The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 31, 2016 at 08:49PM


He has a lot to say about the subject. #DailyStickMan #SilenceIsGolden

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 30, 2016 at 08:41PM


Well, that's a statement... #DailyStickMan #BackwardsForwards

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The PhD Chronicles: The Existential Crisis of the Week

Well, many readers are familiar with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the running criticism of the first season or two that wherein they encountered the "monster of the week."  Each week, the episode started with the appearance of a monster and somehow, Buffy and friends were dragged into the mix and were able to resolve the issue all within forty-two minutes of jokes, mayhem, and gumption.  Formulaic and to some degree boring.  Smallville and Supernatural also suffered from this in their early seasons before an ongoing and engaging plot could be developed that more strongly connected each episode into a larger arc.  


Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 Title Shot
Yes, Buffy & a PhD program have things in common.
I think this makes an apt metaphor for my experience with my PhD program right now and I would imagine the same for others in the program.  As we reach the mid-point in the first semester wherein we meet weekly, I'm flummoxed with how often I raise the question of why.  Why am I in this program?  Why do I think I can have a positive impact on this structure?  Why do the same things keep happening in higher education?  Why does it seem like the negative influences on higher education are the equivalents of Big Bads (the term used in such shows that the protagonists must ultimately face at the end of each season).    

I think a lot of it has to do with the two courses we are taking right now:  The History of Higher Education and Access & Equity in Higher Education.  They compliment each other quite well and while that is a good thing, it still can feel a bit daunting.  Access & Equity raises questions about whether we can have legitimate access if we don't have equity.  The course goes about showing how a lack of equity systematically instilled throughout higher education does severely limit access--even in (or especially in) institutes that we consider open-access institutes (e.g. community colleges).  Then in The History of Higher Education course, we are discovering the roots of higher education, the ongoing battles and the regular exclusionary practices throughout its history.  Together, they show that despite efforts and improvements in higher education, there are still significant (and purposeful) barriers to prevent students--especially vulnerable students--from succeeding.  

So as someone vested in the idea that higher education should be accessible and equitable and working at an institute (a community college) where that is part of its mission, I find myself in a challenging place.  Or rather, on some weeks, that's my existential challenge to keep going forward.  There's hope that the increasing movement towards free community college will take hold over the ensuing years, but I remain skeptical about that as a possibility.  That's not a panacea by any means and it leaves me wondering if hurdles to four year institutes will be made more challenging as a result.  

Other weeks, my question to be or stay in the program comes from the impostor syndrome.  Being second fiddle is certainly something I've struggled with throughout life, but in academia as an adjunct for a decade and now as an instructional designer, I certainly feel or am told directly and indirectly that I am inadequate compared to the "real faculty" (and like terms that I've heard people use, often unaware of my presence).  And the idea that I am doing a PhD program, which is likely to lead to an administrative role and to hear and know how much scorn is directed towards them also leaves me questioning my decision.  It can feel like I'm vested in higher education and the teaching and learning that go on, but that in all the work that I do, I'm still likely to be disregarded.  

There's also the challenge of realizing that higher education's continual shift towards consumer product and the increasing ways that academic capitalism undermines teaching and learning.  Whether it's students paying $1200 a year for textbooks or a food-company contract that keeps facutly or staff from ordering significantly cheaper and better-quality refreshments from anywhere else, it all feels like further attempts to undermine the system than to empower it.  And it seems unlikely that this is going away, rather it is only revving up.  
There are other things that make me wonder about being in the program.  Though like Buffy, one major component that keeps me fighting is my team.  My cohort, for lack of creative expression, is awesome and that makes a world of difference.  But I also have a sense that this time of soul-searching is part of the process.  That it may always be there but as it comes together, there is less and less concern about it.  Just like Whedon slowly was building towards something bigger and better, I believe too that I will end up in this new space--not just bouncing from crisis to crisis.  I've got to struggle through (just like Buffy) these early seasons to get the experience and disorientation under my belt so that I'll actually be ready for the Big Bads as they come along later.  

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

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 29, 2016 at 05:28PM


Has enough time passed? #DailyStickMan #TooSoon #Spoilers #Alf #GordonShumway

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 29, 2016 at 08:48AM


He might need some help... #DailyStickMan #RoadRage #RoadRabbies

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 28, 2016 at 10:13AM


What happens in #Salem.... #DailyStickMan #Halloween

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 27, 2016 at 05:12PM


Who asked ya? #DailyStickMan #jelly #marshmellow

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Review: Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many people recognize the name Jonathan Swift and some of us probably suffered through his “A Modest Proposal” at one point in our education. I say “suffer” mostly in jest because I know that’s what I did when I first came across him; mostly because he was mandatory reading and my engagement with reading was quite different then. I go back now and can certainly appreciate “A Modest Proposal” (and one can even find an a free reading at Librivox). So when Gulliver’s Travels came into my hands, I decided I should read it and found it rewarding. Here’s a book written just under 300 years ago and I was impressed how accessible it truly is. It’s not a fantastic story by any means; after all, there’s very little dialogue and some chapters can be rather drab, but on the whole, I could appreciate Swift’s criticism of humanity and society.

Gulliver’s Travel is the account of a ship doctor and his four escapades into uncharted lands, each with their own unique attributes that Gulliver records. In the land of Lilliput, Gulliver is a giant among small 6-inch humans while in the land of Brobdingnag, he is as small to the natives as the Lilliputians were to him. He visits the floating island of Laputa and finishes his travels in the land of Houyhnhnms, an intelligent and utopian race of horses who eventually banish him from their society. On its face value, it’s an enjoyable story as readers learn about the different societies and how they exist, their customs, government, rituals, and beliefs. Of course, Swift wrote this as a political satire of the modern world of the early 1700s and the different European states. And a good version of this book will inform of you things that today’s common reader might not intuitively know as Swift’s contemporaries might. Still, it’s an enjoyable read because his discussions of ethnocentrism and cultural elitism still permeate in our world today. Every society fosters some belief that theirs is the superior way of life.

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Review: Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature

Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature Singers and Tales: Oral Tradition and the Roots of Literature by Michael D.C. Drout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of Drout's work. This is his 8th or so Modern Scholar production and he's just a joy to listen to. He's always excited and engaged with the course he is presenting and he has many different asides that make it feel like each lecture is a conversation. This lecture series brings a lot of insight into oral tradition, what we assume about it, what it really is, and how it is different from and informs the written tradition. What's great about Drout is that he covers a good range of literature and does his best to go beyond his own comfort zone of training to explore non-Western traditions of oral tradition.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 22, 2016 at 03:47PM



I think he's onto something...maybe on something #DailyStickMan #IllHaveWhatHesHaving #ItTakesAllKinds

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 21, 2016 at 05:00PM



Well, we all have our own styles... #DailyStickMan #Plasticware #TheFinerThings

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 20, 2016 at 05:22PM


There's no accounting for taste. #DailyStickMan #Tunafish #MapleSyrup #ew

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Review: Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods

Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story focuses on a boy named Gus who has lived in a forest with his parents for his entire life, believing that to go out of the woods would be dangerous (and I did enjoy this irony that the woods is the place of safety and to leave is to invoke horrible events). Gus is one of the few children who have been born since some apocalyptic event and has been imbued with antlers and other animal hybrid features. After his father’s death, he finds himself being hunted but quickly rescued by an old gruff man who promises to take him to a place of protection for children like himself. Scared and uncertain, Gus follows and steps into the rest of the world.

It’s pretty standard post-apocalyptic fair thus far with at least one good (albeit somewhat predictable twist), but as I’ve said before, Lemire still has the power to tell a good comic story through drawing. He does extremely well with subtle panels that often need re-viewing and facial experiences that convey a surprising range of emotion despite often being fully detailed. In large part because of these tools, it makes reading his piece rather delightful because it draws out the story in ways that many artists/authors can’t always do. The facial expressions are ones you can set your eyes to and slowly study for meaning.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 19, 2016 at 08:02PM



I mean, we all need goals, right? #DailyStickMan #CreamCheese #Goals

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Review: Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Benforado explores the criminal justice system from the vantage point of what modern science has shown us about the human nature and contrasts that sharply with a criminal justice system that was formed out at a time when there was very little scientific evidence for its assumptions (the 18th and 19th century). His ongoing commentary is that 1000 years from now, people will our sense of justice as archaic as we now judge how justice was dealt with 1000 years ago. Though we have our beliefs that are grounded in "common sense", they are rarely grounded in what scientific evidence has showed us. Therefore, Benforado moves through each aspect of the criminal justice system from identifying (or mis-identifying) perpetrators to arrest investigations to the courtroom and to the prison system, showing the systematic failures of the who process. It's an essential reading for anyone looking to learn more about the criminal justice system in the modern United States.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 18, 2016 at 05:23PM



He clearly had to get that off his chest. #DailyStickMan #Blarp #ramblings

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 16, 2016 at 08:17PM



I can't even fathom what I'm looking at... #DailyStickMan #Zesty #SayWhat

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 15, 2016 at 05:02PM



Wait...what? I can't even... #DailyStickMan #HeSaidWhat #Issues

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 14, 2016 at 05:47PM



Well...that's about 26 years too late #DailyStickMan #MCHammer #CantTouchThis 
#ButReally #WhoWantsTo?

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September's Gratitude

The daily practice of starting my day with what I am grateful for is powerful.  It gives me a chance to think about the big and the small things that are true joys and the things that I sometimes never realized I should be thankful for or acknowledge.  And it has lead me into thinking about ways of being grateful that I had never thought of before.  
Word cloud of this month's gratitude.

It seems that each month as I progress with this project, I find another way of expressing or thinking about being grateful.  This month, after reading Kate Harding's Asking For It, I was so moved by the book that I felt compelled to find her online and thank her for her willingness and ability to write such a book.  That of course triggered another thought of how rarely I do this and yet how many authors have enriched my life with their words.  With that in mind, I think I will likely make an effort to reach out and thank authors as I complete their works and to let them know that their words have impacted my life.  

I remember the first two authors that I did this with, decades ago:  Sara Douglass and Terry Goodkind.  I don't know what inspired me to write to Terry Goodkind, nor do I remember how I ended up writing to him (not sure I had his address), but with Douglass, I contacted her online to gush about how much I loved her novel, BattleAxe.  Their correspondence has long since been lost but that connection and their expression of warmth upon receiving such excited words from a teenager was a pretty meaningful experience to a blossoming avid reader.  I think about the thousands of books read between then and now and realize how much I have missed an opportunity to do something that is long overdue: thank people in my life whom I may have never met but have left an indelible mark on my life.  So, for the rest of the year as I finished books by authors who are still alive, I intend to send them thank you notes.  

What else have I been contemplating about gratitude this year, take a look at my previous posts:  

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 13, 2016 at 08:43PM



Does that include the name Robert? #DailyStickMan #Allergies #WhatAboutBob

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Review: I Thought You Were Dead

I Thought You Were Dead I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pete Nelson’s I Thought You Were Dead feels a bit flat. It mixes a bit of Seinfeld with a bit of self-help and a dash of every none-alpha male sweet-loving, smart, insecure guy cliché. Paul is wishy-washy, whiny, and rather drab all around. He’s divorced; he engages in deep philosophical debates with his dog; and he enjoys drinking with his friends. Of course, his life becomes troubling when his father suffers a debilitating stroke and an onslaught of family stresses begin to fracture; including his relationship with his most recent girlfriend. The issues feel genuine enough, but the final “breakthrough” events just feel flat.

And yet, there were things I dug about Paul and kept me reading. I understood (and related) to many of his concerns about his life and the doubt, double-questioning, and resistance he met with certain personal obstacles whether it be family, love relations, or self-image. Nelson did well with teasing out the issues that many men don’t often sufficiently address or feel inadequate about who use poor coping skills with until some day, they breakdown; either in a mid-life crisis or something more troubling.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 12, 2016 at 05:25PM



Get this guy a mic... #DailyStickMan #ThrowDownABeat #Hobbies

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Review: Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us

Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude M. Steele
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you want to understand the profound effects of stereotype threat, then Steele's book is a great resource. If you want to understand how pernicious stereotypes are and remain to be, then this would be the book to read. Steele shows through a variety of work that he and others have down, how when stereotypes are evoked in a person, it can threaten his or her ability to succeed. That is, it's not just about how others perceive someone, but it is how that someone thinks of himself/herself in relation to a group identity that has a negative stereotype. A person is likely to perform worse when he/she belongs to a group identity that is stigmatized when that person's group identity have been emphasized. This has stark implications for education, work, and the culture at large. Steele provides a variety of different examples of how this happens but also shines a light on ways to circumvent stereotype threat.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 11, 2016 at 07:50PM



Oh man he's really trying to keep it going... #DailyStickMan #Disco #StayinAlive

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 10, 2016 at 05:00PM



This guy is going places...like hospitals... #DailyStickMan #Science #Haters

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 09, 2016 at 07:41PM



But ya know, I'll still want plenty of #popcorn for tonight's #debates #DailyStickMan #CracksMeUp

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 08, 2016 at 05:45PM



Of all the things to all for... #DailyStickMan #Apocalypse #Unicorns

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 07, 2016 at 09:04PM



It's all about the shoes...? #DailyStickMan #PennyLoafers #Shoes #RememberMe

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My Most Recent Reads - September 2016

There is lots to talk about this month.  If August had me reporting little in terms of books to talk about, September had them in abundance.  Even though I only read thirteen books this month, many of them hit high marks for consideration.  I'll limit myself to three but know that I'm happy to chat about any of them!

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Book cover to Pedagogy of the Opressed by Paulo Freire
For those not in the realms of education or social justice, you may not have stumbled upon this book.  But for those interested in such subjects (as well as politics, cultural studies, criminal justice, etc), then this is one of those essential classics.  Freire's theoretical and complex book may come in well under 200 pages, but it's still an intellectual journey.  Reading and processing it reminds me of reading Foucault's History of Sexuality Volume 1; I might have had better luck learning the native language it was published in and then trying to read the book.  It's dense but particularly chapter's two and three (there are only four chapters), I found to be the most useful.  Basically, Freire explains a way to reconsider how teaching and learning is done at a time and in a place where teaching was entirely one-directional and more part of a system of regulating minds than encouraging actual growth.  His writing is sometimes a bit to etherial and he could do better with more grounded examples or clarifications throughout, but as a work that makes an educator think about how he or she will look to those seeking education, this book will change one's philosophy of education.


Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding

In many ways this is a brutal book for many people.  For victims of rape and sexual assault, it confirms and explains what many of them have gone through in a culture that pays mere lipservice to victims of such violence.  For those who have never been directly involved, it's an eye-opening exploration into how many of us are likely to be complicit in sexual violence in our culture.  But equally important, it's an eloquent and strong critique that gives victims and allies the means of which to see the pernicious assumptions about sexual violence in our culture and to call it out when we see it.  Harding's accessible prose, wit, and drawing out of the different aspects of American society that create a rape culture blend together so well that the reader is left speechless.  It's one of those reads that I feel that everyone should read and even if it people disagree with it, we'd be a better society for having read.


Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David Ewalt

I was always fascinated with but never got the chance to explore playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games.  I did fall in love with role-playing games on video game systems and the fantasy genre for books, films, and comics so there was always a hope and interest in getting the chance to play, but the possibility never availed itself.  So reading Ewalt's book on the topic was informative and inspiring for the most part.  His history of the game from its birth to the current state of role-playing games coupled with his own personal journey towards, away, and back again to role-playing game made for a great story.  He does slip, a bit problematically I think, into representing that game as borderline addicting, a cliche that is long overdue and annoying when it comes to games and gaming in general.  But if you can disregard that element, the book has some great explanations and considerations about the power and engagement that role playing games.

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


BOOKS


  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  • DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz

AUDIOBOOKS


  • Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding
  • What Lurks Beneath by Ryan Lockwood
  • The Bull and the Spear(Corum, #4) by Michael Moorcock
  • Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David Ewalt
  • Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
  • Women in the Material World by Faith D'Aluisio
  • Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger
  • The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein
  • Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century by Katherine Newman

GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • Caveboy Dave: More Scrawny Than Brawny by Aaron Reynolds
  • The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement by Stephanie McMilan


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

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 06, 2016 at 06:58PM



He don't want any part of it... #DailyStickMan #Drama ##AintNobodyGotTimeForThat

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Review: Lockdown

Lockdown Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers had its merits for depicting the real-world liminality and faulty-logical approaches to the criminal justice system; particularly as it is applied to minors. It also balanced simplicity with complexity well. The story’s shell embodied a simple short course of events that the main character, Reese experiences. He’s given an option to become part of a work-release program. He meets a disgruntled and bigoted man, the develop a sincere and deep relationship, and Reese learns about himself and his life by listening to this older man. Meanwhile, his situation in the detention center (named “Progress” of course) is deteriorating especially after two cops show up to bully him into taking a plea for crimes he had no responsibility for. Reese’s story in the larger picture is not an intense life or death situations nor the stuff of mainstream drama; after all, by our cultural standards, young black male in cuffs seems standard fair, (Note: that’s our cultural perception/projection, not my actual view).

Yet, that’s where Myers slides in some rather interesting complexity. Through Reese’s eyes we get to glimpse that there are many roads that are closed off to a young man of fourteen. His most important goal by the story’s end is to work hard so that he can help pay for his young and bright nine-year old sister when she gets to college; believing that his chance is gone. There are many moments when Reese has to come to terms with his options or lack thereof and while Myers is at times a little to heavy handed with these decrees and condemnations of modern society, they are nonetheless poignant.

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Review: Rising Strong

Rising Strong Rising Strong by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Brown's work. She captures so much of our internal lives and helps us learn the language to speak about it. Rising Strong follows along these lines in helping us thinking about our inner lives and feelings and finding powerful ways to externalize them, talk about them, and move through them in the moment and throughout our lives. She does this both through research and through storytelling--explaining how the work she is doing plays out in her daily life and others. There are some powerful moments throughout this book, but for me was her exploration of the thought: "What if everyone is really doing their best?" This question and where it leads her (as well as myself) is something that we should always be asking.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 04, 2016 at 08:44PM



Enough is enough... #DailyStickMan #Debates #boxer #briefs

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - October 03, 2016 at 07:50PM



Just one of those things... #DailyStickMan #CantExplainIt #Proposal #NoWay

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Short Story #405: The Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jim Shephard

Title: The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Author:  Jim Shephard

Summary:

Book cover to Creatures - 30 Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay

The story tells the story from the vantage point of the "creature" from the film, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The creature has been around for millions of years and presents himself with a sense of disillusion and boredom.  He shares his experiences living in the lagoon, left to his own devices and observing life around him.  However, several people arrive and begin taking measurements and documenting the area.  Some of them leave, but others stay behind and the creature continues to learn about them.  Eventually, the creature approaches those left behind and the interaction leaves the men dead.  New people arrive including a female that the creature grows increasingly curious and fascinated by.  His repeated attempts to grab her attention or capture her result in a confrontation that leaves him mortally wounded and in his last thoughts, essentially accepting that he was indeed deserving of the death he found.  

Reflection

I wasn't enthralled with this story as it felt like a poor attempt at Grendel by John Gardner.  It had its moments and I did appreciate the creature's internal revelation at the end as it descended to its death.  But a story based upon a film that wasn't that great (in my opinion) to begin with meant the story didn't really shine for me. 

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Source:  Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters, edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay.  Prime Books.  ISBN 978-1-60701-284-9

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


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