sick, he dictated his investigation of a missing girl in Santa Monica by the tunnel. I used to type the dictations on his blog. That chubby girl in my dream was the missing girl. But she wasn’t important in the dream. It was more about my friendship with Anthony. He’s still sick and elderly and I like helping him when I have time from work and college, especially now that he’s working on something new on his blog. I’m trying to get more of my friends to volunteer to tell their dreams but everyone doesn’t want to share their private thoughts on a Horror blog.


Lorraine's Dream Interpretation:

When reading this, please keep in mind, that my interpretation is regarding a small snippet of SaraH’s current life experiences. When I say things like, “Sara is anxious”, that doesn’t mean she is always an anxious person, just that she is anxious about a specific thing, or situations.
I hope all of this makes sense for Sara!

There are several recurring themes in this dream.
·         Abandonment/being forgotten.
·         Caring for others.

·         Being an observer, or out of the main picture. Wanting to be the observer rather than being noticed.
SaraH cares about other people and likes to help. I get the feeling that she is, or has been a care-giver at some point in her life, maybe for a family member. Caring for other people as much as she does, she’s not used to people trying to take care of her. It’s different for her and she doesn’t really know how to react as is shown in the dream. Sara goes along with what other people want a lot of the time, rather than saying what she wants. She doesn’t mind this. It works for her and she’s comfortable with it.

There are two possibilities I see that could be relevant here. It could be one, or the other, or even both.
1)      There is someone in her life that Sara cares about a lot. A significant person in her life. This could be someone older than Sara, I don’t see this as being a romantic partner due to the dream-people she is taking care of and is concerned about. I see this as someone older she has concerns about. She is worried how other people view this person. Is there someone in Sara’s life who might be going into a care facility, or need help to remain at home? Or to a place where Sara worries there will be no one there to care for them in the way she would like?

2)      Alternately, if there isn’t a person like this in Sara’s life, then I would say that Sara herself is considering moving to a different place/school/town/job and is worried about meeting new people, how she will fit in. What will people think of her? The older person could represent her old (current) life, and concerns about moving on to a new life. The tunnel in the dream also shows this.

Sara feels her voice is not being heard regarding a situation that is important to her. She feels ignored, but she also doesn’t think she is able to stand up for herself, or her opinion on this matter. This could be the job that Sara is in currently and could be for various reasons. A lot of people put up with job situations they’re not really happy about due to fear of being let go out of the job.  I don’t feel that Sara could lose her job, but more that maybe there is a person there who has a louder voice that drowns out other people.

Tunnels can be scary. This one is scary, so this shows that there is also something Sara is afraid of. This isn’t literally a tunnel, but a tunnel is a way to get to somewhere else. Maybe Sara is afraid of moving on, moving through the tunnel to another life-experience that she knows is waiting for her.

The familiar sight of Anthony feeding the pigeons in the dream brings Sara a feeling of relief and normalcy. Sara wants that normal life but feels that she doesn’t quite have the life she wants at the moment yet, she is cautious about taking steps to change.

Sara is anxious regarding change. This is the giant pigeons part of the dream. The feeling is that Sara will be alone if she changes the direction her life is going at the moment. Although Sara feels that no one really notices her, she is also afraid to make changes and have her voice heard because she is worried about the reactions of other people. I don’t think Sara is a person who usually ‘rocks the boat’. Sometimes though, a little boat rocking is needed. 

There are people in Sara’s life who do want to keep her safe and protect her. In fact, Sara has more people around her than she might at first think. All of these people are ready and willing to help, if Sara will let them know. Sara is not as alone as she sometimes feels. Sara tends to observe, she prefers observing to being involved sometimes. This is a good skill to have, and has proved very valuable to Sara in the past. Her being an observer isn’t due to shyness or fear, it’s a skill that helps her to assess situations and make good decisions. I feel this is something she has developed since childhood.

Her caring nature shines through the entire dream, despite the fear and worry. Her concern for others is paramount throughout. This tells me that no matter what situations Sara finds herself in, her core strength that she uses to care for others, will pull her through that tunnel to the other side.

Sometimes, it’s okay to put ourselves first. By looking after ourselves, we are more able to help others.




Evelyn Dream Image



Dream 2 – The Beach
Evelyn

Evelyn is a Sheriff's Deputy who was assigned to desk duty after an incident on the job (she asked that this assignment be mentioned along with her dream--Lorraine was informed of this):

I'm walking on the beach. I'm cold. I wake up and get another blanket and drink some water from my night table. I return to sleep. I'm back on the beach, but this time I think I'm awake. I touch the sand to make sure I'm awake. The sand feels real.

It is cloudy so I can't tell what time it is. The parking lot is full, but no one but me is on the beach. I assume I am trespassing so I walk faster. I hear sirens. I am scared. What if this is private property?

Suddenly there is a fence around the shore. The parking lot is gone. I must have walked far. There is a beachfront house with people having a barbecue. I try to walk by them, but the man at the grill tells me that I have to exit through the house. The police won't arrest me if I go through the house. I slide the glass door and enter the house.

I'm in the police station. The deputies ignore me as I leave through the front door. When I'm outside I'm at the Academy at Griffith (sic) [correctly, Elysian] Park for Sheriff's deputies. I am told by my instructor that I'm late for graduation. Next time be on time. I am in uniform now. I didn't need graduation. I'm a cop now.

But I don't know where to go. I don't know where I'm stationed. I am walking the beach again. Now I know it's a dream. I awake to find I had kicked off my blankets. I'm so cold. I want to cry but I don't know why I'm sad. It's almost time to wake up and go to work. I am a deputy. I don't work the streets anymore. I'm stuck behind a desk. I'm gaining weight. I've been having this dream since my reassignment.


Lorraine's Dream Interpretation:

[Because the deputy has a traumatic back story, let me answer by sharing a few things. She and her partner were involved in an "incident". Her male partner was put back on the street with a new partner (and has to attend bi-monthly counseling assigned by his superior). She was re-assigned to a desk and given weekly counseling sessions with a psychologist from the county health facility. Even when I read her dream, I saw the resentment of the way her department treated a man and a woman involved in the same incident. There is some "favoritism" and/or sexism going on--perhaps.] 
Note by Anthony Servante with permission from Deputy Evelyn.  

When reading this, please keep in mind that my interpretation is regarding a small snippet of the dreamer’s current life experiences. Where I say the dreamer is “restricted”, or “trapped”, etc., this is meant to indicate a particular waking life situation, and not the dreamers full life experience. Our life is more than one life-situation.

Dream interpretation is more accurate when the feelings of the dreamer at key points in the dream can be identified. For this dream, where feelings are not identified I’ve given options as to what I think the feeling/s may be from the scenes in the dream.

The recurring themes in this dream are:
·         A sense of being lost, lack of direction
·         Authority – a source of authority in the dreamer’s waking life has an influence.
·         Restriction – there is a restriction in a situation in the waking life that the dreamer feels they have little control over.
·         Stagnation – unable to move on, arriving back at the same place. Being cold.
·         Slow progress – some progress has been made, but not enough to enable the dreamer to move on.

The dream starts with the dreamer being cold, waking up, and going back to sleep in the same dream. The dreamer is on a beach.

The dreamer touches the sand to make sure he/she is awake. Self-questioning. There is a lack of trust in herself/himself at this point of the dream. The sand feels real, but the dreamer doesn’t know the time because it’s cloudy. 

Without knowing the feeling the dreamer has at this time, I’m going with what is happening. The cloudiness indicates to me that there is something the dreamer is unable to see properly in waking life. Depending on the feeling at this point, it could mean different things. If the dreamer is feeling unsure, anxious, or confused at this point, this could indicate an issue in the waking life that the dreamer is unsure about, or is questioning the reality/validity of. If the feeling is of sadness, (possibly indicated by cloudy), then it would indicate there is something in the waking life that the dreamer is questioning (the reality of the sand), and this makes the dreamer unhappy.

I interpret this to say that the dreamer is questioning a lot in the waking life, is unsure and questioning the validity of a situation/situations. This questioning leads to a feeling of insecurity/fear/sadness. Things don’t feel real in the waking life. There is questioning of the self.

The parking lot is full, but there is no one there. Depending on the feeling at this point this could mean different things. Is the dreamer curious as to where the people are, or upset/worried/concerned that the people aren’t around? If the dreamer is curious, then this could indicate a questioning of the people around him/her. If the dreamer is upset/worried/concerned, then the dreamer may feel in waking life, that he/she can’t “see” the people around him/her, that maybe these people are keeping something from him/her.  That the people are “hiding” or that they are excluding the dreamer on purpose. The dreamer may feel that these people have abandoned him/her.

As I think about this, it could also indicate a feeling of mistrust in the people around the dreamer in the waking life as the dreamer is alone on the beach. This does not appear to be by choice as when the dreamer arrives the cars are already there, and the lot is “full”. It feels as though the dreamer is being excluded.

The dreamer assumes they are trespassing, so walks faster and then there is a fence around the shore.
A fence around the shore – indicates a restriction in waking life. The dreamer says he/she is scared, so there is a fear of being in the wrong place (private property) at the wrong time (sirens). When the fence appears the dreamer is now restricted, indicating a feeling of being trapped, there is no way out. There is a restriction in the dreamer’s waking life. Could this wrong place/wrong time have led to the restrictions?

“The parking lot is gone. I must have walked far. There is a beachfront house with people having a barbecue. I try to walk by them, but the man at the grill tells me that I have to exit through the house.”

The dream changes. Indicating a change in the dreamers waking life. Earlier the dreamer walked faster and now realises they have walked far. The dreamer has been working (walking) on something for a while.
I don’t know for sure, but the man at the grill seems to the one in charge as he says the dreamer must exit through the house, indicating there is only one direction the dreamer can take. Again, a restriction, but this time the restriction is being imposed by a singular person. In the waking life this direction could be from a person or a rule/entity that appears to control the dreamer’s direction. In waking life, I feel that the dreamer is being sent in one direction, (through the house), with no opportunity to change that direction. Again, this gives rise to a feeling of being trapped as there is no other way offered.

“The police won’t arrest me if I go through the house.” This appears to indicate that if the dreamer follows the direction set (grill guy), then things will go as expected and there is no need to fear the authority. (Police being authority). The dreamer is now in a police station, a place where other people have authority. The dreamer feels he/she does not have authority in the waking life as this is indicated by being in a place of authority, and the cops ignoring the dreamer.

The dreamer has an instructor, another authority figure. The instructor gives orders and the dreamer obeys and becomes a cop. The dreamer has made some achievements/progress as graduation wasn’t needed, but the dreamer doesn’t know where to go. This could indicate that the dreamer has made progress with something in the waking life but still has a way to go.

Without knowing the feeling the dreamer has at this point, from the theme of the dream so far I think the feeling could be one of lost/confused/lack of direction. This assumption is made as the dreamer doesn’t know where to go and has not been told where they are to be stationed. Having a station to go to would indicate some sort of solidity or grounding, but as the dreamer is without a base, I would think this means that there is a feeling of not being grounded, of being a little lost and unsure of which direction to take in the waking life. This could indicate a job, or just where the dreamer feels they are in their life/career/relationships.

The dreamer is back on the beach. This makes me think that in the waking life the dreamer may feel as though they are going in circles, or that no matter what they do, they still arrive at the same place. I think this is where some progress has been made, but the dreamer ends up back at the same place. There is a situation in the dreamers’ life that they feel they have no control over, and that makes them feel they can’t progress or move forward.

The dreamer was cold at the beginning, and is cold at the end. Again, this is indicating a lack of progress, being stuck, and then the dreamer is sad but doesn’t know why. 

In the waking life, the dreamer does know why, but I think the coldness indicates that the dreamer is stationary in the waking life, unable to move forward or backward. Cold keeps us in one place and stops us from seeing/thinking clearly.  I think the dreamer does know why, but the coldness is a place where nothing changes, and maybe this is safer than allowing a thaw?



Anthony Dream Image




Dream 3 – The Pilot
Anthony

Here's the dream I posted on my blog a few months ago. I shared this with my Shrink, but she doesn't talk about it; she only asks if I got a good night's sleep, and if I say no, she'll give me pills, so I say yes, but she won't ever talk about the dreams I talk about.

I dreamt I was piloting a jumbo jet.

I remembered learning that left controlled climbs and dives, and that right controlled velocity. But the controls did not correspond to my maneuvers.

A hand from behind me reached over and flicked on the automatic switch. And we landed.

As I exited into the city, I wondered what became of my comic books.

I was at the University. I climbed the stairs. Maybe I'd find my comics there.

But I couldn't see the small letters on the campus map. The small boy next to me was holding a pair of glasses that looked like mine. Those are mine, I told him. One dollar, he said. The old man next to him whispered into his ear. Then the boy said, Forty five dollars. I told the old man that he can buy them if he wants. I won't pay even a dollar for what is mine.

The police arrived and I saw my comics in the patrol car back seat. The door was open. I grabbed the bag tightly and thought, No dream will take what is mine. With comic bag in my grip, I slid down the stairway rail to the waiting jet. I boarded and didn't look back as we ascended.


Lorraine's Dream Interpretation:

The dreamer is the driver of his own destiny. Flying the plane at the beginning of the dream, the dreamer loses control when things don't go as planned, but by the end of the dream, the dreamer has taken back control.

Themes.
·         Flying
·         Searching
·         Obstacles
·         Control

"I dreamt I was piloting a jumbo jet."
In the waking life, there was a period of being in control, rising above issues and problems (flying the plane), but then things didn't go as expected. The dreamer understands perfectly how to handle a situation, but the dreamer loses control of this situation, and others have to step in to help. (the hand that flicks the automatic switch).

The dreamer was back in control, with assistance, and life and issues were managed.  With this management though, came some concern, and a search.

A search for the comic books begins. I think in the waking life, the dreamer is searching, (climbing the stairs, (to the mind) indicating the search and progress), for inner peace/happiness/state of calm/acceptance? The dreamer does make progress. The comic books represent happiness, peace and relaxation. When the dreamer is at peace and happy, the dreamer feels in control. There are times though, when the dreamer feels he does not have as much control, times when this happiness slips away, and the dreamer continues the search.

There is a pattern to the dream, which I think indicates a recurring or unresolved issue (searching). The dreamer looks for the comics in several places, but does not find them. The dreamer is still searching in the waking life for the happiness that the comics represent. But he's "wondering" about the comics, and "maybe" he'd find the comics, so there is no panic about finding this happiness, it's as though he knows it's there, but he just has to keep looking a bit longer.

Not being able to see the letters on the map. It's difficult to track down the place he wants to be at. Something is preventing this. In the dream it's the glasses, the eyesight. What is the dreamer not seeing in the waking life? If glasses indicate independence, what does the dreamer not feel he is independent about in the waking life? What is impacting on independence in the waking life? The fact that he can't see the letters could mean that he's not looking at a situation in the waking life clearly, that something (or himself) is preventing this clear vision.

In the dream the boy is offering the glasses for a price. What is the price of independence in the waking life? In the waking life, the staff have to help if the dreamer doesn't have the right glasses. So, the independence is reduced by reliance on the staff. In the waking life, are there any other areas where independence is at stake?

The dreamer doesn't want to pay the price for the glasses. There may be a situtaion in the waking life that the dreamer feels independence comes at too high a price. More than he is currently willing to pay. In the dream, the dreamer "won't pay even a dollar for what is mine". In the waking life, there is likely a situation where the dreamer does not want to give up something, in order to get what he feels he should be afforded without impact to any other area of his life. It doesn’t seem "right" to have to give something up. He does not want to give up his independence as it's something he's had for all of his life.

Finally, the dreamer sees the comics, but they're in a patrol car. Police represent authority. There is an authoritative person/situation that appears to have some control over the dreamers' happiness and sense of peace. "The back door was open". The dreamer sees the opportunity and takes it.  In the waking life, there is also an opportunity to take back what the dreamer feels he has lost/is at risk of losing. In the dream he has no qualms about taking this back, and again, goes back into the plane and rises above the issues that threaten his inner peace, independence, and happiness.

The dreamer has success. He overcomes the obstacles in his way and takes off on his plane. I think this points to the dreamer knowing he can overcome the situation in his waking life that is currently obstructing his path to happiness and independence as there is an opportunity waiting to be taken.

**************

Thank you to Lorraine Mc for contributing her insights and skills in dream interpretation. Also, thank you readers for your patience as the Trauma & Therapy series hits the occasional bump in the road. I am currently working madly on Update 8C, which ties our dream updates to the appropriate therapy to dreams and nightmares. So, until next time, please feel free to send in your comments and suggestions, and if you have some trauma or therapy you'd like to share, contact me at servanteofdarkness@gmail.com. 


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #8




bottles tossed into the sea


Bottles tossed into the sea

Messages between islands

Castaways seeking help

From castaways seeking help

The blind leading the blind

The dead leading the dead.

Body bags and wicker caskets

Pennies under the eyelids

The path north to heaven

The path south to hell

Together but one path

With corpses without compass

Rolling the bones for direction.

Prayers and good intentions

Point to the growl of Cerberus

The roar of the River Styx

Celestial choirs howl with joy

Bibles too thick and heavy

To enter The Pearly Gates;

Monkeys with their hand stuck

In the bottle

For they won't let the apple go

To free their hands.

Trench coat detectives

In search of good diction

Tip their fedoras 

To the vice squad hookers

As they board the Siberian Express,

Clouds form a train of white smoke

And chug through the tunnel

The sky

The empty

The vast

The travelling nothing.

You tried so hard

To arrive

Where you've always been

The never

The complete

The faith.

Welcome back

To the forever

That you've never left.

by Anthony Servante

Monday, July 23, 2018

From Macabre to Grotesque
Two Books:
Dark Deaths & Babylon Fading
By William Cook

Reviewed by Anthony Servante





William Cook

Biography:

William Cook is the author of the popular psychological thriller, 'Blood Related' and editor of 'Fresh Fear: An Anthology of Macabre Horror.' He is also the author of two non-fiction books: 'Gaze Into The Abyss: The Poetry of Jim Morrison' and 'Secrets of Best-Selling Self-Published Authors.' Father to four daughters, William lives in New Zealand with his wife and family. Always seeking to better his life and writing, he strives to produce the best quality books on interesting subjects that will satisfy his growing audience.


Introduction:

There is a modern idiom in virtual media regarding the reviewing of books. The reviewer should confess whether or not he was given a book by the author for review. Similarly, some book vendors ask the reviewer to acknowledge having purchased the book that is being reviewed. The implication here is simple. A free book means a good review. Or at least the semblance of impropriety. If a friend gave me the book and said it is very good, I, of course, did not receive it from the author nor did I purchase a copy. It is a third hand gift. Is this gifting part of the new idiom to reveal one's sources before rendering the review?

When I first saw this practice in a review, I was taken aback. If I remember correctly, the review started with something like this: "In the spirit of transparency and forthrightness, I admit that the author of the book I am about to review gave me this copy for free. I will try to maintain my integrity and provide an objective review although I am in debt to the author for the magnificent gift he has provided me. However, I shall swallow my sense of honor and write a review of pride and purpose over gratitude." Of course, I may be overstating my objections a bit.

Maybe.

Why do I bring this up at all? In criticism, the book to be reviewed must stand on its own. We are reviewing a book. We are not testifying before Congress. I am here to review two books by William Cook. Dark Deaths and Babylon Fading. I will not ask Mr. Cook what these books mean, what he meant by that poem or story. Mr. Cook will have nothing to do with these reviews. The books will speak for themselves. So how I came to acquire these books is none of your business.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new trend in criticism. May all reviewers turn to the books at hand, not to the source of their acquisition.




Dark Deaths Summary (from Amazon)

Macabre psychological and supernatural horror fiction. Warning: these stories will make you sleep with the lights on!

William Cook’s second collection of macabre stories, Dark Deaths: Selected Horror Fiction, deals with horror found in the real and the imagined. In this diverse collection, the reader can expect anything from blood-thirsty aliens, a satanic locomotive, possessed dolls and that most monstrous species of human – the serial killer. Dark Deaths is a complimentary volume to Cook’s first collection, Dreams of Thanatos: Collected Macabre Tales. Many of the stories collected in Dark Deaths have previously been published in various anthologies and magazines with five brand-new and previously unpublished tales, written especially for this new collection. Included with the stories are Mr Cook’s own macabre illustrations that accompany each tale.

From the preface:

“In Dark Deaths: Selected Horror Fiction, I hope that you find something that resonates with you, the reader. Perhaps one of the stories might make you check the locks on your doors before turning in for the night? Maybe one of the tales in this collection will make you contemplate something you may not have thought about, or wanted to think about, before? You might think twice about keeping the doll that sits in a box in the attic, or take a second look at the guy across the road who sits in his upstairs window watching passersby. Whatever the response, my goal is to get you involved with the story – for you to suspend disbelief, if only for a short while as you read these tales. Be warned, this is a mixed bag – a distillation of stories written over the course of a number of years – whimsical childhood nightmares sit among the bloodied remains of serial murderers and revenant spirits. Each story is a dark death, an epitaph of sorts, as I lay them to rest in this collection.”
- William Cook
New Zealand. October, 2017.

Contains the following short stories:

Shadows in the Dark
Choked
Night Walker
Here Comes the Bride
Dolly Did It
Dream of a Dog
The Moon Came Down
One Way Ticket
Hopeless
Singles’ Night
Home Front
A Dream Realized
The Receiver
Anomalous Perigee
Creep
The Pale Stranger


Dark Deaths review (DD)

Firstly, let me say how pleased I am to read the fiction and poetry of William Cook after going through about a year of his nonfiction, including his assistance on my writings on Trauma. As much as I love the challenge of applying Cook's theories on deviant minds to current trends in "behavioral profiling" and serial killers, I also love to dive into the oceans of the author's grotesque creations, literature without category. Till now.

Cook's prose works best in poetry; if you're not used to his style, you may not see the horror story for the prose. However, the voice of trauma is convincing in DD. My biggest problem was reading DD so soon after researching and writing on dreams and nightmares. The reality of nightmares inhabits the fiction of William Cook, and in DD, these short stories capture a single moment of terror. But allow me to step back for a bit.

In traditional horror short stories, we have a three-act formula whereby the plot develops and the character arc completes. The mad scientist creates a monster, it escapes, and he must kill his own creation to save the village. However, it is the monster who kills the scientist for the hubris of the man has given him a flaw and he in turn has given the flaw to his creation. He created his own death. The character arc thus begins with the proud scientist making a creature and giving it life. He learns that the creature is a killer and realizes he has created death, not life. He must kill the creature before it kills again, but, instead, the creature kills him. The arc of the scientist starts with pride (hubris), learning and facing the truth about himself, and acting to destroy rather than create. He gives life only to become a killer, just as his creation's arc reached the same conclusion. This is a typical outline of a traditional story: the plot and arc.

In Dark Deaths, William Cook deconstructs this tradition. He turns to the poetic form of controlled chaos to tell his story. He captures a macabre moment and lets it play out with a prosaic narrative. No plots. No arcs. These are stories of peripheral glimpses of troubling images that vanish when you face them head-on.

"Shadows in the Dark", the opening story, describes the narrator as a schizophrenic observer, one for whom every detail has meaning. He imagines his bed surrounded by "crows", when, in fact, they are merely shadows. Every noise, shape, breeze, crack, has meaning in his warped mind. Sleep itself offers him no comfort, for "nightmares that bleed into every moment of my existence" beckon some sinister meaning. The plot does not develop; the narrator's point of view develops. His arc? That would be the twist ending, when we the readers understand why our narrator is as he is. He does not learn and accept. It is the reader who learns and accepts who and what the narrator is. In this way, Cook has inverted the story form.

In "Choked", we find a similar structure, and the reader undergoes a similar realization of the story's narrator. The entire basis of the story revolves around a singular image that twists the readers' point of view. What we believed we were witnessing has been subverted by our expectations of traditional storyline expectations. Our narrator, again, does not evolve. Cook manipulates the reader into believing there will be a story and traps the reader in a web of images and prose that culminates with that horrific image that makes us realize that our narrator was not as he seemed. The character of Mrs Welch is a well-written character in the traditional sense as she undergoes the same ordeal as the reader when smacked with that final image.

"The Pale Stranger" also gives us a narrator whose point of view will be subverted for the reader. He will have no epiphany;  it is the reader who will be led to the twist ending of the narrator's understanding of his world. We will come to realize why this point of view has meaning for the narrator. Only then does the story conclude.

The pattern of the stories remains fixed throughout our reading. Each narrator is realized with engaging prose that captures the mental state and surroundings as we read more and more of the macabre descriptions. As such, I would avoid the word "horror" here, for it is not terror or revulsion that attracts our mind's eye, but foreboding images and creepy feelings invoked by these images that define our "macabre" narrators. If these stories had been written in poetic form, the prose may have been lost in the structure, but when the prose itself is the story and the story itself is the narrator, then it is the reader who is rewarded with the twists in each of our tales. As long as the reader does not come to expect traditional "horror" stories, fans of the genre should enjoy the non-traditional approach to William Cook's story-telling style.

If I am to find fault here, it would be that these stories are not subject to rereadings. One twist per story is all we get. But that should suffice for fans of the macabre.







Babylon Fading Summary (from Amazon)

Bizarre. Strange. Disturbing. Unusual. Surreal . . . These are all adjectives that describe William Cook's latest collection of short fiction and poetry. 'Babylon Fading: Bizarre Fiction & Verse,' is a compilation of both published and unpublished pieces that defy categorisation. The stories and poems (barely) contained in this book will no doubt disgust and delight Cook's growing legion of readers. Complimenting the text are the fantastically disturbing art-works of the late, Joseph Donald Myers - reproduced here with kind permission by his estate. If you like the strange and the macabre, this new collection is for you.



Babylon Fading Review

If William Cook can consider "Dark Deaths" a work of the macabre, then we must pay attention when he refers to "Babylon Fading" in the introduction as the uncategorizable works that fall between the cracks of literary genres. For the sake of category, however, Cook turns to "Bizarro" to place these poems and short fiction pieces under an all-encompassing umbrella. This may work for the author. It does not work for this critic. And whether or not you want to hear it, I'll tell you why.

About four years ago, I began a research project for an essay I was working on for my "Horror and..." series (e.g., Horror & Killers, Horror & Shared Universes, Horror & Historical Novels, etc.). It was going to be called Horror and Bizarro Literature. I lined up several known writers of the genre and several unknown talents recently published in the field. First things first, I needed to know what "Bizarro" meant. I read the works of Joe Lansdale, Gina Ranalli, and others, in preparation for the essay. Guess what? There is no definition. And if there is one, there is no consensus on its meaning or definition. As a matter of fact, many Bizarro apologists insisted that this genre could not be categorized, and if it were, then it would no longer be Bizarro. Then there were those who believed their definition of the term was the only valid one. I was literally expected to choose a side.

I walked into online fights as authors with opposing views attacked any definition that didn't gel with theirs. Writers believed that those other guys were not Bizarro, that only they themselves were Bizarro. I found that only certain authors were invited to the Bizarro conventions, while others were ignored. There was a split between those who considered themselves the true "Bizarro" representatives and those considered the pretenders. Authors began pulling out of the interview line-up, I was unfriended and blocked by at least a dozen Bizarro writers and publishers, and, needless to say, the research project was abandoned.

But that wasn't the end of it. I refused to be part of any Bizarro pages, followers, or writers. I did keep the authors whose writing I considered above the label of Bizarro but under the umbrella of Literature (Joe Lansdale and Gina Ranalli, for instance). I still have Facebook friends who write Bizarro, but I don't write about it as "Bizarro" when I review it. I find a suitable category that fits the norm of literary acceptance. I know it's a cop-out, but you remember when you were a kid and your parents fought and argued in front of you without realizing you were being traumatized? Well, being in the middle of a gaggle of Bizarro writers arguing about what the genre means and who should and shouldn't be included is ten times worse than that childhood trauma, and I didn't need it.

Which brings me to William Cook and his new book "Babylon Fading". I read the introduction by Cook, who explained that the new book was Bizarro. While I read the book, I found many sections that fit quite neatly into his earlier work, which I classified as "grotesque", under my definition of subjective correlative, that is, a work of art (literary or otherwise) that corresponds to an emotional reaction to the work. For instance, a joke makes you laugh. The joke is the artwork; the laughter is the response. Simple, you say? Not really. What of the people who don't laugh? They argue that the joke wasn't funny. See, it didn't have anything to do with their own sense of humor; the joke was faulty. And the people who laughed? Well, the joke AND their sense of humor correlated, and together, it produced the reaction of laughter. This correlation is important because for the purposes of defining a genre like Bizarro, the book and the reader must correlate; the author does not enter the equation (although many Bizarro writers believe that the persona of the writer is part of the genre--just as the make-up is part of the Rock and Roll of a band like KISS). I don't buy it.

As such, I must ignore Cook's "introduction" to "Babylon Fading" to find the subjective correlative between the work itself and this critic/reader, whom we'll call Anthony Servante, for the sake of argument. I don't know what Bizarro is. I don't intend to ask William Cook what he thinks it is. I will definitely not Google the definition. I've been down the Bizarro path before. It leads nowhere. And I lost a lot of really good friends and some damn good writer connections as well. So, if I am to do my due diligence with this review, the first and last order of business is: Babylon Fading by William Cook is a wonderful work of the grotesque aesthetic.

Briefly, the grotesque aesthetic is when facets of the work of art (book, painting, sculpture, photo, etc) balance both repulsive elements with elements of beauty. The balance must be perfectly matched, the ugly side making the beautiful side shine, while the beautiful side making the ugly side agreeable. There cannot be too much grotesque or too much beauty, or the balance will be lopsided and the harmony will lack an aesthetic correlation for the viewer, reader, or aesthete. This harmony in the Age of Romanticism (circa 1800-1850) was known as "gusto", an appreciative artistic style (now archaic, thanks to some beer advertisers). Now we can turn to Babylon Fading (BF) in order to appreciate its style and balance.

In BF, Cook returns to his early roots of poetic and prose experimentation, at times mixing the two, at times turning poetry into prose, and prose into poem form. The opening work, Babylon Fading, we have a prose piece that reads like poetry. Cook uses metaphor and simile to describe his body and apparel to the night and the city: "The seat is hard on my bony backside. My shins are cold as my socks are low and black with grime... My knees ache.... My heart is doing strange things in my chest...like a dying sparrow. The night is chilled and noisy as the city moans and bristles with nocturnal activity." As his body revolts, so too does the city "howl" and "loom large" in shadow. Then the prose abruptly shifts to poetic form: "My mind melts./I am shaking./I am fear./I am death...." Eventually the city and the body become indistinguishable from one another. The decay of the city reveals his own death. It's an amazingly engaging flight for the reader, especially one familiar with urban decay and poetic anxiety. The reader is now prepared with this opening metaphor for more creepy engagements.

What follows next is a traditional poem in  normal stanza form called "Lost". But we see an extension of the themes from Babylon Fading. Note the opening stanza: "The heart is lost/the soul is a grave/dreams buried/with a scraping of hallowed dirt...." The decayed city becomes "decomposed/drained/then of death...." But Cook now transforms his death into "A flower breathing fighting/struggling to exist...." From loss Cook finds hope in rebirth. But the next poem "Inside" transforms this rebirth into a "sick heaven". As opposed to a healthy hell, I suppose.

Let's take a moment now to consider the path Cook has put the reader on. We follow a narrator waiting for a bus that is not coming, sitting on a hard bench. The pains and aches of our narrator are troubling as he compares his suffering to the decay of the city. The reader is meant to feel the painful aging of an old person waiting for death in a city that too awaits its inevitable decay and crumbling (think Ozymandias by Shelley). But Cook does not let his reader linger here in dread for long as he transitions into hopefulness and rebirth (Buddhist reincarnation, perhaps?). The juxtaposition of "flower" with "struggling" suggests the might of survival over a concrete wasteland, for haven't we all seen a single blade of grass break through a solid sidewalk made of concrete? Even a "fading Babylon" (a old body) is strong with life.

As one reads through the series of poems and prose, the reader will find his own hope and despair in images of dark shadows and human decay. This is the strength of William Cook at his best. He can engage the reader with dread and show him the beauty of decay. Babylon Fading reminds us what Cook is good at, and that's making his reader appreciate life and death with beautirul and grotesque language.