Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What I'm reading, watching, listening to

This is a book Barbara passed along to me, and laziness got me started reading. I had already plopped myself down, only to realize my current book was in the other room and this one was within reach on a side table so I picked it up. I'm about one-third of the way through, and am really enjoying it. It takes place during World War II and then in 1986. There's an Asian boy (during the war) who is an outcast because of his ethnicity, and he is ageing and reflective in 1986. It's a very gentle, slow-moving book, and the characters and time and place (Seattle) are interesting and different.

I watched "Into the Abyss" from Netflix this afternoon. Here's the description: Director Werner Herzog's compelling documentary examines the emotional aftermath of a triple murder in Texas, interviewing the two convicted killers, their relatives, the victims' families and law-enforcement officials involved in the case.

Both the killers and the victims had sad lives. I thought this was going to be more about the details of the crime --sort of an anatomy of a crime, but it was more an anti-death penalty movie. I enjoyed it. I am not that familiar with Werner Herzog, but I enjoyed his questioning -- you didn't see him, but you heard his voice off camera. I was touched by the respect he showed all participants.

The most interesting part of the movie, for me, was a prison official who talked about the actual death penalty, and how he made himself unofficially a prisoner advocate by explaining to them in detail what would happen down to every last move. He was the one who arranged their last meal (make mine lobster mac and cheese) and even though he prided himself of doing things by the book and to the letter of the procedure, he would treat the convicted person humanely.

He worked at 120 executions -- he said at one point they were having two a week. After one -- and I can't remember her name... Carla?? Remember her? She was the convicted murderer turned Christian who got a lot of sympathy since she was a totally different person. Anyway, he served at her execution and it was the first time he'd served at an execution of a female. He was really a Texas prison guard straight from Central Casting -- a big good old boy. He also had the job of unstrapping the dead body and getting it ready for the funeral home to pick up. Anyway, after this woman's execution, he went to his office and started shaking and couldn't stop and finally talked to the prison chaplain, eventually quit his job and has become anti-death penalty.

The other thing that intrigued me is the daughter of one of the victims who went to the prison to witness the execution which holds zero appeal to me. I just don't understand why you'd want to put yourself through that. She was saying how wonderful it was to be at the execution and how it lifted a weight off her shoulders, and how she thought the murderer was a big monster but seeing him lying on the gurney she saw he was "just a boy." And that made her feel better?

As a Netflix, I would recommend this documentary. It's not as dark as it sounds.

I have not had a current CD in years, but after seeing Alicia Keyes on two talk shows, I really liked her, liked her music and liked her as a person. You may know her from the American Express commercial where she's on stage and she sings "This girl is on fire." -- That's the name of this CD: Girl on Fire.

On one show she sang this song -- Brand New Me -- which I instantly liked. That's rare. It's a modern, slower, softer song similar to the Gloria Gaynor classic "I will survive." She is singing this to her old boyfriend who has come back, but she's wiser now, and tells him so in a lovely way.

So I bought this CD -- I feel just so damn cool -- and I have really enjoyed Alicia. This girl is on fire.

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