The Rock & Roll Librarian

January 16, 2008

My Life Among the Serial Killers (audiobook) by Helen Morrison

Filed under: audiobook,Book Review,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 4:23 pm
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Inside the Minds of the World's Most Notorious Murderers

Helen Morrison has spent her career working with serial killers.  At the time of publication, she interviewed more than 80 killers and conducted thousands of research hours with them (400 hours on John Wayne Gacy alone).

My Life Among Serial Killers is not so much about the killers themselves, although she does go into some of the more memorable people and details, as it is about her goal to find what causes these people to do what they do.  Her theory is that there is one particular aspect among all serial killers which leads them to killing over and over again.

As Morrison describes some of the cases she makes sure to go into the backgrounds and childhoods, pointing out that none are the same.  Some were abused, neglected, overprotected, suffered head injuries or emotional trauma but none, universally, experienced a common occurance that could be pinpointed as their turning point for everyday person to murderer.

After reviewing the cases and separating evidence, she contends that serial killing must be an innate affliction these people are born with.  In other words, a serial killing gene.  She goes as far as to say that a serial killer is a killer even as early as a fetus in the womb.

But she never offers any evidence to support this theory other than that she can’t find a common denominator among the killers.  

The problem with this idea is that not all mental illnesses can be mapped to a single point on a genetic strand and called the sole cause of the affliction; while other mental illnesses can be linked to several potential factors.  If she is looking for a universal answer it would seem contradictory to look at genetics as a reason it if it not a universal reason for mental illnesses altogether.

But it’s not just this logical fallacy which makes the book suspect in the end.  Morrison also talks about different traumas/events in these individual’s lives which seem to trigger their rampage.  But since each individual trauma was different she dismisses this as a possibility because not everyone who suffers trauma becomes a serial killer.  

In a way, her argument seems a little weird for a specialist with so many years in psychology.  Brain functions may be similar but the way in which people use them is not.  Genes may cause physical traits but there has been little evidence that suggest they control anything beyond basal emotional controls (in other words, you might be more prone to being angry but not more prone to being a criminal).

Stranger than all of this is that she states, several times, the serial killers she interviewed as never passing an emotional state beyond infancy, having very little ability to connect to people or see them as something more than an object.  Yet, this trait is never discussed any further, which seems odd as she clearly says every one of her case studies has this emotional characteristic.

In the end, she is more willing to accept an idea that a genetic predestination determines our lives more than a combination of environmental issues and a low emotional IQ.

And when I think about that I am reminded of a phrase that I heard twice in my life; once by a Philosophy professor and one by a Biology professor.

“Genes make us human but they do not make us who we are.”

October 29, 2007

Time released Top 25 Horror Films

Filed under: movies,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 11:50 pm
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Time magazine just released their collection of Top 25 Horror Films.  Overall, I think they got it right.  Two or three of the films were put in more for humor’s sake but, nonetheless, worthy of mention for the psychological effect on the audience.

 As my friend and I finished reading the list though, we couldn’t help but think of other classics that were left of the list, such as:

American Werewolf in London- Man, you never know what kind of illness you can catch in a foreign country.  Although CG gives way to morphing scenes now, you cannot mistake the mastery that went into the transformation of man to werewolf in this film.

Village of the Damned- And who said a group of bratty British children couldn’t be scary!?

28 Days Later- My personal favorite of all time.  Rage in its purest form.  These zombie-esque didn’t kill for food or anything; they killed because that was their nature… and they did so until they starved to death.

Nightmare on Elm Street- My buddy didn’t sleep for three days after we watched this… unlike myself, who cried himself to sleep.

Poltergeist- Call this the worst decision of my parent’s parenting career. We watched it at a drive-in in Cape Cod.  It was the last time my parents voluntarily let my brother and I watch horror films… and I think it was the last time we ever went to a drive-in as well. 

Friday the 13th- Probably the biggest oversight of the list.  If only for the number of sequels the film has, and continues to produce.

Any we missed?

October 17, 2007

Michael Ian Black’s “I am a Wonderful Man” CD

Filed under: humor,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 2:42 pm
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I'm a Wonderful Man

Despite his innocent school boy looks, Black’s comedy is far from innocuous.  With his sardonic-style of comedy, Black takes on subjects one would think a comedian should stay away from. 

The start of his show is a little rough as Black takes almost no time warming up the audience; jumping straight into shouting ‘white power’ and explaining how it doesn’t sound as bad as long as you shout “Yaaaaay” afterwards.

And I’m not sure what was weirder, the fact he would start off a show with such a volatile topic or the fact that he actually pulled it off as being somewhat funny (don’t worry, the racist comments are actually deflected and shown for the absurd mentality that they are).

Moving on, Black proceeds to poke fun at the Black Crowes cliche “rock moves” and a lack-luster night while performing in New Orleans, post Katrina (oh yes, he goes there). 

By all means, this is not an album for the easily offended, conservative, uptight or residents of New Orleans… actually, his kids might want to not listen to it either as they are a topic of discussion as well.  But if you are the type of person who can laugh at most of South Park, Family Guy and The War at Home (uurgghh) then it is worth a listen.  It’s not the funniest album you will hear but there are some very funny parts.

Afterwards, you will probably have one of two reactions;  either listen to the album again or ban Sierra Mist in protest.

On an interesting side note:  Michael Ian Black linked this review to his blogsite (calling the post ‘mildly sh*tty and poorly written).  Incidentally, I thought the part of the album where he talks about ‘googling himself’ was a joke.  Go figure. 

But it does go to show that proofreading is essential to good blogging and good reviews ;-)

September 11, 2007

The Mystery Chronicles by Joe Nickell

Filed under: Book Review,books,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:07 pm

In general, I am a sucker for any unexplained phenomena; X-files, Cryptids, Paranormal, Unsolved mysteries, etc.  Not that I actually believe in much of it but I greatly enjoy reading about it.  Probably because it then enjoys me the pleasure of spouting off some randomly obscure information to people who could really care less.

By the way, if I ever happen to trap you in a corner and start  speaking of such things…  the information tends to be easier to swallow with a liquid.

So, when I came across The Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files on the library’s shelf, I was pretty psyched.  Especially since the author, Joe Nickell, is one of the leading researchers for the Paranormal.

The aims at dispelling some of the more popular para-mysteries such as the Spontaneous Human Combustion of Bernard Hess, the Amityville house, the Nazca lines and crop circles.  In this sense it was an interesting read as most of the writing in this subject tends to be done to perpetuate phenomena, even when the facts are contradictory.  In this sense, the book was an enlightening read.

But the writing felt more like it was done in the spirit of self-promotion.  Once the mystery was presented Nickell would proceed to discuss himself and how he personally plays into dispelling the phenomenon.  So reading it was as much about Nickell as the topic in discussion.  There was a bit of bragging throughout the pages.

Which got a bit tiring and I found myself skipping paragraphs of Nickell’s career in order to get to the meat of evidence… and the book became a fairly quick read.

Honestly, I could only recommend this book to the more dedicated para-junkies.  Some of the chapters would be obscure references to the casual reader and I can’t seeing it being enjoyable for them.  That said, the more invested fan of the paranormal would definitely get some enjoyment and enlightenment from reading this… if not, definitely a lot more familiar with Joe Nickell’s career.

September 8, 2007

2007 Summer Reading Program in Review

Filed under: Libraries,Reviews,Teens — Tyler Rousseau @ 2:18 pm

This time of year is always a happy and sad time for me.  I’m sad because the summer is so close to ending, and I have an annual tradition of regretting not doing more outside.  But then again, I am happy because the frantic pace of our Summer Reading Program is over… and that means I can actually take a moment to relax a little, perhaps breathe a bit as well.All in all, it was a great summer for me.  This was the first time that I had full reign of our teens’ Summer Reading Program.  I packed it with programs, volunteers, last-second planning, fix-ups, movies and an occasional-running-with-scissors moment… if you know what I mean.But how did it all go?  What worked and what didn’t?  Let’s review it in a hot/not fashion.Hot- The average number of books read by teens who signed up for the Summer Reading Program was 18!Not- Actual number of participants in the Reading Program was down.Hot- The “You Never Know What You Can Do With Duct Tape” program.  We made wallets, cell phone holders, a couple flowers and even attempted sandals.  It was probably my most attended program on a week to week basis.  By the way, if you try the sandals, make sure you don’t accidentally expose the duct tape adhesive to the hair on your toes… Yowwww!Not- The whole “YNK” theme.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed silly.  People may have used the theme but few actually used it as “YNK” (and not without having to clarify what YNK stood for).  Hot- The End of Summer lock-in.  It was the first after hours party we had at our library.  The teens ate about 8-feet worth of subs, partied heartily and every single one of them was actually picked up on time!Not- The one single teen at the party who decided to push the boundaries and threw her piece of cake into the face of another person.Hot- The Shoprite Deli.  Originally, the store lost our sub order for the party.  So, Dan, the Deli-guy, made good by not just making 10 subs but only charged us half-price because of the mix up. Not- Shoprite in general.  But hey, it is where we have our account.Hot- My teen-volunteer coordinator’s ability to have all but 5 of our teens complete the required number of hours and set a record for most volunteers sign-up and completed.Not- The teen volunteers constantly referring to me as “Hey Mister!”Hot- The song “Hey Delilah” by the Plain White Ts being constantly played.Not- Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” being constantly overplayed.And finally….Hot- Our brand new Teen furniture finally came in!Not- Gaylord messed up the color of the furniture and has yet to fix it.  But they did offer to let us keep the furniture they sent us in lieu of having to send the right ones.So, how do I rank the summer on a whole?  I’ll go with an 8/10.  Better than average but let’s leave some room for improvement.

August 9, 2007

Flight of the Conchords- Review

Filed under: music,Reviews,TV Time — Tyler Rousseau @ 5:26 pm

Episode 6

If you haven’t heard of this show… it’s probably because you don’t have HBO.  And that’s a shame because Flight of the Conchords is practically worth the extra couple bucks a month to view it.

Flight of the Conchords is about two New Zealand bandmates who come to New York City to try and make it big, which would be easier if their manager would let them play gigs at night (but the city is far to dangerous).  They are the victims of a mugging (but befriend the muggers), put on the receiving end of racist comments (mistaken for Australians) and, of course, challenged by relationships with women.  Each one of these situations wind up inspiring songs with catchy rhythms and absolutely bizarre lyrics.

If you want to hear some of them, you can view them for free at website.  I recommend going to episode 4 (Yoko) and listening to “if you’re into it.”  If you want to check them out, tune in to HBO on Sunday nights around 10PM.

August 6, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- A Review

Filed under: Book Review,Reviews,teen books — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:10 pm

Okay, I think I have waited long enough for people to read this book in order to feel guilt-free about discussing it here.  Are there spoilers in this post?  Yes but No… it’s complicated.  I guess there are… but I still maintain “not really” because no matter what side you were on for the “big questions” you were right. 

What do I mean by this, take the following examples:

Snapes is bad, he runs Hogwarts basically like a gulag.  But he’s actually good, because it turns out that all of the beatings, condoned cruciatus curses, general torture and lessons in The Dark Arts are just a beard to cover up his real motives.  So, whether or not you were for or against Snape, you still have an argument.

On a tangent, did anyone else read Mother Night by Vonnegut, and feel a little peeved at the parallel?

Albus is dead, but he is alive in spirit…  but doesn’t it make more sense that Harry talk with one of the brothers from the Deathly Hallows rather than his semi-dead-yet-never-actually-really-turly-dead professor?  Why is Dumbledore wandering around in limbo?

And for readers who worried about the fate of our hero, she kills him…

sort of…

he has a choice on coming back…

And he makes that choice

But he does play dead for a few more pages in order to carry the plot along.

And finally, when the story ends, there are so many loose ends.  What happens to the innocents in Azkaban or the Death Eaters who survive the battle?  What about the restoration of the Ministry or the closure for the fallen heroes and/or their orphans?

Friends have told me that in order to wrap these questions up would take another 500 pages… I’m not so sure.  Rowling was able to wrap it up 19 years in less than 20 pages.  Seems to me that those pages could’ve been better spent talking about how things got back to normal rather than a send-off to Hogwarts.

When all is said and done, I guess I have that same waivering feeling Rowling had writing it.  I liked reading the book but hate discussing it.  It was pretty good… but also pretty bad.

May 24, 2007

American Idol Finale…

Filed under: music,Reviews,TV Time — Tyler Rousseau @ 1:50 pm

First off, congratulations to Jordin Sparks.  You got the name, the look and now the title.  Since you have all those now… can I have the Mustang?

I’m just sorry that your award night wasn’t half as good as the previous year.

It was a night of ballads and social conscience.  Now, I can appreciate the feeling of a ballad, in fact, I have to say that each performance was pretty good.  The problem was with that they had too many of them and it set kind of a somber, low key mood for the night.   And that is largely what the night was.  Even Green Day, who I love, went with an undanceable and moody song.

Greenie, be political, be stirring, be thought provoking… but at an awards show with just one song to impress, choose one that will rock their socks off, not soemthing that mellows them back into the seats!

Last year’s finale was more of a good times celebration doused with high, high energy.  Even the ballad queen, Kathryn Mcphee did a pace-changing rock ballad with Meat Loaf.  Really, the only two things I can think of for last night was Blake’s duo with Doug E. Fresh (which was awesome) and the premiere of Taylor Hicks’ new song.  I can’t remember the name of it but it’s kind of like that other song he released.

I’m glad that it seemed everyone at the Kodak enjoyed their time but it was a bit unwatchable from home.  After forty minutes I treated the night like any of the other results shows, I started surfing channels to see what else would entertain me until the official results were announced.

Other than that… Joe Perry, you rock.  You have an open invite to my house whenever you’re in town and want to jam.

May 15, 2007

Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks

Filed under: Graphic Novels,Reviews,Teens — Tyler Rousseau @ 8:54 pm

Geoff is a salmon.

Geoff worries way too much.

Why was he born?

Why do we die?

Why is it so easy for everyone else to meet girls but so hard for him?

Why is it so important to be part of a group?

This graphic novel is far less about plot than it is about the angst which we all go through when examining our lives.  Geoff represents the introspective person who pays attention but just never seems to understand what is happening.  He’s always looking around to see why everyone seems to be in such a hurry to get back where they came from.  He is always worried about whether he’ll meet a girl and spawn.  And in the end, why is any of this such a big deal in the first place.

If a library or school wants to start a book discussion group with a graphic novel, this is a great one to go with as it is easy to justify the message. 

May 14, 2007

Pandora helps you find new music

Filed under: Internet,music,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 8:46 pm

Although I do have a fairly respectable (read as: large) collection of music I am always on the watch for something new. The problem is that I tend to waste a lot of money on bands that “sound like” my favorites, only to find out $18 and an hour later, they really aren’t something I wanted to spend my money on.

Thanks to Pandora, that is changing.

Pandora is the fruition of the Music Genome Project. Each song entered into the site is subject to classification through genre, decade, musical composition, harmonies, keys, progression and much more. The result is when you put in a favorite song or artist in the search box, Pandora creates a station compiled with artists who closely resemble many of your favorite band’s qualities.

Furthermore, the station is always working towards making the ideal listening station for the listener. Each song can be given a thumbs up or down. Thumbs up will be used to first compare the qualities of your favorite band and your new song and then target even closer to bands of similar sounds. If you give a song a thumbs down, the station will skip past the song and never play it on that station again.

The result is quite impressive. I have five stations that are based off of my favorite rock with punk influence and, because of the thumbs up and down options, each one sounds different from the other. Now, I have several new bands to follow:

Pansy Division- Tired of being ostracized for being gay, John Ginoli and Chris Freeman created a gay-friendly punk band with unabashed lyrics and a good sense of humor.
Sanctus Real- A Christian rock band willing to break its contract with major labels in order to play songs they love.
Augustana- Young band rising on the charts and it’s no wonder. As they describe their own album, “its a young and scared record…and it’s real and from our hearts… “

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