Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Transformer by Ezra Furman

I'm a casual fan of music. I'm glad music exists and I have bad/good/odd taste in it. Music isn't something I'm passionate about but reading about music, well, I can get on board with that. Ezra Furman wrote a 33 1/3 book about Lou Reed's Transformer and since I really love Ezra's music and Lou Reed confuses me, I gave the book a try.

I still love Ezra but I question the hero worship of a guy who is racist/abusive but...I get Ezra's point about paying attention to the other pieces. Still, I have trouble overlooking the negative pieces. And Lou Reed still confuses me a bit but it seems like I'm not alone in that.

33 1/3 books by Bloomsbury are small little books that go in-depth into albums, track by track, taking apart the artist behind the music. There are over 100 books ranging from Dusty Springfield and Johnny Cash to...New Kids on the Block? Hmm... ok.

Ezra starts out trying to piece together the personas of Reed: Lou the Queer, Lou the Failure, Lou and Bowie. The he dives in, one track at a time, and gives his ideas on what it all means. I had no idea that Transformer was so out there. On first listen, without knowing much else, it doesn't sound unusual. After understanding some backstory, the next several listens strike me as odd.

This little book is well worth reading, even if you aren't a huge Lou Reed fan. It took me some time to read because, after each track dissection, I listened to the track a few times. I might just learn to appreciate music as something other than sound in the background.

Full Transformer Playlist

Ezra Furman's new album. I put this here because it's amazing and so is Ezra

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

This has been on my TBR list for a bit and I was a little surprised that it felt difficult to get through. I wasn't sure why, I just knew I wasn't picking it up as often to get it finished.

The writing is great, I had no issues with that. I felt every piece of Africa with the author through her words. There were really no slow parts, no bad characters, or whatnot. I think my main problem was....this felt like a rough life and a rough childhood and THAT made it hard to read.

Alexandra Fuller's family moved to Africa when she was just a wee baby. She had an older sister, Vanessa, a mom and a dad. They went on a work permit and were tending farms for a living. Often poor, often hungry, they seemed to always have the bad luck to land in the middle of war-torn, landmine-encrusted areas. Nicola, the mom, gave birth to 5 children but only 2 lived. The life they chose was a harsh one.

Fuller doesn't shy away from the brutalities, the day to day normalcy to them (carrying an Uzi wherever you go) seem horrible to others. The racial bias and descriptions on how whites (like the Fullers) are treated vs their black neighbors is pretty terrible as well. And Fuller recognizes that.

All in all, a very good book that is worth the read. I realize that I really don't know much about Africa, it's history or it's culture. Thankfully, Fuller recommends books at the end to help bridge that gap of knowledge.

And honestly, this has to be my favorite cover of all time

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

I grabbed this off of Audible, hoping for something to make me laugh. It did, some, but not what I was hoping for. On the flip side, it was still a good memoir about Lancaster's quest to not lose her feet to diabetes.

Lancaster is a narcissist. It's right there in the subtitle, so don't take that the wrong way. I think every woman SHOULD look into the mirror and think "Damn gurl! You fine!" regardless of their size. And that's exactly how Lancaster viewed herself up until her doctor gave her the death speech. Lancaster was about to turn 40 and was more overweight than even she thought.

As a pitch for a new book, Lancaster decides to lose 50 lbs and write about it. The book is picked up, therefore she must lose the weight. For as narcissistic as she makes herself out to be,  I have to admire what she did to lose the weight safely. Extra time at the gym with a trainer, weight watchers and lap swimming at the local pool. Although, I rolled my eyes a bit because she is a writer. That's her job. So taking the time to lose weight in that fashion, well, it was probably a bit easier than for folks who work outside the home.

Not a bad book. I will probably pick up some of her others to read because I enjoyed the writing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett

I forget who recommended Bookbub to me but I ended up signing up and grabbing free Kindle books if they sounded remotely interesting. I snagged this copy based on the premise and didn't really delve much deeper. Now, I see that it's part of a series and was originally published in 2008 (despite my regular reading-series-out-of-order luck, this happened to be the first book!).

Goodreads tells me there are 10 books in the Jeff Resnick series and, based on this book, I think this will be a series I enjoy.

Resnick is a former insurance investigator who has been unemployed for a good long while. When we meet him, he's about to start a new job and get his life back. Unfortunately, a couple of crackhead kids changes his plans. He's mugged and beaten over the head with a baseball bat. While in a coma as a John Doe, the kids ransack his apartment and steal everything of value and deface the rest. Assholes. Resnick's half brother, Richard, comes to the rescue to take Jeff back to Buffalo to recover. Their relationship is tumultuous at best. Richard was left millions in inheritance while Jeff has nothing. Richard is a doctor while Jeff struggled to stay employed as an investigator. Yin Meet Yang.

Richard's girlfriend, Brenda, is a nurse and welcomes Jeff with open arms. Jeff starts having visions, where he sees a murder happen and feels the horror and emotion of the crime. Could this be a symptom of the brain injury? Maybe, but it turns out, the visions are real. A prominent banker in town is found gutted like a deer, strung up in his garage, exactly like Jeff's vision.

Compelled to investigate, we pretty much dive in to a crime of passion and greed that would have gone unsolved if not for Resnick. Since this is the first book, we learn what he is learning about his new gift at the same time. I'm pretty curious to see where he goes from here and what he can do without a broken arm and brain injury.

Good murder mystery. Definitely drew me in to read the series. And .... yay free books!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

I'll start off saying that I love this woman. I read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes back in 2015 and fell in love with her idea of the Good Death. Why is death so terrifying for Americans? Why are we, as the living, so far removed from it? When my dad passed in 2009, I remember being upset that we were ushered out of his room and sent to the waiting room while the funeral home took over. I remember being upset they shaved his mustache (he was never without it) and that we only saw him again when it was time for visitation. He was my DAD. And I wasn't allowed to be there.

Caitlin put into words what I was feeling. Americans sanitize death too much. We're not allowed to grieve with the bodies of our loved ones. Everything is swept up and away and you need to slap a smile on your face because everyone else has moved on, why can't you?

In From Here To Eternity, Caitlin visits several cultures, here and abroad, to learn about death customs. This was just fascinating to me. Ever since dad died and we went through the whole thousands of dollars funeral experience, I knew that I wouldn't be taking the same route. Caitlin's work, including her Ask A Mortician YouTube channel, led me to natural burials. And now I know where my body will end up.

Some of the places Caitlin visits are Colorado. A small town called Crestone built their own pyre to send their dead off in a respectful manner. Indonesia: where corpses are mummified in Death Houses and brought out every so often to be cleaned and cared for by their families. This culture has a very hands on idea of taking care of their families. Mexico is an obvious place to go for Dias de los Muertos. In North Carolina, on a body farm, they are working on recomposition of bodies, essentially composting a corpse and giving the compost back to the family.  (Fun fact: ashes from cremation are completely devoid of any nutrients so even if you scatter the ashes in a garden, they do no good).

Spain placed the corpses behind glass to give the sense of close up but not. I think my favorite was Japan and the Buddhist Temple of Koukokuji. Japan has the highest cremation rate (99.9%) and some of those ashes are kept at Ruriden. It's high tech mixed with Buddhism.


Essentially, mourners call up their person via key card. The Buddha associated with their loved one lights up to show them where to go. 

In Boliva, I will admit that the concept of natitas might have been a little much for me. (more info at the link). I always find it difficult when faith crosses into "magic" but these people have a culture and I do appreciate that they found a way to deal with death.

Lastly, a natural burial in California at the Joshua Tree cemetery.

Natural vs. Traditional burials

Caitlin's TED talk

Caitlin is not only intelligent and awesome, she's a natural writer who writes about the terrifying side of life with wit and humor. You get information you should have (no body HAS to be embalmed....did you know that?) in easy doses. HIGHLY recommend her books, blog, and YouTube channel. Death not terrifying. It's a part of life.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Braving The Wilderness by Brene Brown

I've heard of Brene Brown and wanted to give her a try. I didn't choose this book for any particular reason except I liked the subtitle: The Quest for True Belonging and The Courage to Stand Alone. I've found, when the situation arises, I'm usually the one out there alone and speaking up. Alone and doing.

I listened to the audiobook read by Brene.  There were so many points where I just kept nodding my head. It's clear she does a lot of research for her books and has a lot of facts and points to back up her advice.

Here's an excerpt: https://brenebrown.com/blog/2017/09/07/braving-the-wilderness-excerpt/

One of the pieces of advice that I really appreciated was: It's easy to hate from far away. Get in close. She frames a lot of her advice in the context of where America is politically. This piece is very true. I have friends, great friends, whose political views are polar opposites of my views. But I don't hate them. I know them so well they might as well be family. But I shrug off our differences. So why is it so easy to get angry at strangers or the masses when they disagree? Because you haven't moved in close to them. Someone at a protest makes you angry? Move in and talk to them. It's such a novel concept except it's not. It should be common sense.

Her section on how we dehumanize people in order to make it easier to tear them down was difficult to read because of the truth. In big ways (Holocaust) and little ways we dehumanize others so we don't feel bad about how they are treated. Again, I'm shocked and not surprised we do this. And yes, the we includes myself. Some of the examples Brown gives hit a little too close to home.

I also appreciated the advice of Hold Hands With Strangers. Get in there and feel all the pain and all the joy. It connects humans better than social media. Being there, showing up, and listening is so important but rarely done.

I've been trying to take her advice to heart and make some improvements. Some days are much better than others, obviously, but imagine how things would work if everyone tried to just show up and be with their fellow man.

*insert hand holding and kumbaya singing*

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Walking Dead: Compendium Three by Robert Kirkman et al.

I started this monster in September 2016 and just finished it the other day. Once again, no, it really didn't take me that long to read. But I got caught up in the show and I really didn't want to know what happened, or what could happen. At the mid-season finale, when {spoiler} got bit, I knew I needed to finish this compendium.

Let me just say that the show has deviated quite a bit. What upset me on the show didn't happen in the comics except I ended up getting completely upset by the ending of the compendium and just have to say DO NOT KILL {SPOILER}, DAMMIT.

So the beginning of this compendium, Negan is still a thing, Abraham is alive and they are not yet broken. The ending is way beyond the show and we get an all new villain for the survivors to deal with because Negan is no longer a threat......or is he??

This is a good one. I'm eager to see The Whisperers played out on the show but DO NOT KILL {SPOILER}.......DAMMIT.