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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents

ReReadable Books

January 2010

"Group Mind & Media Part I"


Jacqueline Lichtenberg



 To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,jl@simegen.com  for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  
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Synthesis & Counselling in Astrology, The Professional Manual, by Noel Tyl, Llewellyn Sept. 2002

Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson, Ace Fantasy pb, March 2009

Does violent TV make children violent, or does childish taste make TV violent?

Does publicity make a best seller, or do best sellers draw in the publicity? The "secrets" of Amazon’s best seller list were featured on msnbc Aug 12, 2009. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32336521/ns/business-us_business//  So this is a growing hot topic, or as they say on twitter where I’m JLichtenberg, a "trending topic."


Do power-hungry fast-talkers take over the government or do people choose the government (even in a hereditary monarchy) and get what they deserve (or not.)?

Do you see a similarity among these questions?

The questions all have the form, "Do the actions of an individual affect the decisions or actions of a Group Mind? Or does the Group Mind control the individual?"

Or phrased another way, "What is the secret of popularity?" How do you get popular on purpose?

In previous columns, we’ve examined some of what Astrology has to teach us about popularity via Noel Tyl’s signature of prominence in an astrological chart, detailed in his Synthesis & Counselling in Astrology, The Professional Manual. 1) Peregrin planet ruling an angle 2) Aries Point activated 3)Pluto in hard aspect to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, 4)Personal fulfillment of potential.

With those 4 elements, fame of Mythic Proportions is possible, but not inevitable.

So having your story become a broadly watched, high earning kiddie TV show that happens to focus on violence, producing a string of best sellers, winning high political office, or going down in a blaze of hellfire like Bernie Madoff might be only 25% due to what you, personally, have actually done and 75% due to your natal chart?

Lots of people with a hot signature of prominence never "rise" beyond being the object of neighborhood gossip. A few people with only a fragment of this 4-fold signature are household words, but probably not life-long spotlighters.

Advances in the mathematical discipline of statistics (Math is one of the 4 disciplines student magicians must master) have put power over the behavior of millions into the hands of the Advertising Industry which spends fortunes researching mass behavior.

Calculated Advertising is one handle politicians use to get into high office, if they can collect enough money to afford the service. As with pharmaceutical research, behavior research costs vast sums. Firms do behavior research in order to sell the resulting power (or illusion of power) over Group Minds.

Statistics can accurately predict the behavior of thousands, even millions, but can’t predict the behavior of any individual. Our Group Mind does not quite grasp that.

So stereotypes are still a hot topic, and perhaps also why USA Networks now markets itself as "Characters Welcome."

See Stereotypes Exist Even Where Immigrants Don’t in Time Magazine, August 12, 2009.

A stereotype is a personal, thumbnail mnemonic which groups traits that often occur together. When you see one of those traits, you assume the other traits are also there because statistically it’s probable that they might be. But in our human minds, "might be there" becomes "are there" because it’s easier and quicker to make the assumption that any individual member of a group is identical to the average member of that group.

Fast thinking is a survival trait. We’re hardwired to think as fast as we can, even if we skip vital steps. Better safe than sorry.

So our analog thinking insists on working statistics backwards, and assuming every member of a group has all the traits of that group. Since we think that way as individuals, our Group Mind also thinks that way.

So while we want lazy mental shortcuts like assuming everyone is the same so we can think fast about others, we also want the distinction (prominence) of being special, different, a Character who can be Welcomed when others think about us.

The least prominent among us yearn the most strongly for prominence, spotlight, fame, glory, leadership, impact on the majority and the control or power that seems to come with that. The truly prominent hide behind security, privacy laws, and run from the poparazzi.

We want to be recognized and welcomed as an indistinguishable member of a Group, and at the same time be recognized and elevated above the common herd. Most of our Myths reflect this dichotomy within us.

Few humans are happy with whatever they have! Learning to own your life is quite a trick of spiritual judo.

Salesmen use this discontent to manipulate the behavior of buyers. Advertising targets the age group which feels ready to alleviate their discontent with action. Those over 40 seem impervious so ad budgets ignore them.

So does TV make children violent, or do children make TV violent? Does publicity make a best seller, or is it a signature of prominence activated by transit? Do governments oppress or do people beg to be regimented?

This debate rages today in the fiction, print, film, and e-books I’ve been reading. It’s all about marketing. Produce what the customer wants, what there’s a market for? Or make them want what you have to sell? What paradigm describes the relationship of the Individual to the Group?

Ace Books sent me an urban fantasy, Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson which clarifies this for me. The author’s name was searingly familiar, but I was halfway through the book before I noticed the inside back cover which reveals that this writer is that Amber Benson:

"Amber Benson cocreated, cowrote and directed the animated supernatural Web series Ghosts of Albion with Christopher Golden, which they followed with a series of novels, including Witchery and Accursed, and the novella Astray. Benson and Golden also coauthored the novella The Seven Whistlers. As an actress, she has appeared in dozens of roles in feature films, TV movies, and television series, including the fan-favorite role of Tara Maclay on three seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Benson wrote, produced, and directed the feature films Chance and Lovers, Liars and Lunatics."

She’s become a cross-media specialist!

Amber Benson is not a household word, but clearly she’s found a perfect fit for fulfilling her potential and becoming a major influence on our Group Mind, or perhaps a spokesman for it. Writers, directors and producers are not usually "famous" and even Tara (possibly my favorite female character on Buffy!) was not the star.

This career thumbnail sketch is in a book which has attracted an enviable promotional budget, but actually deserves any prominence that budget may generate. That may be the real secret to answering our 3 key questions. Any prominence achieved, must be deserved or it backfires.

Death’s Daughter is a concept-novel. If you were one of Death’s daughters, would you want to be Death’s heir? What would you do to get out of that heirship?

This is a solidly constructed urban fantasy world, a cross between the TV shows Joan of Arcadia and Reaper.

It’s about Mythic figures made real. It has God in it, in a cameo role. It has the Devil in it, in various guises. The connecting link between them is Death, a human endowed with Immortality and the Power of life (revivification) and death. The spiritual values are hidden within the visuals of the premise itself but resonate particularly well with me.

In Death’s Daughter, Death has been kidnapped and the prodigal daughter, Calliope Reaper-Jones is called home to take his place as Death. She must claim the title to keep its powers from being controlled by the Devil, then rescue Death and give him back his powers.

This urban fantasy world is wondrously original but just exactly like several other very popular UF worlds. In other words, Benson has done what Hollywood always demands: give me something the same but different. So Manhattan is covering her in glory because publishing has learned only the Hollywood formula works anymore.

Benson’s Characters (which I find most Welcome) are epic Mythic figures, but presented as real people you can root for and understand.

Here’s the real key. The background, the fantasy world Benson built, is fabricated from the Mythic, Hollywood style. It’s very strange and different, but familiar. Meanwhile, Death’s daughter and her mother and sisters, her taste in men, clothes, and vocabulary, her relationship problems and her responses to a challenge are all plain, simple, normal, average human. This is mundanity floating on top of the bizarre. And that’s how young people today see their lives.

To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg,  jl@simegen.com for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.  



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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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