Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not falling off the bridge anymore, I'm reading instead

I'm feeling much better today. Had a bit of what I call the "falling off the bridge" syndrome going on, you know--lots of negativity, worry and angst. But I started practicing, RE-practicing, really, what my counselor had told me and what I've been reading and (sporadically) practicing for years, centering and meditation. It's no big surprise that it really helps! So why do I keep "forgetting" about it? One of those little mysteries of human nature, I guess.

Lately I've read some interesting books and watched some really good movies, too. Last night watched the award-winning winning movie "Tsotsi" and watched the alternate endings (I like the ending they chose the best) how the movie was made, the soundtrack (by Zola--fantastic, I want it!). The movies and books are all from the library where I go almost daily for job-finding and personal reasons. Bet the library has the soundtrack or could do an inter-library lending thing to get it for me.

Over the summer and even since my accident I hadn't read much. You'd think with the extra time that reading would be one of my choice activities, but it wasn't. It was difficult to concentrate enough to read for the first few months and after that just the activities of normal living were taking so long that I really didn't have time to read. But I have had time lately and it's been great to re-visit diving into a good book!

Some of the interesting books I've read lately are:

Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert

'Jack-of-all-trades Borchert shares wholesome, guardedly witty dispatches from the suburban L.A. library system in this charming tell-all. For 12 years the family-man author has held the post of assistant librarian, keeping a wary eye on unruly kids, mollifying mystified parents and repairing sadly manhandled materials. Borchert relays a conversation with an aged librarian who reveals how it was in the good old days (staff lunches used to be served with wine), then contrasts that account with modern-day multicultural crayons and the preponderance of latchkey kids abandoned in the library for long, numbing afternoons. A few of the regular patrons are inspiring Renaissance types, but most are unsettling and unsavory, such as intensely reclusive crossword-puzzler Henry hounding the reference desk; loser Max looking futilely on the Internet for a South American wife; or the drug dealers working the restroom. From patrons who rack up hundreds of dollars in fines to missing pet rats and fist-fighting mothers, Borchert has seen it all, and his account gives a human interest spin to this undervalued profession.' -From Publishers Weekly

“The idea of a librarian memoir sounds really boring, but Borchert’s voice is never boring, and you keep reading because (1) he’s hilarious and (2) it’s uncharted territory” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Free for All aims to do for libraries what Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase did for urban schools or what Bill Buford’s Heat did for professional cooking” –USA Today

I LOVED this book! A funny, sad, intriguing look at what (and who) goes on in a public library.

Piaf: A Biography by Monique Lange
I had wanted to know more about Edith Piaf, and this book satisfied that curiosity and how she fit into history.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
'Working in his garden one day, Michael Pollan hit pay dirt in the form of an idea: do plants, he wondered, use humans as much as we use them? While the question is not entirely original, the way Pollan examines this complex coevolution by looking at the natural world from the perspective of plants is unique. The result is a fascinating and engaging look at the true nature of domestication.

In making his point, Pollan focuses on the relationship between humans and four specific plants: apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes. He uses the history of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) to illustrate how both the apple's sweetness and its role in the production of alcoholic cider made it appealing to settlers moving west, thus greatly expanding the plant's range. He also explains how human manipulation of the plant has weakened it, so that "modern apples require more pesticide than any other food crop." The tulipomania of 17th-century Holland is a backdrop for his examination of the role the tulip's beauty played in wildly influencing human behavior to both the benefit and detriment of the plant (the markings that made the tulip so attractive to the Dutch were actually caused by a virus). His excellent discussion of the potato combines a history of the plant with a prime example of how biotechnology is changing our relationship to nature. As part of his research, Pollan visited the Monsanto company headquarters and planted some of their NewLeaf brand potatoes in his garden--seeds that had been genetically engineered to produce their own insecticide. Though they worked as advertised, he made some startling discoveries, primarily that the NewLeaf plants themselves are registered as a pesticide by the EPA and that federal law prohibits anyone from reaping more than one crop per seed packet. And in a interesting aside, he explains how a global desire for consistently perfect French fries contributes to both damaging monoculture and the genetic engineering necessary to support it. Pollan has read widely on the subject and elegantly combines literary, historical, philosophical, and scientific references with engaging anecdotes, giving readers much to ponder while weeding their gardens.' -Amazon.com Review

Erudite, engaging and highly original, journalist Pollan's fascinating account of four everyday plants and their coevolution with human society challenges traditional views about humans and nature. Using the histories of apples, tulips, potatoes and cannabis to illustrate the complex, reciprocal relationship between humans and the natural world, he shows how these species have successfully exploited human desires to flourish. "It makes just as much sense to think of agriculture as something the grasses did to people as a way to conquer the trees," Pollan writes as he seamlessly weaves little-known facts, historical events and even a few amusing personal anecdotes to tell each species' story. For instance, he describes how the apple's sweetness and the appeal of hard cider enticed settlers to plant orchards throughout the American colonies, vastly expanding the plant's range. He evokes the tulip craze of 17th-century Amsterdam, where the flower's beauty led to a frenzy of speculative trading, and explores the intoxicating appeal of marijuana by talking to scientists, perusing literature and even visiting a modern marijuana garden in Amsterdam. Finally, he considers how the potato plant demonstrates man's age-old desire to control nature, leading to modern agribusiness's experiments with biotechnology. Pollan's clear, elegant style enlivens even his most scientific material, and his wide-ranging references and charming manner do much to support his basic contention that man and nature are and will always be "in this boat together." -From Publishers Weekly

Interesting book and thought-provoking (just the type of book I like!)especially for anyone who loves plants and/or gardening. I don't agree with all that Pollan writes but it's something for gardeners and all the rest of us to think about.

Beauty Fades, Dumb Is Forever: The Making of a Happy Woman by Judge Judy Sheindlin.

While I haven't watched JJ for a long time and am not a real fan of hers, the book was quite interesting and revealing--just what I like in a good autobiography!

There may have been a couple more books but they don't come to mind right now. What have you been reading or seeing (movies) lately?

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Blogger Grant said...

I'm reading King Rat by James Clavell.

12:59 PM  
Blogger JY said...

Come to think of it... I haven't read a good book in a LONG time either... time to hit the books again! I've been into autobiographies lately... just want to see how others tick....

10:34 PM  
Blogger Walker said...

I have lost reading bug to reading blogs.
Is hard to find time to do everything now a days for some reason.

At least you found your way back to what you liked to do.
ZI guess that means there is some retirn to normality

12:25 AM  
Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Well, I'm waiting until I can afford the new Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Series (about Sookie Stackhouse). And Laurell K. Hamilton has a new Merry Gentry book coming out Nov. 4th called "Swallowing Darkness"...I can't wait to get my hands on that one.

Right now, I'm reading a book of short stories. Smutty, smoldering short stories. Bad, bad, bad...i know but I love those things! ;)

As far as movies go, I am DYING to go see "Nights in Rodanthe"!!! I read the book about three weeks aloved it and hated it at the same time (you'd have to read it to understand what I'm talking about....I won't spoil it for you).

8:27 AM  
Blogger Ordinary Girl said...

The Botany of Desire sounds very interesting. I might have to pick that up. Right now I'm reading The Android's Dream by John Scalzi. So far so good, but then Scalzi doesn't disappoint.

8:07 AM  

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