Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz's Just Sit: A Book Review

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Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz combine to bring forth the meditation focused: Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don't (click the title to view on Amazon). Released in late 2017, the book serves as an odd combination between self-help, meditation history and meditation for dummies. While the last term may suggest something negative, instead I see it as the old technology books that would allow the scared novice to learn Microsoft Windows or Adobe Photoshop in an easy to approach, straight forward manner. The Novogratz do just that, and while they often repeat the text’s title mantra of “just sitting” they work hard to make their points.

Loose, informative, and easy to read, the authors lay out the what, how, why, and when of meditation. Focusing on health and happiness, noting that like running, this movement will one day take western countries by storm, they graphically and quickly lay the foundation of the process. At times silly, at times serious, they illustrate away and even go as far as to give a step-by-step program in which the reader goes from just sitting for a couple minutes a day, and over weeks finds themselves meditating for a more substantial period of time. Yes, the goal is twenty minutes a day, but like long and strenuous periods of exercise, they recognize that people will land where they land, but that the act of sitting (to meditate) will be enough in the end. All-in-all, if you love the idea of meditation, a sound mind, and a thankful life, give the book a read. It will motivate you, get you thinking, and maybe even compel you to build a meditation haven in your domicile.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Robert Bloch’s Psycho: A Book Review

As I teach a film theory class and explore the various film movements throughout history, I have also been tackling the various novels and plays that these films have been based on. Robert Bloch’s Psycho came up on such a list, so I dug into the 1959 novel that launched Hitchcock’s legendary thriller. Having seen the film countless times (and the unfortunate remake from the 1990’s), the plot of the novel comes with no surprise.
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Bloch creates a classic thriller, allowing the reader to enter the minds of nearly every major character and to understand their motivations. In print, the reader grows to understand Marion, her plight, and why she takes off with a large sum of money. We are privy to her moral crisis, to the sly and shifty sale of cars, and to her determination to set things right before her untimely murder. We are present in a different way when she accidentally toy’s with Norman, prying at his maternal relationship without fully knowing that such actions will spell her doom.

Similarly, Norman comes across as more the victim. An active player yes, but one covering for his mother despite the truth. He can’t sleep at night, he struggles with covering for her murder, and he lacks the wry smile of his silver screen portrayal. This Norman is not the glowing, attractive model of Anthony Perkins fame, but instead presents a classic oddity. Large and awkward in both social graces and appearances, Norman is not a charmer—instead he looks every bit the crazed creature, the one that might unnerve you.

Either way, the novel is terse, fast paced, and a great compliment to the proliferation of media surrounding the story of Normal Bates and company.

Monday, February 12, 2018

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas: A Book Review

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After hearing about it for years, I finally grabbed David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and gave it a read. First off, this book is not for everyone. It is about the journey, a journey full of jagged edges in all the right ways, and its postmodern, experimental style will make you first work to understand the six disparate story lines and then to combine the storylines into one opus. Ranging from nineteenth century colony exploration to a murder mystery to a society of slave replicants to the post-apocalyptic remains of humanity, Mitchell digs into the human psyche. His characters are concerned about, searching for, and trying to find meaning in general.

In a sense, Mitchell exposes the fundamental exploration of humanity: meaning, purpose, and of course survival. While not littered with the term existentialism, a cursory analysis reveals a notary clinging to life and a meaning, a composer unable to come to grips with his existence while finally creating his one true opus, a reporter in a quest to expose her abilities and the dangers of a nuclear power plant, a publisher trying to escape an inexplicable commitment to a retirement home, a freed clone seeking to understand a world of slavery, and a final remnant of humanity clinging to his choices in an effort to both survive and find his humanity. Like I stated earlier, this piece is about the journey, the fascination, the dialects, and the mysterious overlaps that will haunt you as you look for the comet hiding in the heavens or lingering as a birthmark on the shoulder.