Books and Beyond
We all know music influences our moods and energy. Here is some of my favorite music to bring about a calm and relaxed mood. This music is perfect for the end of the day or, perhaps for yoga or meditation.
Music for Healing and Unwinding by Steven Halpern - Halpern has been creating this kind of music since 1975 and this 2005 CD was my introduction to his music. The library has many more by this musician.
Dakshina by Deva Premal - This is beautiful hypnotic and meditative vocal music.
Through a Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion by Lisa Spector - This also works great for humans. These classical pieces are beautifully arranged for on a single piano.
Self-Healing with Sound and Music by Dr. Andrew Weil with music by Kimba Arem - If you’re interested in the ideas behind healing music, check out this audiobook. This two CD set includes one of Dr. Weil speaking about the healing effects of music and one of music composed by classically trained Kimba Arem using a variety of instruments.
Looking for more like this? Try searching the library for Music for Relaxation.
What are some of your favorites?
Reading the Bard’s plays isn’t for most guys. Thankfully Hollywood has taken care of the culture gap by making some truly arse-kicking (remember, Shakespeare’s British), testosterone-fueled adaptations especially for the Die Hard crowd. They are, as TBS might call them, “Shakespeare movies for guys who like Shakespeare movies.”
Here’s the lowdown:
Henry V - Forget that Laurence Olivier crap. Kenneth Branaugh’s version is gritty and violent, and the epic final battle in the mud has everything except girls and a volleyball. Dudes willing to forgive this oversight will enjoy a really intense war movie.
Hamlet - Kenneth Branaugh’s adaptation goes for the artsy and is sure to disappoint the bros. You want Mel Gibson’s version. To be or not to be Rambo is the question. The body count at the end will tell you the answer.
Romeo + Juliet - "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?" It’s not light breaking through that window, chump: it’s a spray of bullets. This update uses all the play’s original language but remakes the story into a tale of gangster warfare in Verona. Shakespeare liked his violence. You’ll like it too.
Titus - This movie’s so intense and bloody it really needs to star Wolverine. Instead we get Anthony Hopkins playing a character so bloody it makes Hannibal Lecter look like a vegan. Want to play a game? Take a drink every time someone loses a body part!
Richard III - Ian Mckellen (that’s Gandalf, yo) turned this play into a story about England in the 1930s taken over by a fascist government that looks just like the Nazis. A little bit V for Vendetta, a little bit Valkyrie, there’s plenty here to like.
Much Ado About Nothing - Even hardcore guys have to mellow out sometimes. This retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy has Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale. No blood in this one, but hang out for some laughs because this is a real Shakespeare movie for guys who like Shakespeare movies.
Most people are aware of the countless retellings of Jane Austen’s works, especially Pride and Prejudice. Another author who was writing slightly later in the 1800’s, but whose works are also considered classics is Charlotte Bronte. The continued popularity of Jane Eyre, in particular, is clear when you look up the title in the library’s catalog and see 67 references to books, movies, and articles! Here are a few highlights…
Creative, quirky, funny and sweet, Wes Anderson films are one-of-a-kind originals. Check out some of his movies to see for yourself.
The Darjeeling Limited - Three brothers take a trip to India a year after their father’s funeral and finally find the closure they need to move forward with each of their lives. It might sound like a downer, but this movie is also funny, playful, and filled with great visual metaphors.
Fantastic Mr. Fox - based on the book by Roald Dahl, the movie stars George Clooney as the voice of Mr. Fox and Meryl Streep as the voice of Mrs. Fox. Mr. Fox finds a nice above ground home next to three of the biggest farms in the area. The temptation is too much and he goes on one last heist stealing from each of the farmers. The farmers find out and go after Mr. Fox and his family and friends. What happens next? Watch Fantastic Mr. Fox and find out.
The Royal Tenenbaums - Royal Tenenbaum is the patriarch of a family that fell apart. He brings his family back together in a last ditch effort to make amends before he dies of a terminal illness. Again it sounds really sad but that is the beauty of Wes Anderson, by focusing on eccentric people in sad situations he is able to highlight the real magic of life.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Steve Zissou, a renowned oceanographer, is on a hunt to kill the shark that killed his partner.The Life Aquatic is a madcap movie starring Bill Murray, Anjelica Houston, Kate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Jeff Goldblum. This Wes Anderson movie is a bit more dry and wacky than most of his films, but I find it is funnier the more you watch it.
This is a leisurely paced, beautifully filmed story of John Keats and his poetic muse, Fanny Brawne. Those who love period pieces, such as Jane Austen adaptations, will delight to discover this hidden gem. While first a tragic love story, the secondary characters and excellent cinematography flesh out the narrative and provide the background that let Keats and Fanny shine.
Alternative Country, also known as Alt-Country, is a loosely defined sub-genre of country which can combine any of the following: country, rock, rockabilly, bluegrass, folk rock, and punk. If you want to learn more about Alternative Country listen to these CDs:
Oh, Lou Lou!
So have you heard the travesty that is Lou Reed’s latest work, Lulu? Using Metallica as his backing band, Reed has created what many critics are calling the single worst album ever made. You can decide for yourself by getting the CD through the library, but please don’t retaliate afterward by doing something rash like petitioning to cut off our funding.
It’s definitely a strange collaboration, foreshadowed by a notorious live performance of “Sweet Jane” in 2009. Who in the world could listen to this and think, “Wow, Metallica and Lou Reed sound great together!” Only a pairing of Snoop Dogg and Kenny Rogers rapping Christmas songs while the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blares away in the background might be worse (though TSO can make almost anything sound classy).
The Lou Reed/Mettalica train wreck aside, I love it when different musicians team up in odd ways to produce something unexpected and jaw-dropping without being unlistenable. JCPL happens to have a few of my favorites:
Raising Sand – Rock god Robert Plant meets bluegrass fiddler Alison Krauss. This is a warm, rich album that caught everyone off-guard.
Seeking Major Tom – Captain Kirk covers a lot of famous songs with a host of equally famous artists, including Brad Paisley and Peter Frampton.
Distant Relatives – Rap meets Reggae as Nas works with Damian Marley on an album concerned with the well-being of Africa.
Duets - Lots of artists produce duet CDs, but I think this is one of the cooler ones, as opera star Pavoratti hooks up with everyone from Eric Clapton to Frank Sinatra to Lionel Ritchie while covering opera and pop rock standards.
Turtleneck and Chain - SNL’s Andy Samberg’s hilarious band is back with a ton of weird collaborations with celebrities, including director John Waters, Beck and Michael Bolton.
For most of us, the closest we'll ever get to living like a rock star is reading a musician's biography or memoir. The library has a great selection of the most entertaining, shocking, and inspiring stories you'll want to check out! Tell us about your favorites.
- Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young
- It Might Get Loud produced and directed by Davis Guggenheim
- Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll by Ann and Nancy Wilson; with Charles R. Cross
- Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon--and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller
- Sinner's Creed: A Memoir by Scott Stapp with David Ritz
I was watching stand-up comedian Louis CK with my husband, and one of his routines about his kids had us both laughing hysterically and saying, “Yes, that’s exactly what kids do!” I decided I wanted some more of this type of entertainment. I decided that I would temporarily dispense with the serious parenting books and all that guilt I feel when I read about other mothers who enjoy every second of motherhood. So I went in search of some books that would focus on the annoying, disgusting, enraging parts of motherhood and help me laugh at them all. I came across a couple I really enjoyed. Are you in need of comic relief too? Try some of these:
Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood - The Good, The Bad, and the Scary by Jill Smokler - This book was not as negative overall as I thought it would be, but I did find myself agreeing with most of Jill’s observations. A couple of “confessions” from Jill’s blog that she included in the book:
“I ate a jar of Nutella a month while pregnant. Okay, a jar a week. Okay, okay, a jar a day. A jar of Nutella a day. I’ve never admitted that before.”
“Last night I changed all the clocks in the house to an hour and a half later and sent my son to bed. It was awesome.”
Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$ Story about Parenting! by Sandra Tsing Loh - This book spent a lot of time on the difficulty of choosing schools for your children, but I had a laugh about every other page because of her humorous observations.
Sh*tty Mom: The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo, and Mary Ann Zoellner - I’m on hold for this one, and it sounds like a lot of fun.
Over 160 years since he became President, Abraham Lincoln continues to fascinate Americans. While his status as vampire hunter may be in question, there is no doubt that this month’s debut of the film Lincoln has increased interest once again.
By some estimates, over 15,000 Lincoln biographies have been written. We think these are some of the best.
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald - Written by a historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction period and considered by some to be the best single-volume account of Lincoln’s life.
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson - This Pulitzer Prize winning tale of the Civil War provides insight into Lincoln’s strategies and conflicts at that time.
Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle - A newly published account of Lincoln and the events of 1862, a year the author asserts as the most pivotal in the outcome of the Civil War.
A.Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jr. - A comprehensive, yet readable biography which draws heavily from Lincoln’s private papers.