Monday, 16 December 2013

Mindfulness - A Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Warning - I'm annoyed
by Amazon and might
vent...
A book on mindfulness - now, this is a departure for me. I wasn't planning on reviewing this for a number of reasons, including but not exclusively because I've not finished the course of meditation it prescribes. I wasn't really planning on reading it either, but I did, also for reasons which I am not going to relate. Good stuff so far, eh?

For a few years my wife has been gently suggesting that I try meditative activities to temper my tendency towards displays of extremes of emotion. I have resisted thus far because the one time I did concede ground and attended a Buddhist centre to take part in a guided meditation session, when asked how it was afterwards by a kind and gentle soul, I told him it filled me with a rage so profound that I felt I should go and stand outside so as not to hurt anyone. I did also read a book by Karen Armstrong on compassion, which had a 12-step process (instant recoil) towards a more compassionate life. I was greatly tickled and, one might say, equally upsetting to my wife as a result. However, for one reason or another, I decided that this time, I would read, absorb and practice, in whichever small way I was able, all of the guidance and exercises contained herein.

On this side of the coin, I find myself uncharacteristically disinclined to find fault. Mark Williams has a simple eloquence when talking about the mind and the practice of mindfulness which I found most appealing. There is some "science", and also anecdote, and it mixes rather well, if oddly arranged in some chapters - I expected that the daily routine suggested would come neatly at the end of each chapter describing the 8-week programme, for want of a better word. Plus, the meditations did seem to work, when I actually followed what was expected. So far as my limited experience of meditation and meditation aids is concerned, this is by far and away the most accessible book that I have found. I try every day to find time to meditate, and am not unhappy to say that it's a great challenge, both in terms of time and motivation, but thus far seems to work. I am more mindful, and this has taken the edge off some of the edginess, and my rages are less frequent and always more short-lived. My wife is greatly appreciative, and so is my son, I suspect.

On the flip side, and what really does boil my bunny, is that, through no fault of my own*, the edition I downloaded for my Kindle (the basic model - no fancy pants colour and wi-fi enabled shennanigans here), had enhanced content, essential enhanced content no less, which I WAS UNABLE TO ACCESS ON MY KINDLE.

I therefore had to swallow a large amount of bile and stretch to another £11 for the iBooks version so I could listen to the guided meditations through my iPad. Not before posting a helpful and righteously febrile review on Amazon, those vile and wretched purveyors of human misery. God, how I hate Amazon.

So, in conclusion, being mindful won't stop you hating. You'll just be aware of it and not be ashamed or self-critical. Win win I think you'll agree, and if you fancy a bit of it, BUY THE APPROPRIATE VERSION OF THIS BOOK, Goddamnit.

*Usual disclaimer applies here folks - I rushed into the purchase and therefore was ill-informed so of course, it is my fault, but try telling the Hulk he only has himself to blame

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Freaks by Nik Perring and Caroline Smailes

This is not likely to be a useful or interesting review.

Sorry, that was a brutal beginning, so brutal in fact that I didn’t manage to get a customary disclaimer in first. It was total brutal.


Where was I? Oh yes, being boring and unhelpful. Well, it all stems from the fact that I read Freaks because it was free for Kindle and someone or other keeps talking about Caroline Smailes in such glowing terms that it’s hard to ignore. Also, DarrenCraske has been suitably up-bigged by Scott Pack of The Friday Project, via blogs, social media and give-aways that his formerly nose-turned-up-at works have inveigled their way into what I almost casually term my throw-away collection. It was inevitable in that respect I suppose. 

I don't know who Nik Perring is.

Short and... well, short.
However, it was read over a particularly stressful Christmas period, and in snatches lasting only a few moments (not normally an issue for this book I suspect as it is basically X number of very tiny short stories, of the oft-labelled micro-fiction variety) so very little was properly absorbed*. I remember bits being rather amusing, lots of bits being rather disturbing**, and quite a few interesting seeds of stories which had probably been collected and published in this way to preserve their latent story-worthiness, rather than cultivated only to eventually wither and die being too leggy and stringy to survive the editors’ secateurs. Hmm, sounds like I’m projecting somewhat, eh? Still, there were enough cute angles and interesting twists to these stories, each prefaced with the super-power that the main character displays, to keep the pages flapping, and Craske’s appealing if overly Nintendo-esque (i.e. smiley egg as opposed to Playstation-like genocidal alien) illustrations did not detract anything and in some cases, added value. If it’s still free to download I would recommend it as mental chewing gum, and even if not, worth shelling out on up to but not exceeding the value of £1.99 or thereabouts. In my own personal hierarchy of micro-fiction read and filed away, it probably lags some way behind Dan Rhodes’ Anthropology and Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines, but if you’re a Joss Whedon fan you’ll probably love it and hate me. 

Nerd.


*In retrospect, not normally an issue either, as I tend to consume books in a covering-the-ground sort of way, relentlessly feeding them into the eyes and more often than not simply adding the title to the “READ” list and ejecting the contents onto the compost heap of the Memory Palace. One might compare me to an enthusiastic but ultimately untalented footballer, or indeed a child.

**Again in retrospect, in that fashion where I know I probably should be disturbed but thanks to a kind of cultural exhaustion that I feel most of the time, and with it an insensitivity to pretty much everything, it wasn’t at all.