Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories

Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beaumont is a fantastic teller of tales and many may already be familiar with him. A good chunk of his short stories eventually ended up as episodes on The Twilight Zone. This collection is filled with a great mixture of stories, many of which invoke the strange and quirkiness of the show. It's a well-chosen collection with something for everyone and many stories carrying a level of timelessness that makes them perfect. His focus is to entertain, not to be literary, yet an occasional tale achieves both. In many ways, this collection feels reminiscent of a contemporary of his, Richard Matheson. If you want a solid anthology to provoke your imagination, you can't go wrong with this one. Also, if you have the chance, opt for the audiobook; it's a rock-solid production.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - November 2016

Despite it being a busy month with classes and work, I impressed myself with reading two physical books this month, on top of the usual audiobooks and graphic novels.  I won't ramble too much about my reading since my time is short and I'd rather talk about some of the great books this month.    

Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland

Advice from a Wild Deuce Book Coveropenly admit that I am biased in reviewing this book because I am close with the actual author (spoiler alert—Tiggy Upland is a pseudonym!).  Regardless, I found this book to be a fantastic dialogue on the subject of understanding bisexuality (my own, and others).  Upland pulls together the best questions from her advice column to provide a panoramic view of what it means to be a bisexual in the United States in the 21st century.  She’s great at taking on personal questions and drawing out the nuance issues present and parsing out specific advice to the person while also connecting the question to the larger tapestry of navigating bisexuality in a culture that still doesn’t appreciate or provide much room for it.  What’s more is that Upland’s tone is bemusing, sagely, and engaging.  She’s capable of calling out self-deceit in a way that doesn’t turn the reader away but rather endears them to her and to the letter-writer. Beyond the question and answer format that permeates much of the book, Upland includes various asides, resources, and even photo-comics that add more nuggets of wisdom.  For those looking to understand the complexity of bisexuality for personal or professional reasons, this book is a great resource. 



American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard

Woodard provides a fascinating framework for understanding the differences in the United States between those who lean towards more collectivist approaches to society and those that believe in more individualistic approaches.  Building off his previous work, rather than provide a simple divide of socialist vs. libertarians, he articulates the presence of eleven "nations" within the United States that represent different historical-cultural origins and occupy different geographical spaces in the country.  From there, he delves into the history of the country and illustrates how different alignments of the nations resulted in the swaying of the country between its more collectivist and individualistic modes of governmental involvement.  It's a fascinating book that highlights the often-complex ways in which different people align and dissent from the different political groups in the country (and why so many people identify as "independent").  It will be interesting to see how much this work is used to better understand and address current politics.   

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)



BOOKS

  • Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland
  • Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock


AUDIOBOOKS

  • The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Prose Novel by Paul Crilley
  • A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
  • Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene
  • American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard
  • Filthy Rich by James Patterson
  • The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
  • The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel Siegel  


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood
  • Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola
  • Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause
  • Rackham's Color Illustrations for Wagner's "Ring" by Arthur Rackham
  • The Arthur Rackham Treasury: 86 Full-Color Illustrations by Arthur Rackham


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?


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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Furious Cool was a fascinating look into the life of Richard Pryor. I was somewhat familiar with his comedy and more familiar with him as an actor in a handful of movies I watched when growing up (e.g. See No Evil, Hear No Evil). However, the Henry brothers provide a rich history around Richard Pryor that marks him as one the best comics along with George Carlin. What I found most fascinating is how they are able to contextualize Pryor's work within the broader range of African American entertainment of the 1960s and 1970s and also mainstream culture while also being able to speak to the effects of his personal life around love and drugs that also filtered into his performances. The book is powerful enough that it is leading me to go back and watch some of the older Richard Pryor performances to see exactly what they were referring. What made the book equally chilling and fascinating was that I listened to it. It was narrated by Dion Graham who did some great impersonations of Pryor while also (as always) provided a strong narrative voice to keep me engaged.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most important statement I can say about this book is that every student should read this book in their freshmen or sophomore year of high school--yes, high school. Bruni's exploration into 3-Card Monte structure that is higher education when it comes to seducing students should be understood by all students as it has many long-term implications for them. Throughout the book, Bruni systematically breaks down the traditional mindset to aspire to elite colleges, noting how success in getting into them and success as a result of attending them is drastically overrated and over-played. He highlights a range of approaches and strategies that students should use to determine what form of higher education is best for them.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The PhD Chronicles #11: Zeroing in on Research

Research, the centerpiece of work in graduate work is always a tricky beast.  Ideally, it should be a time in which students are able to focus solely on their topic, find meaningful and relevant literature to inform their approach, process it, conduct field research (if possible or relevant), and pull it altogether into a meaningful product known wide and far as the "term paper."  But alas, that's pretty much how it never goes. 

Papers are always composed in media res of the semester while we are busy with trying to keep up with the course work, keep up with our own work, and have some semblance of a life.  Like Facebook says our relationship with research is complicated.  But we press on.  In a well-designed course, the professor is likely to be a useful and ongoing guide in our research, providing a few opportunities to check in, provide feedback, and when necessar, course correct.  Other times, we're tossed to the wolves, praying we come through with something coherent.  

I don't feel like I'm in that latter category this semester.  I feel supported in both research papers, though trying to figure them out, devout enough time, and make it all look pretty for submission is still a Sisyphean task.  But that is, indeed, the name of the game.  

So what am I researching this semester?

In my Access & Equity course, I am exploring the issue of the digital divide and its impact on higher education.  As colleges continue to develop their digital presence in the form of online registration, library resources, course resources in the learning management system, online and hybrid courses, etc, what risks does this pose for students stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.  This paper is an annotated bibliography of the research out there and there is mixed research out there which is both useful and challenging.  Thus far, the most interesting element that I am appreciating is the distinction within the literature between access and ability.  The term "technocapital" has shown up a few times as a comparison to social or cultural capital.  In this way, technocapital is not just access to technologies, but the ability for one to leverage said technologies for beneficial outcomes.  

All of this came together pretty easy.  However, my project for the History of Higher Education was a bit more complicated.  I wanted to explore the history of the textbook in higher education but after a month of footnote and paper-chasing, I realized it is not likely the best to pursue right now as I wouldn't be able to complete it in this semester.  So, enter the:

Paper title of Wellesley College News 1-10-1918


At the same time I was coming to this conclusion, we did an activity in our class where we looked at different editions of the Wellesley College News over the decades and observed interesting differences.  This encouraged me to think about looking at this particular collection (since it is available in full at this site) and I decided to explore this college newspaper written during 1918-1920 and see what the impact of World War I and women's suffrage is upon the college newspaper.  I rather like this idea as I feel it could yield some interesting results.  It's not quite the turn I anticipated but I am excited to pursue it and see where it takes me.

In that regard, I like how research happens.  You sometimes have specific expectations and goals to accomplish and that can be derailed, which gives way to something new.  I've found the papers thus far in this program to be quite useful at getting me to think differently.  That is, they are learning experiences in themselves more than papers have been in some of my previous degrees.  Well, back to work for me!
Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education

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Monday, November 28, 2016

We Can Do Better; I Can Do Better

So where am I with all this?

The swirling hurt, disappointment, and rage still swirls deeply in my soul.  I knew it was possible, but just like cancer and death, it is not something I conceive of happening until it's too late.  I had hoped the country would not go down the path toward a Trump presidency in the weeks since his election, I'm more scared for this country's future and in particular, those made more vulnerable by his hateful rhetoric.  At the time of composing this post, the count was at over 700 reports of harassment

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb

And I'm mad at a lot of things, people and places--all the forces the colluded to make this election the barely-conceived win that it became--not for Republicans so much but how much the messages of Trump's campaign mixed together a message of hope that was deeply seeded in hatred, anger, fear and frustration.  I get and want change in our government like so many others;   I get and want change in our politics like so many others; I get and want a better future for myself and my loved ones like so many others.  But in the messages and plans that I came across on behalf of this candidate, they were dead-ends to me because so many of them were based on dispossessing others of their rights, freedoms, and opportunities or lacking any substantive means of execution.


Like many others, I am pained by the idea that people chose fear and anger and in some way, were comfortable with disregarding the rights of people like myself and others.  But I don't want to blatantly categorize people.  They are not Trump, though their choices do reflect or feed into and validate the hate and vitriol that has emerged from the white supremacists to the degree that some white supremacists are being offered up as Cabinet members.  For me, calling people who voted for Trump racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc is just too easy.  It lets me off the hook from understanding and humanizing them.  It reminds me of how I used to talk about zombies when I taught about monsters.  Zombies are great enemies--because you can easily kill them without remorse; their humanity is gone.  You don't have to empathize with a zombie, but I need to empathize with the folks who voted for Trump--because we're all still here and in the days to come, we may likely need each other much more than we all realize.


I'm concerned that being on the left-leaning spectrum, we fumbled it a lot in how we related (or failed to relate) to those that chose to vote for him.  We shared ridiculous memes, we made simplistic and often passive-aggressive ultimatums (e.g. "if you are voting for Trump, just defriend me"),  we made assumptions about the typical "Trump supporter" (we collectively decided they were "uneducated"--a term I loathe for all its elitism), we villainized him and his followers.  We did that which we are supposedly not supposed to do; we marginalized.  I get that many did so because so much of what Trump says and speaks to was marginalizing.  We denied them the complexity and contradictions that we often grant ourselves.  But how do we get out of that cycle?  How do we fight hate in a way that doesn't look exactly like what we're fighting against?  We must be as nuanced and respectful of the variations within the people that believe what happened on November 8th was a good thing as we are with ourselves.  If we fail to do that, we fail ourselves.


I use the collective "we" within this post and yet I know not everyone of "us" did all of these things; but they were prevalent enough in our actions, commentaries, and media that we are complicit (or relationally as complicit as we have judged Trump supporter in the negative aspects that he embraces).  But in reality, so much of what I write here were things I grappled with prior to or directly after the election (hard to parse things out as this election riled up so much in all of us).  So this is more about me and what I'm trying to take and encourage others to consider about what has happened.   


I also am writing this from my own position of privilege as a white, middle-class, perceived-as-heterosexual male and I'm strongly aware of this, which is why I emphasize that what I say next is geared towards other white folks--folks who are rooted invested in social justice, equality, equity, and fairness in our society for one and all.  I say this to others whites because it is our responsibility to engage in the race politics of whiteness, race-baiting, and embedded within that, class. It's not enough to sit within our enclaves of privilege, diversity, or complexity, and then judge (often on stereotypes) and deny the complexity of those who voted different from us.  And to be clear, I am not saying that we are all doing this or saying this, but that these ideas are present in our discussions and are part of what leads to our inability to help other white people understand or appreciate the stacked decks that our culture is playing with.   

For white folks like me, we work hard to recognize and understand intersectionality and complexity in the lives of non-white folks as we should, I believe, given the systematic inequality that exists and is woven into the fabric of our culture and laws.  But even in doing so, we can't forget and also work to recognize and address the intersectionality and complexity of whites who live in working class and impoverished conditions that lack access to things--particular to post-secondary education and training.  I grew increasingly frustrated to hear these groups talked about as "uneducated"--a term that in the constructs of our culture and education system, says a million different things; it's not a neutral term but one that implies a lack of intelligence.  For all the left can get right about respectful language, calling large swaths of people "uneducated" and using their voting choice as proof positive of it, just seems like a non-starter. We failed to engage and listen and learn--which isn't entirely surprising given that this is a credo directed toward white allies pretty regularly. We need to understand and when possible ally with them on common grounds of things that are important to all of us (and there are far more things that are likely to be important to all of us than not--after all, many people are suffering under the current system of politics).   

Beyond talking around and about these people, we need to find ways of better talking with them.  I saw too often people that attempted to disavow those friends who were Trump supporters and offered up ultimatums to disengage with us if they believed something different from us.  That is the epitome of intolerance and in this case, I saw many of us use it inappropriately.  The general disclaimer to defriend if someone supports Trump isn't meeting intolerance with intolerance; it's assuming what the Trump supporter believes and minimalizing the complexity of beliefs of another person (something the left strongly advocates against); it is stereotyping and refusing to engage with people that are different.  It's refusing to understand why or having the hard conversations to trace of the nuance of their position.  Not everyone did this, but how many of us actually tried to understand and parse out the nuance of a given Trump supporter.  Instead, we embraced our echo-chambers, which told us of the extreme and problematic things he was doing (often in overexaggerated tones that we accused the right-wing "news" sites of doing--Mother Jones, I'm looking at you and your ridiculous click-bait), which allowed us to believe the worse in Trump and his supporters, while not recognizing the most important things that we actually agree on.    


I feel like as white people, we need to better communicate the importance of equality, equity, and fairness for all people in this country (and the world for that matter--but hey, baby steps)  to other white folks and to understand that when we address those things, we improve everyone's lives.  Moving forward, I feel like we need to change and do this differently.  We need to work hard to bridge efforts; we need to think differently about conversations we have with those we suppose, present, or assume to be the "enemy" or representations of those things we dislike, fear, or take issue with.  

I've started with trying to figure out how to go forward and then moved into rethinking how I do social media.  This post has helped me to flesh out what are some of the things that I am challenged by what myself and other white social justice folks have been doing in the last few months.  In future posts, I'm hoping to more concretely find actions that put in contact and collaboration with people that hold different views from me in order to better connect and relate and maybe, for us to at least understand and respect each other more in a way that this previous election seemed to fail to do.  

So that's where I'm at...how about you?


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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830

With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830 With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture Since 1830 by LeRoy Ashby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ashby's mammoth text (700 pages long; 33+ hours of listening on audiobook) was a fascinating and excellent discussing of popular culture that was great in terms of timing as I listening to it just as I was revising my online Popular Culture in the US course (You can see the course preview here or the course playlist here). Ashby covers a whole lot of content, arenas of popular culture, and events within popular culture. But equally important, he ties it together well as he drifts in each chapter from sports to reading to radio to television to other arenas. In reading it, you get a much fuller sense of mesh of intersections within popular culture while also a framework for understanding how it connects to the culture at large and history. Now, I just need to find a way to integrate the book within my own course.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives

Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives by Howard J. Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like this is a book I need to read at least once a year because as much as I agree, understand, and deeply appreciate its message, I also know it's horribly easy to ignore. The message is that we--all of us--you, me, the author, and everyone--are innately biased in ways that are not clear to us. Unfortunately, many of these biases are arbitrary and many of them may incline us to think and act in ways that are against our actual beliefs. Ross traces the many different ways in which we are blind to our biases and the various ways we succumb to our biases. He also illustrates ways of overcoming some of our biases some of the time but makes clear it's probably impossible (and probably for the best) to overcome all of our biases all of the time. Rather, the goal is to reduce it in places and situations where it undermines our sense of fairness and equality. Ross comes from this with a nonjudgmental tone and works hard to help the reader understand that the bias itself is not an indicator of guilt or blame, but rather something that exists beyond our rational minds.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 20, 2016 at 06:49PM


Why is he so petty and who finds that appealing? #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #cats #catsofinstagram
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Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Daily StickMan Adventures - November 19, 2016 at 06:33PM


An increased in hate crimes, offering up a "registry"...all part of the 8 steps. #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #CatLife #catstagram #catsofinstagram #Cats

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