Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lowside of the Road by Barney Hoskyns

An extremely unauthorized bio of Tom Waits, this book leads us from Waits' beginnings at the Troubador up until the Glitter and Doom tour this past year.

Honestly, I mostly never really want to know the person behind my favorite music and Waits has become one of my top favorites. I don't know, I guess I always figure that I'll be really disappointed if the person turns out to be a jackass and kicks puppies or something. I'm still a huge fan of Waits, probably even more so now.

This took forever to read because I didn't realize (or pay attention to the fact that) I missed almost everything in Waits' early career. I pretty much was introduced around Swordfishtrombone and went from there. The Waits I always liked was the gruff, hoarse, eccentric who pounded on chest of drawers to get percussion (Mule Variations being one of my absolute favorites). Who knew?

I ended up downloading virtually everything in the Waits discography and listening to it as I read the book, which accounts for why it took so damn long to finish. Closing Time is a Waits I never knew existed and one that I really like, although it doesn't eclipse the post-swordfish era.

Although I disagreed with the author....often...I still think this had a lot of great insight into the making of everything in the Waits vault and is fairly well rounded. Clearly there are issues with Brennan being a songwriting partner that I don't have, but to each their own

Saturday, September 5, 2009

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

Chodron is an American Buddhist nun and is apparently a prolific writer. Going through some difficult times now, this book called to me from the Border's book shelf.

I'm going to admit that I started off reading this book thinking "What the hell are you talking about?" Leaning into the sharp points, facing your demons, embracing suffering - all sounds well and good but HOW do you do it? Buddhism is all abut guidelines and rarely ever says "Here is how you do this"

The more I read, though, the more I got it. I need to be kinder to myself. Less critical, less admonishment. The underlying factor here is if you can't have compassion for yourself, it's going to be difficult to be compassionate towards others. There is no right or wrong, no good or evil. Things just ARE. We're all here for a short time, so why not give yourself a break and lighten up a little?

I'm a classic case of escapism. When things are difficult, I do my best but I always retreat; into books, classes, knitting, what have you. Chodron encourages us to not reach for comfort when things go rotten. That's going to be mighty hard to do.

There's a really good chapter about not harming others. While you may not deliberately harm people, chances are you are doing harm when you're upset, embarrassed, angry, etc. Words, actions, emotions all mean the world and you have to be aware of what you say, do and feel. Being aware of how you react to things is even applauded as a great first step.

I'm going to try to put these things into practice. We'll see how it goes :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dissecting Death by Frederick Zugibe MD

This book coins itself as secrets of a medical examiner. If you like CSI (and you can read) you'll probably really like this book. It's not flashy with lots of weird angles like CSI but it's well written and plain spoken about the life of a medical examiner.

Looking up the good doctor, I see he is very well known for his research on crucifixion. That explains why the last section of the book explains why Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ (or whatever) was medically incorrect.

Zugibe goes over 10 cases that show various points of the forensic field. One case involves a woman found slashed and stabbed in the woods and they must determine time of death; apparently a very tricky thing to do despite what the tv shows say. Another case provides them with a few bones found in a grave, along with pieces of material, and they must determine if it could be a missing reporter.

Zugibe explains in plain English DNA testing, bone testing, insect forensics, etc. All very interesting and, dare I say, educational.