Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids by Meghan Daum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Daum edits this collection of sixteen writers as they discuss the topic of being childfree. I've talked before on this blog about my decision to be childfree and other books within this realm. I liked the diversity of takes in Daum's anthology. Some, I really connected with, others I felt were annoying, and some gave me new ways of thinking about being childfree. I appreciate this mix and it does include three males writing on the subject. Again, I would prefer some of these works to be more balanced because in part, I think the male's voice about being childfree is equally useful to be heard and contribute to the conversation. Regardless, I'm happy with the selections as they provide a diverse range of thinking about what it means to be childfree and how people happily live their lives.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Short Story #395: The Half-wit of Zeenemuende by Josef Nesvadba

Title: The Half-wit of Zeenemuende 

Author:  Josef Nesvadba

Summary:

Book cover of Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction by Brian Aldiss
The story introduces us to Bruno, a boy believed to be a half-wit, but one born to a family that could hire a governess to care for him.  One night, the governess's house is struck by a bomb by the Allied bombers, which was strange because there were no other house struck and the house did not seem particularly strategic but the governess was killed.  A new teacher is hired to work with Bruno and he is told that the boy is excellent with numbers though largely difficult to engage with otherwise.  Shortly into his work, the teacher watches Bruno fighting a gang of younger kids when a nearby butcher throws him into the next yard.  That night the butcher's shop is also bombed.  The teacher was warned that Bruno has his own private study where he likes to go but doesn't like others to visit.  Inevitably, the teacher decides to visit this room. He finds Bruno involved in torturing a small animal and is overall suspecious about what he sees in the lab.  He leaves and goes to the father to try to explain what he anticipates and decides not to go home that night.  That night, the teacher watches a small ballistic leave Bruno's room and hit where he lives.  At this point, the teacher and the father go to the local commander, where it is explained that Bruno must have gotten hold of some of the plans that the father, an engineer, was working on for the military.  The Major is excited, believing that the boy has managed a breakthrough that no one else has and looks to use him for the war.  He goes to Bruno and demands he explains what happens and even threatens him, but the boy does nothing.  That night, the boy bombs the Town Hall where the Major is staying, but the Major happened to be in the barracks.  He heads right to Bruno's house and shoots him in the head because he would not cooperate.  It's at this point that a hail of missiles strike the town, killing everyone in the house.

Reflection

This story haunted me in some ways.  Bruno's story seemed to be a backdrop to the other things going on as the story is clearly set in World War II.  One passage that lingers is when we are told what happened to the teacher:  

"These words decided the elderly teacher's fate.  He had unwittingly stumbled on a secret - the nature of what was being produced in the underground factory.  And then, the engineer's son was now more valuable to the authorities than the man who had informed on him.  The teacher disappeared into a concentration camp.  That was what saved his life in the end."

That paragraph is just dropped into the story and we are meant to imagine how the concentration camp could be a saving grace as opposed to a death sentence.  Coupled with this is an interesting damning statement about the nature of the Germans warfare tactics made by the mother after she witnesses the Major kill her.  

Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction.  Edited by Brian Aldiss and Sam J. Lundall.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Image of the Week #30: "The Passing of Race Prejudice"

The Wellesley News (03-20-1919)

What Is It

An article  from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

I can appreciate the hope and sentiment of this piece, but a hundred years later and several genocides, apartheid, and other such atrocities make me think the author was a bit too generous in how long this process this would take.  It is interesting to see this sentiment so early in the 20th century though:  "The old idea that we must superimpose our Western civilization on the peoples of India and China is fast being defeated." However, it seems to me that the final line, "The power of a great emotion, and that emotion the love of God in Jesus Christ, can alone accomplish the miracle." gives away the game.  First, it calls upon a miracle, rather than people to do the hard work.  Second, by enshrining this goal of defusing racial prejudice (solely focused on the "East"--nevermind internally) in Christianity, it clearly ignores the religious differences intertwined in the many different cultures of the "East." 

This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male

Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male by Andrew P. Smiler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boys don't have to be "boys" but we sure want them to think so. Overall, I appreciate Smiler's effort to delegitimize male culture that emphasizes and trains men to be "Casanovas" (promiscuous and disregardful of women). He hits upon several points that correspond to my own experience while also leading down some roads I had not thought of. There are some places here he comes up short (e.g. he argues that the male as "player" only really began to be celebrated in the 1960s and beyond--but ignores characters like Costello who was a player regularly celebrated within the Abbott and Costello show).

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: Fables, Vol. 22: Farewell

Fables, Vol. 22: Farewell Fables, Vol. 22: Farewell by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Bill Willingham--I know all things must end, but did you have to end Fables. For over a decade, it has been my favorite graphic novel series. Since I first read the firs trade, I have avidly followed the series, including the spin-off series (Jack of Fables, Literals, Fairest, Cinderella,), the book (Pete and Max), and even the crossovers (The Unwritten). You created an amazing universe that was both intimately known and perversely foreign and made me (and so many others) fall in love with your renderings of characters, places, and events. I know I am likely to re-read Fables several times over the span of my life, returning to a series that played with fiction in some many fantastic ways, I could teach a variety of different courses around the series. Thank you for this ending...but also, damn you!

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Short Story #394: The Tree by H. P. Lovecraft

Title: The Tree

Author:  H. P. Lovecraft

Summary:

Book cover to H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Collection with Accompanying Facts from Red Skull Publishing
The story begins with identifying a strange olive tree and tomb that sits upon Mount Maenalus in Arcadia that seems strange.  The effect of this tree and tomb causes many people to avoid the place and rumor tells that it is a regularly visited by Pan.  The narrator then delves into its history.  It started with two sculptors, Kalos and Musides, who were known throughout for their amazing work and enduring friendship. Eventually, the Tyrant of Syracuse enlists both of them to create an inspiring statue for him.  Since the two were not competitive they relied upon one another to inform and shape their work.  However, Musides soon becomes depressed and it is revealed that his depression is because Kalos was ill.  Kalos's illness continues and Musides is continually distracted and tries to give comfort.  As he gets weaker, he requests to be brought to the olive grove to be left alone.  This is disheartening to Musides but he still helps in getting him there.  As his demise approaches, he requests that the twigs of the olive tree in this particular grove be planted near his head when he dies.  Musides does exactly that and also creates a beautiful statue alongside his grave.  With the tragedy passed, Musides returns to the sculpture for the Tyrant and focuses all of his emotions upon it.  A few years pass and a fully-fledged olive tree has grown out of the twigs.  He finishes the statue and requests for the Tyrant to come and take it.  However, the night before the arrival, a hard storm wreaks havoc and eventually destroyed the hall wherein Musides had worked, though it seems more like the strange olive tree growing out of Kalos's grave did most of the damage.  Musides had entirely disappeared.  With the statue destroyed, people leave and largely avoid the area from then on.

Reflection

It seems like this was an attempt at myth by Lovecraft.  It feels more like myth-making than horror.  Placing it in Greece and in ancient times certain helps as does the reference to Pan, but the structure of the story seems to be missing something--such as what drove the illness of Kalos and what happened to Musides.  It seems like he's trying to tell a story of the old days in the method of old folklore but it doesn't seem to carry through. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Image of the Week #29: The College Bookstore, 1910s edition

The Wellesley News (04-04-1918)

What Is It

An article from the Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, from the late 1910s. 


Why I Find It Interesting

A student lamenting about the costs of books in the college bookstore?  No way! 100 years later and we are still troubled by the exorbitant prices of the college bookstore.  Again, things change and yet they don't.  Interestingly, the bookstore also ran rental programs which is something else done now, though I'm not even sure they are at half-prices anymore.  It makes me think what will the commentary about bookstores 100 years from now. 


This submission is part of the Image of the Week series.  For access to all photos, which are open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, July 15, 2016

June's Gratitude

June is a crazy month.  Work is busy and it was that way before I had to take nearly 3 weeks off to do courses for my PhD.  So it can get quite stressful and yet, I maintained my gratitude practice throughout the month, which helped center me at times as the stress ebbed and flowed.  

June's Thankful Blog Word Cloud
Taking time each day to acknowledge the big and small elements of my life has proved quite useful as a calming device and to lessen stress.  It helps me to situate the good and marvelous while de-emphasize that which is looming.  It can also turn that which is stressful into something positive.  For instance, I am clearly stressed with reading and course work during June but by pausing and reflecting on it, I am also thankful to be in a doctoral program where I have the opportunity (really, the luxury) to engage in intellectual acrobatics about the nature of higher education.  As my mind comes to that realization, it makes the stress of trying to get everything done for the class a bit less daunting.  

So I have been practicing daily gratitude for six months and weekly thank-you notes for about four months.  I don't know that I've seen much change (though I'm not necessarily looking for change, but just seeing if I register any difference) but I do find it brings me joy and helps me to keep life in perspective.  I'd like to think I can keep things in reasonable perspective, but I think we all believe that about ourselves (just like we're all above average), so helping to center myself in regards to the great things that are present in my life certainly helps.  

For those interesting in seeing what else I've been reflecting on when it comes to gratitude, here's a look:




Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: 50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know

50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know 50 Digital Ideas You Really Need to Know by Tom Chatfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chatfield's book is a purely distilled text of the major ideas and elements of digital media one would need to know or might want a bit more clarity on. Chatfield lays out clear yet sufficiently complex ideas so that this feels less like a "Just for Dummies" book and more like an adult introduction. This works well because for neophyte and professional alike, there is apt to be plenty to learn (or just better contextualize). Again, one of those texts that should be an essential for any digital native or immigrant.

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this letter from a father to his son, Coates tries to explain the different world of racism that exists today than when he was growing up. It's a complicated but well-worded communication that captures the nuances of the past and the present and what it means to be black in American. Coates draws out the challenges that he faced and how his son must face challenges that echo but are different from his and he wonders just what it means to be a second generation college-educated African American in a country where there is an African American president as well as numerous reports of indiscriminate violence upon blacks by people in positions of power. It is heart-wrenching, eloquent, and powerful--reading is a must for this one!

View all my reviews


Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.