Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

My Current Bookshelf - August 2017

Another month of delightful reads has come and gone and here are what I consider to be some of the highlights.  What about you?  What kind of great reads are you finding?  I'm always looking for good recommendations so please let me know!


The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World by Scott Hartley


Hartley's makes a mostly convincing argument that there is increasing value in the pursuit of liberal arts education and that critical insight into human nature that liberal arts help to hone in humans that will be essential as we become a more technological society.  In conjunction with various research he provides on the value of a liberal arts degree, he provides innumerable examples of people with liberal arts degrees or background make substantial breakthroughs in the launching of a variety of technological tools and projects.  As someone with a liberal arts degree and a value for the pursuit of liberal arts studies in our culture, I appreciated Hartley's arguments.  However, one failing of the book that I found and wished he had worked harder for was his over-abundance of examples from students that were at elite or Ivy League colleges and universities.  Rarely were smaller state institutions or lesser known private institutions invoked and never do I recall hearing any mention of a community college.  In conjunction with that, I found that he sometimes oversold the person's liberal art studies when it turned out to be just a course or two.  Coupled with that, it also seemed that the book probably should have been titled, "Why Liberal Arts With Additional Technological Training Will Rule the Digital World" since, again, nearly everyone he discusses had or had to pursue some additional technological training in order to use their liberal arts education.  


A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes


Hayes' book highlights a concept that is fundamental to understanding the US culture today and that is the division between law and order.  While articulating that law and the protection of the law are important, Hayes divorces "order" from the standard "law and order" to challenge the implications of a society that demand order in the numerous ways that our society does.  Hand in hand with this, he connects that argument to the concepts of colony and a nation; those who belong to a nation where law and order are not disruptive but positive parts of people's lives because while the law-part keeps them protected, the order part means they don't have to deal with things they don't want to (loud neighbors, homeless people, anyone that can be claimed to be causing disorder).  However, then there is those who live in the colony; typically, marginalized people, though plenty of white people fall into this category as well.  He draws this analogy from, of course, our colonial days and the difference in what it means to be a British colonist and a US citizen.  It's a striking analogy as he provides examples and arguments for the ways in which it works and perpetuates injustice in our society.  For those looking to understand the underlying tension and contradictions of a society that's masturbatorily ecstatic about freedom, yet has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  


The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle by Peter Baldwin


Title Page of The Copyright Wars by Peter Baldwin
Ok, so a book about copyright sounds utterly uninteresting to most people.  Why not an epic poem about curtains or an opera about nail-clippings?  Seriously, it's not that bad and in fact Baldwin's book explains a great deal things about the origins of copyright, why it so damn complicated, and how it has been shaped in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe through interactions, trade agreements (and disagreements), and competition among the different countries. It's a history that to the emergence of printing as an industry and explains the origins of our most basic understanding about copyright, discussing such topics as what it means for a work to be inalienable (or alienable), what is the public's interest in protecting copyright, where did moral rights come from (and evolve to), etc.  It's expansive in its coverage but clear in its detail.  For anyone trying to grasp the complexity of copyright and why it is so problematic, Baldwin's book is a great route.  Overall, I enjoyed the book though found at times, while the research was solid, he took time to editorialize and critique things that were a bit out of the purvue of the book.   However, Baldwin actually offers a digital copy of his book for free on ResearchGate so if it is a text that may be of use to you (here's looking at you, librarians, scholarly communication scholars, lawyers, etc), you can always get it online.  


The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis by Darryl Cunningham

Cunningham's book is a great primer on understanding the rise of libertarianism, Ayn Rand, and the impact it all had on the financial crisis of the late 2000s (and in all likelihood, future financial crises as well).  Cunningham starts with an exploration of Ayn Rand and her life through the 20th century with its mixture of contradictions (arguing for the individuality of thought but then disregarding and disowning anyone who did not believe her philosophy) but also how she impacted Alan Greenspan (who plays a major role in the financial crisis).  He follows this narrative with one that lays out what happened in the financial crisis and how it is connected to Rand's ideology.  The final section addresses the question of selfishness, which stands at the cornerstone of Rand's ideology and increasingly is the banner of both the Republican and Libertarian parties.    

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):


BOOKS


  • Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction by Clark Aldrich
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1) by Joe Abercrombie


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
  • Opening Wednesday at a Theater Or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American 1970s by Charles Taylor
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Collect Them All by Corinne Duyvis
  • Nighthawks (Children of Nostradamus, #1) by Jeremy Flagg
  • The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World by Scott Hartley
  • A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes
  • The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle by Peter Baldwin
  • Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
  • Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Jansenn


GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality, and the Financial Crisis by Darryl Cunningham

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.

My Current Bookshelf - July 2017

July was another full month of reading and this year, I am getting in a lot more physical books in years past.  Some of that I attribute to reading before bed (particularly the fiction).  Unfortunately, many of the books this month are great but I can't talk about them until my professional reviews are published.  Unfortunately, that's just the way it works.  But I do have one book to talk about for this month.

The Infinity Gate (Darkglass Mountain, #3) by Sarah Douglass

For me, this book is so bittersweet.  While The Wayfarer Redemption trilogy (the second trilogy) in the series had a full sense of closure (in fact, I was at first surprised when Douglass returned to this fictional world), this book does not.  It outright tells you that there is so much more that's going to happen.  And that's all well and good, but unfortunately, Douglass passed away in 2011, which means those adventures are never to be written (at least, by her; there's a part of me praying she left outlines of books to come and her estate is just looking for the right person--maybe one chosen by prophecy--hahaha--to pick up the pen on her behalf).  So in that regard, the book's entire movement feels like an act of reluctant engagement for the fan-reader because it ends (the book) but it doesn't (the adventures) but it really does (because we never get to know what those are).  

Book cover - Infinity Gate by Sara Douglass
Beyond that, the book is enjoyable but has its challenges.  While the trilogy initially seemed to start with a strong focus on Maximilian, Ishbel, Isaiah, and Stardrifter, this one seems to throw much of that out.  The strongest focus is on Axis--which don't get me wrong, is my favorite character--but it feels out of sorts to be so focused on him that these other characters feel like second-fiddles often.  

But like her other books, it is a page-turn.  It moves fast and one is constantly trying to determine where the next turn will happen.  For the plot, we see the final rise of The One but like a good monster, every time, he's down, he's back up and this gets taken to almost amusing levels.  In some ways, his infinite nature means he could always be brought back which feels a bit too formulaic.  The Lealfast's treachery becomes evident and the Skraelings finally get a history to which makes readers rethink the entire history of the fictional world.  Axis is as Axis does and while there seems some growth there, it's kind of hard to develop a character that's gone from human to Icarii to Star God to dead to back from the dead.  But there's some room there.  Douglass also manages to pull this final book in ways that tie back all the way to the first two books that she wrote long ago, which I appreciated.  

In total, it's a must read if you've made it this far.  But you're going to hit the last 50 pages and fight with yourself to read it, knowing that this is the complete end of a story that doesn't actually end (and that's not a spoiler; you get to know pretty quickly that Douglass had way more planned).  

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):

BOOKS


  • The Infinity Gate (Darkglass Mountain, #3) by Sarah Douglass
  • Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching: How to "Be There" for Distance Learners by Rosemary Lehman
  • Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Web-based Course Development (Online Teaching and Learning Series by Robin Smith
  • Assessing the Online Learner: Resources and Strategies for Faculty (Online Teaching and Learning Series by Rena Palloff


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
  • The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy
  • No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein
  • Everything All at Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap into Radical Curiosity and Solve Any Problem by Bill Nye
  • The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits by Judson Brewer
  • Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech by Samantha Parent Walravens
  • Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment edited by Angela Davis


GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • Descender, Vol. 4: Orbital Mechanics by Jeff Lemire

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.

My Current Bookshelf - June 2017

So I'm finally getting back to writing about the stuff I've read over the last 2 months.  From June until now (and even now to a certain degree) has been an utter whirlwind.  While I definitely have been reading/listening, I have had little time to write about it.  So, here's what I've got to talk about this month.  There are a few books that I won't talk about because I'm pulling three books into a themed post on politics in the Trump presidency but I'll talk about the others and come back to that later as they need more detailed consideration and really fit as a trifecta of thought.

The Twisted Citadel (DarkGlass Mountain, #2) by Sara Douglass

The second book in the DarkGlass Trilogy, Douglass's final trilogy following the adventures of Axis and the characters in the world he inhabits.  I liked the book because like she always does, Douglass turns the prophecies she creates on their head and because we see a side of Ishbel that becomes increasingly into her own and creates a life on her own terms.  The plot is standard Douglass: a powerful and scheming god-like powerful evil is trying to conquer the world but is held back by people (Maximilian and Ishbel)  that it (referred to as The One) knows can do it harm and therefore must find a way to eliminating them. Add to this, a dying race (the Icarii), a newly discovered race, (the Lealfast), a race on the brink of destruction (humans) by a race of evil creatures (the Skraelings) and questionable alliances among some of them.  This volume in many ways is a mad--chase to Serpent's Nest which will become Echo Falling once Maximilian arrives to lay claim to his heritage.  But Isaiah's forces have gone their sepearate ways and are also racing towards Echo Falling to take it over and the Lealfast's loyalty seems to shift with the winds.  In many ways, the story's intrigue and potential is best understood if one has read not only the previous book in this trilogy but in the previous trilogies and stand alone novels.  If you've gotten that far, then this book will deliver on more excitement as previous novels.  

Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice by Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield

Preskill and Brookfield examine the concept of leadership and reframe successful and meaningful leadership as a means and willingness to learn.  They then explore how that frame of leader as learner plays out in different ways of learning (learning by asking others, learning by critical self-reflection, learning by sharing responsibilities and power, etc), the challenges with each way, and an iconic leader that has embraced that way.  While the book's main chapters can feel formulaic, the ideas are still powerful and I appreciated their different approach to leading.  For those in higher education, the merits of this book are perfect but even beyond that, I think that if a leader were to reframe his or her work as an active learner, it might mean more positive changes within organizations and communities as it creates more possibility for leaders to change or adjust their  views rather than mindless holding fast.  For those interested in rethinking their leadership style or thinking about how their learning might be extended into the realm of leadership, this is a great read.

Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3) by Cixin Liu

Where do I even start with this one? I'm not even sure I could describe the plot and if you haven't read the previous two books, then don't bother. But I do encourage you to read the previous two because it makes this final book all the more epic. Liu's intricate plot about how humankind survives past the early and hostile confrontations with alien life is mesmerizing. Both in weaving believable science and believable human psychology together, Liu explores a future that feels real and fantastical only because it hasn't happened.  This tale begins after the peace has been established between humankind and the Trisolarans but this is a tenuous peace that self-destructs shortly after the selection of a watcher is unwilling to sacrifice the Trisolarans and humans.  Thus, the tension of the second book is quickly reprieved but soon, the Trisolarans are surprised by other loose ends that lead humankind to actively try to settle the universe.  But that description doesn't do justice to the way that Liu brings out the experiences of the characters as they make hard decisions about the future of humankind or navigate complicated decisions that have implications for generations to come.  Its conclusion moves into a realm beyond reality (both literally and metaphorically) but ultimately feels right for the saga that he created. 
 
Word cloud of this blog post in the form of a thumb's up

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):

BOOKS


  • The Twisted Citadel (DarkGlass Mountain, #2) by Sara Douglass
  • American Higher Education, Leadership, and Policy: Critical Issues and the Public Good by Penny Pasque
  • Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice by Stephen Preskill


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3) by Cixin Liu
  • The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It by Richard Florida
  • Alien: River of Pain (Canonical Alien trilogy, #3) by Christopher Golden
  • Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century by Chuck Klosternman
  • The Mist by Stephen King
  • The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
  • Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind by Srini Pilla
  • Mort[e] by Robert Repino
  • The Politics of Resentment by Katherine Cramer
  • Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild


GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
  • Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings by Glen Baxter

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.

My Current Bookshelf - May 2017

May was a much more active month as it relates to reading because, well, the semester was over and I had a whole lot of downtime to which I filled it with reading...mostly because, I like busman's holidays!  There were so many good reads this month so I've got a lot to talk about!


The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal


We all carry with us various myths about what willpower is, our relationship with it, and how to do better with it.  However, so many of our assumptions about willpower are often wrong in total or problematically applied because of a failure to understand what willpower is and its different forms.  McGonigal's provides a fantastic foundation to exploring and articulating willpower by breaking it into three different forms (I will, I won't, I want).  She guides readers through the science it has taken to better understand it from our historical or often racially, culturally, classist views of willpower to one that highlights just how willpower works in many different ways with cognitive, physiological, and mental tricks that humans fall prey to quite often.  One of my favorite parts of McGonigal’s work is that she provides small challenges for readers to test out with each new idea she introduces.  While it is inevitably something she, herself, has developed, I can’t help but think, her sister, Jane McGonigal has helped or advised in as it has a strong gamification element to it.  What I appreciate most about this book is that it reminds the reader that willpower is often a moving target and that one cannot necessarily conquer it but rather just better understand where and when one is most likely to succeed or surrender to short-term desires that are at odds with long-term goals.


Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely


This short but intriguing book will be useful for not just leaders but really for anyone who is looking to understand his or her own sense of motivation as well as those of others that someone works with.  It's a fairly short book and one that you can get the gist of from Ariely's TED Talk.  Known for conducting a range of curious tests with humans to better understand human nature (previous works include The Truth about Dishonesty and Predictably Irrational), Ariely takes this book to explore how we tend to profoundly misunderstand how motivation works and therefore regularly fail to achieve the outcomes we are expecting in others or severely cramping the possibilities.  He unpacks some rather strong misconceptions about how extrinsic rewards (e.g. more pay) can fail to increase or even decrease productivity or how purpose and meaning on behalf of the individual drives more productivity.  This book has a lot of potential for everyone as it makes the reader more aware of how to make outcomes more beneficial for both parties involved.  

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Dobelli works his ways through some 98 different biases and faulty thinking practices that he has witnessed and experienced in his life as an author and businessman.  With each, he introduces the concept in clear and easy to understand prose with some great examples to illustrate how each works.  While the format remains largely the same, the text is still lively, fun, and helpful.  I enjoyed learning about and realizing the different fallacies that I have regularly stumbled with and ways of trying to get around them.  He smartly emphasizes that we cannot use a list like this all the time, but when we are pressed to make the big decisions in life, it is useful to go through such a list to make sure we're not missing something in our thinking.  The one strong critique I have of the book is that his final chapter, labeled, "Why You Shouldn't Read the News: News Illusion" entails many of the fallacies to which he has discussed.  He argues that there is no value to the news and that it's distracting in most people's lives.  He claims to rely on his friends and associates to filter news of relevance to him and that ultimately, people should read books and forgo news.  Of course, this seems to be a blatant case of the man with the hammer or as he says, "if you take your problem to an expert, don’t expect the overall best solution. Expect an approach that can be solved with the expert’s toolkit."  That is, the book author is telling the reader the fix is more books rather than more strategically engaging with news.  Besides that one issue, the book is a solid collection of wisdom and food-for-thought when making big decisions. 


On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder


Snyder's book is short and sweet.  It's kinda like a TED-Talk or highlights real.  However, the book is straight and to the point, providing specific details, historical examples, and things to consider about tyranny in the 21st century, with particular attention to the US President Trump and the tenuous and problematic elements of his election and administration. I found there was practical advice about being involved and active but equally important was the smaller stuff that on some level people might disregard but are also central to keeping society a community.  For instance, his advice to make eye contact and be friendly with others is something that we don't realize its prominence and importance until it's gone and by that time, we are in serious trouble.  In total, it's a solid short read that helps the budding activist or reminds the experienced one of the importance of the work.  

Making Gumbo in the University by Rupert W. Nacoste

Nacoste's book is an enjoyable read in many regards and a look at the problems that those involved in diversity work often come up against.  Nacoste relates his experience as a chief diversity leader on southern US university and the walls he came up against while trying to create a more effective and meaningful approach to diversity at the institution.  For me, I liked how this book captured the fact that diversity is not milk-warm acceptance of one another but is embedded in the tension of recognition of differences while trying to move forward in different directions.  That is, diversity is not blind acceptance but respectful dialogue of differences that at times will be hard or unlikely to be reconciled.  He also provides a good frame for institutions to rethink diversity as housed in a particular place or position and more embedded throughout the different areas of an institution; what does diversity mean for the different areas and how do they foster?  Where I was less interested and impressed with the prose was the interweaving of his family life and his earlier life.  Both are important to include but sometimes, the details (relevant though they were to his personal experience) distracted from his discussion and analysis of his work.  Also, as a self-published book, it had a significant amount of grammatical and spelling errors.

A word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a coffee cup on a saucer

Check out other reading recommendations from 2017 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads):

BOOKS

  • An Introduction to Qualitative Research: Learning in the Field by Gretchen Rossman
  • On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
  • Making Gumbo in the University bu Rupert W. Nacoste

AUDIOBOOKS

  • Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
  • Printer's Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by JP & Rebecca Romney
  • Certain Dark Things: Stories by M. J. Pack
  • The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi,
  • The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal
  • Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely
  • The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli 
  • The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World by Anne-Marie Slaughter
  • Finding Gobi (Main edition): The true story of a little dog and an incredible journey by Dion Leonard
  • House of Names by Colm Tóibín

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Briggs Land Vol. 1: State of Grace (Briggs Land, #1) by Brian Wood
  • The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long

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.

Review: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anderson skillfully deconstructs an unspoken but prevalent theme in the US history of race relations since well before the Civil War: white rage. Directly and indirectly, she shows how the often stereotypical assumption of African-Americans as being unwieldy or out of control (that is, having "black rage") is largely a matter of projection of a white rage. White rage has historically over-reacted to each attempt by African American and other marginalized peoples to establish an equal footing as put forward in the US's founding documents. Thus, she shows from the Civil War to the presidency of Barak Obama, how viciously and brutally dominant white culture has reacted. Whether it was de-facto enslavement for unemployed African Americans in the post-Civil War era, the rise of segregation, the intentional exclusion of compensation for African Americans who fought in war, the attempts to shut down or create private or charter schools in the absence of desegregation to unequal sentencing (or due process) in the justice system to systematic attempts to limit their ability to vote, white social, cultural, and political power has actively sought to see equality as a threat to the status quo and been willing to take innocent lives and freedoms to maintain and perpetuate this power and racial divide. Anderson's makes that proves entirely clear with accessible prose that provides specifics but does not inundate readers with unnecessary details.

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Review: We Should All Be Feminists

We Should All Be Feminists We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adichie's short book (what's the equivalent of a novella in nonfiction? Long-form essay?) is a collection of short essays that stem from her TED Talk exploring how and why feminism is a necessity for all societies. She connects her personal stories and experiences to the larger discourse on feminism and draws useful analogies for many to understand and appreciate about its place in the 21st century throughout the world. It's a quick read that can refuel some while also introducing complex considerations about feminism to someone just exploring it for the first time.

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Review: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there is a single book that can structurally explain how racism permeates the history and mythology of the United States, then Kendi's book is if not the book, then certainly a contender (having not read all of them, I cannot say, but having read many books on race, this one is among the best). Kendi traces the history of the United States' approach to, discourse on, and political consequences of racism from the colonies in the 1600s until the present. He does this by exploring the lives of five pivotal figures in the history of racism who span all five centuries of US history: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis. Kendi posits three ideologies that are found in various forms throughout the history and the works of those with whom he presents: racist, assimilationist, and anti-racist ideologies. Ultimately, Kendi's power lies in his ability to tie the individual lives to the contemporary discourse of the individuals' time while also drawing parallels to and building a mounting context for understanding racism in the present.

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Review: The Making of Asian America: A History

The Making of Asian America: A History The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin with this review besides just saying, "WOW!" I knew about some of the aspects of this book such as strong anti-Asian immigration laws and racial discrimination in the US toward Asian-Americans since the 1800s. But Lee provides a meticulous and nuanced exploration of the history of migration and representation within the Americas since the 1500s. She traces the history of discriminatory practices by different American countries that challenge, limit, devalue, or pit against one another the many different immigrants from the numerous Asian countries. In doing so, she helps the reader understand the denial of identity and culture that comes with the term "Asian American", and how it masks the distinct experiences, cultural dynamics, and sense of history that different immigrants from Asian bring with them. In tracing the history to the present century, Lee further aids readers in considering the experience of Asian Americans whose families have been here for generations and the more recent Asian American immigrants fit into the rhetoric of immigration for various discourses and for different dominant-group purposes. It's definitely a must-read for people trying to better understand race and ethnicity in the Americas.

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Review: White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wise's memoir of his own awakening to systematic racism in the United States is a powerful and useful tale for white people to read and reflect on their own experience. From his early upbringing in the south to his education in New Orleans and early days of activism against the David Duke campaigns in the 1990s, Wise explores the ways in which he has succeeded and failed in being an ally to non-white people. But what Wise does best throughout the book is to mark with clarity the ways in which the privilege afforded him by being white created opportunities or nullifed threats that would have existed for him, were he not white. Additionally, he is great at unpackaging the ways in which investment in whiteness doesn't harm just non-whites but does damage to white people as well. For anyone looking to better understand how one can strive to address and engage with the racial strife in this country, Wise's book is a great start.

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Review: March

March March by John Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These three graphic novels capture John Lewis's first-hand account as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. From his upbringing in Troy, Alabama to his entrance into college and earliest political experiences, the story provides his bird's eye view and experience in striving for a nonviolent revolution in the face of overwhelming white supremacy, oppression, and violence. His experience in the 1960s is paralleled with the inauguration in 2009 of President Barak Obama, providing a beacon to the harsh and vitriolic culture to which both Lewis and Obama (and for that matter all African Americans) were (and continue to be) subjected to. Through the three volumes, Lewis touches upon the leadership of the Civil Rights Movements, the different factions, and the challenges of trying to find the best courses of action to take. The book is both a history and a primer on attempting to change a racist culture that is worth reading for those interested in autobiographies, history, African-American studies, and organizational and cultural change. It would be fascinating to see a volume 4 that parallel's Lewis's experiences with the cultural backlash of the 1970s & 1980s that goes hand-in-hand with the inauguration of Trump.

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Review: TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris J. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anderson, the head of TED, the central repository for engaging ideas in small 7-18 minute speeches by many key industry leaders (of almost every industry) presents a concise and clear guide to organizing and preparing to give the best speech of one's life. Focused largely on giving a "TED Talk," which is not necessarily every talk one is likely to give, Anderson walks readers through everything from different approaches on preparing, to technical considerations to delivery styles and wardrobe questions. He draws upon many of the most famous TED talks to illustrate the best examples of what he is discussing and while he does refer to bad examples, he usually is vague on the details, sparing the targets (and probably himself from lawsuits). I appreciate Anderson's ability to pull together different aspects of a speech and clarify with each, what is the essential consideration one must keep in mind. Anderson's guide provides a lot of great information and ideas about how to improve one's speaking technique and is likely to be useful to anyone trying to hone their presentation skills.

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Review: Focus by Arthur Miller

Focus Focus by Arthur Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across this novel in a used bookstore and thought the premise sounded fascinating, especially since I've been a fan of Miller's dramatic works. The story follows Lawrence Newman after he awakes in the middle of the night to hearing a screaming woman being assaulted. But since the woman is a minority, he largely seems to pay it no mind. The bachelor enjoys a home in a white Christian neighborhood and works in New York City and is largely successful until his eyesight gets the best of him and he's forced to get glasses. His glasses, as he feared, make him appear more Jewish in the race-obsessed world of the World War II 1940s. What follows is Lawrence's demise as those around him increasingly suspect him to be a Jew and he becomes subjected to the same cruel realities that he perpetuated just months before.

Miller's tale is a classic tale of what it's like to live in another man's shoes but also well layered with reflection by Lawrence as he comes to weigh the meaning behind the white supremacist view and how easily it insinuates itself into the minds of the privileged. Originally published in 1945, there is so much about this book that resonates with the world today that it could have easily been written as today with only slight adjustments.

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Review: American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good

American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

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Perceived As....

When trying to explain myself, I sometimes use the term, "perceived as heterosexual."  It's a term that catches people off guard, usually, people that do not fully know me or know that I'm bisexual.  It raises an eyebrow and occasionally, provokes a question about what that means.  

As a cisgender male, I am in a committed relationship with a cisgender female and that is largely what people see.  And from that view, the assumption comes that I am therefore heterosexual.  That's the byproduct of a heteronormative society and part of what is known as bi-erasure.  While I get why this happens, I'm often frustrated by the way it mutes my full identity as bisexual.  That I am attracted to more than one sex is an important piece of my identity; though not the defining piece (I'm not sure, for me, that there is a defining piece of my identity--except maybe learner).  It's added infinite value in my life by acknowledging it and allowing it to shape the adult I've become and just because I have chosen to commit to a life-long relationship, doesn't mean it is any less of my identity.  It doesn't change a fundamental aspect of who I am; just like having a second child doesn't mean you cease loving the first child or if love dogs, you stop loving all dogs because you now have one.   


This muting may not seem like much but there are some ways to better understand it for those that aren't in the know.  Here are a few analogies worth considering:


  • We hang out regularly and while you do your best to ask me about the full range of personal and professional life, I only focus on your personal life.  When you offer up your something about your professional life, I either do not acknowledge what you have said or return to talking about your personal life. 
  • You and I are at a significant event for one of your two children (play, sports, competition, performance, etc).  The other child is present with us but I don't bother to acknowledge, interact with, or respond to that child.  My entire attention is focused on the child performing.  
  • You are driving a car and I am directing you to our destination.  But I will only allow for use to take right turns; thus we can reach our destination but only by essentially circling around it into to arrive at it.  

Each of these analogies captures an absence of acknowledgment and appreciation for the fullness of the other person's life.  By using, "perceived as heterosexual," I give those paying attention the opportunity to question their own assumptions and the opportunity to speak up.  It also signifies to some that there is indeed an ally in their midst, even if, on paper, I may not appear to be.
Bi triangles.svg
Public Domain, Link

Of course, one could ask why I don't just acknowledge my bisexuality right up front; aren't I muting it by saying perceived as?  Explaining bisexuality is tricky to explain.  People get heterosexuality; they get homosexuality (regardless of how they feel about it or at least they pit it as an opposite to heterosexuality), but bisexuality seems impossible to compute for many folks.  I remember telling one family member that was the case and of course, the reaction was a follow-up question as to whether I would stay committed to my partner.  I wish that was the easiest question I'd gotten on the subject, but alas, U.S. culture is great with either/or thinking but not so much with both/and thinking.  So to roll out the conversational grenade that is bisexuality is usually not necessarily useful in that particular moment when I'm using the term, "perceived as..." and I know it enough to not go down that road but to leave room for it, should someone at a later point want to better understand.  


I wrote this post, not to complain or to speak of any injustice that I am facing but rather just as a means of helping others to think not just about the language we use (or don't use), but maybe to help others (and myself for that matter) to think about how our perceptions of those we are close to might mute or ignore aspects of them that are in fact an important part of their identity.  In doing so, do we further alienate or harm those in our lives?  For some, probably not and yet for others, I'm guessing it has some negative effect.  





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Review: Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy

Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I openly 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.

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Review: Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad

Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Martin explores the history of dramatic television in the last two decades, defining it as the third golden age of television. The title refers to the defining feature of this third golden age in that both onscreen in the form of lead characters and off-stage in the form of the rise of the "show-runner" writer is universally male. In tracing the history of many of the most famous and genre-defining shows, Martin shows how the leading characters (Tony Soprano, Vick Mackey, Don Draper, Walter White and others) are men in constant desire of power in a variety of forms and willing to do harm to achieve it. They are contrasted with often more complicated but still flawed creators and writers who are also trying to leave their own mark on the world. Taken together, the book holds up a fascinating mirror to the American culture and in particular, males. It's a nice slice of Americana, gender studies (though not necessarily too overt), and cultural history.

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