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

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Current Bookshelf - January 2017

Given that January was a month in which I was not in class, it will surprise few that I read a decent amount this month and many of them were phenomenal reads; a great way to start the year!  There were a lot of great books to discuss but I will restrict my posting to just a handful and I'll be curious if anyone can see a theme.   Feel free to ask me about any of them if you're looking for recommendations.

White Like Me by Tim Wise

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.  

March Volumes 1-3 by John Robert Lewis

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.

Book covers for March by John Robert Lewis Volumes 1-3


Focus by Arthur Miller

Book cover to Arthur Miller's Focus.
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.

Check out last year's reads if you are interested (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)

BOOKS

  • Focus by Arthur Miller
  • Eservice-Learning: Creating Experiential Learning and Civic Engagement Through Online and Hybrid Courses by Jean Strait


AUDIOBOOKS

  • White Like Me by Tim Wise
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull
  • Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi
  • Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence by Dacher Keltner
  • Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine 
  • Boy by Anna Ziegler
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • March: Book 1-3 by John Robert Lewis
  • Han Solo by Majorie Li
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Birthright, Vol. 4: Family History by Joshua Williamson
  • Descender, Volume Three: Singularities 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reality & Continuity, Or Why 9/11 Reveals Some Insights About Live-Action Superheroes

The following is an except of a blog post, I wrote for Jeremy Flagg's blog in celebration of his upcoming superhero novel, Nighthawks.


Word cloud of this post in the form of a person reading a book.
Superheroes aren’t real. (Gasp, I think one may have just died because I said that). They aren’t, but the rise of realism in comic storytelling that emerged in the second half of the 20th century, means that readers demand realistic elements to the storytelling. Even though our capes are walking deus-ex-machinas, we prefer the veneer that all things are genuine struggles for them. But surprisingly, superheroes do have limits. They are not perfect. Because for all that the superheores can do in their fictional realms, they cannot leap from the page and be a part of this world. However, they can appear increasingly life-like through good and sustained storytelling.


A good measure to think about superheroes is to consider how they operate in response to the world around us? How do they deal with real tragedies such as 9/11 and other tragic events wherein they are specifically designed to protect us from? Herein, I will explore how both DC and Marvel have grappled with that idea and the implications it has had for their cinematic and television universes.


I turn to Peter Coogan and his seminal book on the superhero as a genre (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/222322.Superhero) to highlight the power of the genre over others and how it may operate or deal with the real world.


“Real events from the past are worked in…Likely it will become more prominent as creators are freed from the burden of timeless continuity and are able to present stories that deal with the passage of time in more flexible ways….The superhero has a unique signifying function. It can be used to express ideas that other genres cannot portray as well. Superheroes embody a vision of the use of power unique to America.


Superheroes enforce their own visions of right and wrong on others, and they possess overwhelming power, especially in relation to ordinary crooks. They can project power without danger to themselves, and they can effortlessly solve problems that ordinary authorities cannot handle. This vision of power fits quite well with the position America finds itself in after the Cold War. America is the only superpower in the world, something like Superman in the days before other superheroes and supervillains.”

For the rest, visit Jeremy's blog and check out some of his other great content!

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

My Most Recent Reads - December 2016

I end the year with another month with a good amount of reads that I was full enthralled with but many of which I cannot really speak about since they are ones that I am reviewing elsewhere.  I will probably come back and write reviews for a good deal of them since some of them will likely be some of my most recommended reads for the year.  I can at least talk a bit about two of the books of the past month:


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

Word cloud for this blog postMartin 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.


TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson

Word cloud of TED Talks review in the form of a brain.
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.

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


AUDIOBOOKS

  • Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
  • Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin
  • The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by William J. Barber III
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
  • Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith
  • The Mountaintop by Katori Hall
  • The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross
  • Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide To Thriving In The Age of Accelerations by Thomas Friedman
  • The Untold Story of the Talking Book by Matthew Rubery
  • TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Darth Vader, Vol 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen
  • Poe Dameron, Vol. 1: Black Squadron by Charles Soule
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests by Warren Ellis
  • Huck by Mark Millar


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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review: The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in a trilogy and I absolutely loved the first book and this second one is equally as compelling. It took me some time to get into it (I listened to the audiobook) because keeping track of the names was a bit tricky (it's translated from Chinese and names are not as familiar to me). The premise of the novel is that Earth has been made aware of an alien species that is set to come to Earth and destroy human life so that the alien life can prosper. It sounds pretty simple but Cixin crafts so many different layers about what this means, how this could happen, and why interplanetary dialogue is likely to be a very very tricky and problematic venture. The novel reads like an amazing and fascinating chess match among the main characters and the alien entities that I find myself for the first time in a long while impatient to read the final book in the trilogy. While I really enjoyed the first book in the series, this book proved even better.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System

Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System by James L. Bess
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, this is definitely not a sexy book by any means judging by the title, right? It was assigned by my instructor in my PhD program (and also, the author, Dee). However, it is actually a really solid breakdown of understanding higher education organizations (or disorganizations, no?). As textbooks go, it is accessible with its language, provides useful tools and resources for further consideration, and provides clear connections as it moves through each topic. One is never lost or feeling like the discussion is off the mark. It provides great examples and guiding questions that help readers better apply what they are learning. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to wrap their head around higher education and how it works (or doesn't).

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course

The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course by Linda B. Nilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within the first chapter of this book, I already had a clearer picture of just what I should be aiming to do with a graphic syllabus that I was missing before. Nilson’s premise is clear and easy to understand (albeit, challenging to fully execute). Given that many people absorb much information visually and contextually, it doesn’t make entire sense to have a syllabus that is segmented into its different silos of: objectives, goals, assignments/assessments/readings. Her goal is to help the reader consider the ways in which one can depict how all these parts of the course fit together in the syllabus.

This is useful for two reasons. The first is that it helps the faculty member have a clearer sense of what he/she is assigning in terms of work and make sure it explicitly connects to objective and goals. This grants a clearer vision of what the instructor is doing. The other reason is that it gives students a stronger context of how it all fits together. Beyond just the “why do I have to take this course” questions, a graphic syllabus can instantly connect the student with context that clarifies questions of why as well as better understanding how information fits together for their growth within the course.

Nilson delves into a variety of issues and concerns about how to go about it and illustrates that there is good variation about how to do it. She provides readers with thoughts about how and why one might do it, but shows there are many ways to go about it. In particular, she provides dozens of graphic syllabi from previous courses (her own and others) in various disciplines to help stimulate ideas across departments. To help readers better envision their own syllabus in a new light, she regularly compares what a text syllabus looks like in contrast to the (same) graphically-enhanced syllabus.

Within the first two chapters, she already had me hooked and thinking differently about my own courses. I’m imagining a comic-book syllabus for my comic book course that would be “teaching” as one progresses through the different elements of the syllabus. But immediately, it helped me to reconsider that American Literature course I had created my first visual syllabus for. I’ve found that I like doing American Literature 1 by addressing different types of writing and moving through the significant pieces in chronological order. This works in many ways but is limiting because students will lack context (or forget) of how the different types of writings fit with one another. By thinking about Nilson’s ideas, it allowed me to craft something more meaningful for the students as you can see from the impromptu outline below.

And that’s probably the other element that I like about Nilson. She emphasizes that one does not need to be an artist to creating a graphic syllabus—nor does one need numerous programs and equipment. I did the image below in Excel. Both MS Word and Powerpoint have outline/mapping tools that you can utilize and master very quickly. You can go high-end (and she shows examples of such), but you can still be graphically rich and simplistic in the types of visual you use (Good thing too—I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!).

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Review: Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anderson's Imagined Communities is one of those books many people refer to for lots of reasons. It's an important book for consideration for history, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and even technology that facilitates social relationships. I've known the premise of it for a while but it was interesting to actually read it and see if chockful of various populations and historical moments that I hadn't even thought of being included in the concept of imagined communities. Equally interesting was Arnold's discussing of the publishing history of the book and how different publications in different cultures and languages rendered different meanings and relevance to those cultures. I can understand why so many find it a useful text to draw upon, particularly in the age of digital media wherein we identify with and act as parts of imagined digital communities and find numerous ways of connecting with people we both know and don't "know" because of it.

View all my reviews


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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time

Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nilson lays out a different approach to grading than what I have been doing most of my teaching career. She explains to readers the benefits and methods of developing specifications grading. Instead of grading along a continuum that doesn't necessarily capture or clarify what the student is able to do at the end of the course, she shows different ways in which you can create assessments that are clearly specified and graded on a complete/did not complete basis. It is--as most things--more difficult than it sounds and it will take time to create the specifications upon which to grade as they need to be clear and easy to follow, but I know what I will be doing for my next course. I generally provide strong guidelines for my assignments, but Nilson highlights the ways I can articulate through given assignments or assignment bundles, the means of accomplishing what it is that I'm looking for. Even if one doesn't switch to specs grading, Nilson gives a lot of food for thought about how you do assignments in general.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It

Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It by Lisa Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bloom provides a very strong analysis and discussion of the Trayvon Martin Case that would be essential reading for anyone looking to make sense of the various legal and cultural issues surrounding the case. She goes further to highlight how Martin's case is representative of the experiences of minorities--particularly African Americans--in our culture due to historical and cultural dynamics that perpetuate institutional racism. She notes that while there has been clear progress, there are also places where we have stagnated or neglected the complexities of race relations. Lisa Bloom's approach is sometimes a little over the top (such as when she creates courtroom dialogue to show how it should have gone), but overall, her argument is spot on.

View all my reviews


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

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.

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

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.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Most Recent Reads - October 2016

No physical books read this month and that's no surprise.  We're in month two of the semester and that I'm writing coherent sentences is considered a win, right?  However, this month was an amazing month for some powerful and impressive books.   I talk about a couple here, but I would encourage you to check out my full Goodreads list to see the others as many of them were powerful and worth the read! 


Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow


Word cloud of this blog post's words in the shape of a person reading a book.
Cory Doctorow continues to impress me and many others with his thoughts on what it means to be a creator in the 21st century.  This collection of essays (which you can download for free on his website) brings together a lot of his different works that he's written for his blog and elsewhere about the nature of copyright, open source living, and censorship.  At its center are questions about how do we as a culture decide to empower creators new and old and what does it mean to create in a technological world wherein replication can happen without significant costs.  Doctorow makes a strong case to move in the direction of openness for all creators, believing that this will be more empowering than limiting.  What's also interesting about this book is the ways in which Doctorow illustrates how he is often collaborative with not just other writers but with fans and people who appreciate his work.  In total, the book provides a great look at how one can think about being a creator in a very mindful and engaging way. 



Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson


Thompson dives into the ongoing debate about how technology is impacting humankind with a fascinating look at how the relationship between humans and technologies tends to improve and enhance outcomes in many different ways.  He doesn't negate that technologies has limitations and can make things more complicated (e.g. we can now record everything but find nothing), but there are many more areas that he argues well that technology enhances life and meaning for people from the way we play games to how we understand and approach education to how it improves our ways of communicating.  It's not necessarily a particularly better book than many of the other ones out there that make similar arguments but it does introduce some different research and materials than what's been said.  


Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth


Duckworth's book has gotten to be pretty popular by now and it's no wonder given the topic and her means of exploring it.  The first challenge of this book is that the reader is likely to be constantly comparing their experience to those in the book and wondering about their level of grit.  That's ok--just let it happy.  But more importantly, Duckworth's book provides a range of ways of understanding what grit is and how it can be developed in everyone.  It's a powerful book to help us think differently about what it is that we look for in developing youth as well as how we foster better outcomes for everyone.  If you are looking for a way to understand some of the ways in which we as humans can do great things or want a better sense of how one can improve their approaches for self development or development of others, this would be an ideal book to start with.  

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin


Edmin's book shows the depths and methods needed to go in order to institute transformative teaching and learning in a classroom that engages all students.  He names his approach reality-based pedagogy and its core idea is that it is impossible to teach students if you do not embed their realities into the classroom; altering how one may teach, how power is negotiated, and what it means to demonstrate learning.  Clearly from the title, there is a specific context to which he is speaking, but the application of his approach can potentially open up any classroom (e.g. it's easy to imagine how this could play out in a rural environment).  He explores his pedagogy through his own triumphs and setbacks as he aims to help his students channel their enthusiasm and interest into productive learning experiences that reflect what he hopes they will learn with how it fits within their worlds.  It's a powerful book that in many ways takes the ideas of Paulo Freire and Lisa Delpit and demonstrates particular ways one can execute them in the classroom.


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


AUDIOBOOKS


  • Passing by Nella Parsen
  • Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century by Cory Doctorow
  • Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson
  • Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Edmin
  • Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
  • Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
  • Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
  • Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life by Joyce Carol Oates

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 26: Call to Arms by Robert Kirkman
  • Southern Bastards, Vol. 3: Homecoming by Jason Aaron


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.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Politics in Social Media: Memes, Public Talk, and Snacking

As you know from previous posts centered on politics, I'm doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about courses of action that are important to me.  Within that, it means I am also starting to think differently about how I engage and act politically in social media.  I will always contend that social media is a powerful and important tool; one that has inevitably changed my life for the better, making me a better communicator, more thoughtful and sensitive person, and better aware of the world around me.  But it has me thinking differently about certain aspects of it that I need to change my approach on.  Here are some of those different approaches that are currently on my mind.

Memes

Moving forward--I'm largely done with memes.  Neutral memes that may be amusing and interesting are probably not off the table but memes in general, I'm done using.  We all like memes because they are perfect analogy machines, distilling our issue into something that is a picture and handful of words.  However, memes do not really encourage or make for better dialogue between people with differences but rather allows one to state their claim, relying on the (often faulty) logic or limited facts of the meme to be proof positive.  They are shields with which to stand behind but generally non-starters for actual conversation.  They're used as proof-positive, often with the implication that if we just share them around enough, everyone will finally get it.
Word cloud of this post in the shape of a word balloon.

In order to critique the idea at the center, one has to engage in a long and drawn out explanation which often takes time and often, the original poster is not interested in hearing.  Not only do they take time but because the meme has framed the point, one is often trapped in having to contend with the present frame, which because of its distilled nature often is a challenge to do so in an engaging way given the person who posted it feels strongly enough about the meme to post it.  

So for me, I am refusing to engage in the meme-wars.  They aren't constructive in the end I believe and therefore would rather spend my time sharing more constructive ways of publicly thinking.  That being said, I am still going to speak up when I see memes that marginalize or alienate people--not as a means of engaging the person who posted it per se (though I hope they are willing to listen) but to make sure others who see the post (especially people that might be a target of the post) know that not everyone feels that way.   

Public Conversation vs Private Messages

Social media has been fantastic in putting me contact with a great many people and enjoying the opportunity to have many interesting conversations and debates.  But in moving forward, I think I shall be trying a new tactic.  We know that when it comes to beliefs, we are often likely to dig in deeper when we are publicly challenged because it becomes that much harder to admit if our thinking is wrong in some capacity.  We stake ourselves as intelligent, professionals, or just aware and so to be shown otherwise in public means that we are likely to avoid it.  Thus, I can imagine for myself and others that as I dig into a conversation deeper and deeper, trying to defend my beliefs, I'm reluctant to give ground or to really hear the other person.  But maybe, if I move the discussion to a more personal nature--to just me and the person via private messages, email, phone calls or face-to-face, it changes the conversation.  It moves from public to private and creates better opportunities to hear one another.  

So my goal is that when I engage in conversations that seem in direct opposition to things I believe in, I will initially post my public response (agian, believe it is important that others see it that it will be an opportunity for those neutral OR those that the post targets feel supported) but if the conversation goes into a more protracted discussion, that I move that into a private realm for me and the person to better understand one another.  

Snacking Social Media

I plan to reduce my social media usage.  I still plan to use it regularly, even daily but I need to shift away from the mindless scrolling, the endless search for interesting content, the constant look for something.  I need to be more strategic and focused in going on social media--seeing it as a place to check in regularly but not constantly.  I want to hear the different voices of people I am connected with but like others, after this past week, I'm realizing how much I'm drowning in it and I'd rather not be so inundated.  So I plan to start planning spots within the day to tune in but to stop grazing while doing other things and recooperate time to do some of the actions that I am in pursuing as a result of where I find myself politically.  

Subordinated into that is going to be a reduction in how often I explore differnet news outlets; especially that includes clickbait or over-dramatic responses to what they present as news (on the left, Mother Jones, I'm looking at you; on the right, Breitbart news, I'm not having it or any "news" space that have a bajillion article links along the side and at the bottom to other tabloid news).  For me, these sites are not useful; I want to know what happened but I'm so damn tired of the hyperbolic rhetoric--that's what got us here; it won't get us out.  So I say goodbye to them.

These are some of the actions in my daily practice that I am pursuing.  What about the rest of you?  How might your relationship with social media change given your experiences over the last few months?  



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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

What Am I Doing...Actions Taken

So in my last post, I said that the election for me and anyone else that was not something they liked in terms of its execution needs to do something to avoid it happening in the many problematic ways that it played out.  How's that going for all of us?  What are some of the action items you've taken up in the last few days?

Here's my run-down of what I've done thus far:


November 8: Election Day

I voted, of course but I also wrote the initial post from the other day that has got me going down this path of thinking about what to do next.


November 9:  A Day of Mourning & Reflection

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a lightbulb
I stayed up through most of Election night and had trouble sleeping (maybe 2 hours that night).  Wednesday was a really hard day for me.  It was spent in a bit of a haze.  It was spent shedding public and private tears and commiserating with friends.  I cried because the loss to me represented so much that was wrong--wrong with how the election was fought and the differing reasons why those who lost, lost and those who won, won.  It was navigating a path of sadness and frustrated and fear and not letting that turn into hate and anger but into actual things that I can learn and do better by this.  It was looking in the mirror and doing my best not to villianize those who are not us.  There are many things I feel that I am right about (e.g. caring for the equity, equality, and fairness of all humans) but recognize that I have gotten a lot of things wrong in how I go about it.


November 10:  Connections

I spent a large part of my free time on this day reaching out to as many people I knew that were as heart-stricken or felt particularly threatened under the rhetoric that President Elect Trump voiced.  I wanted them to know I cared about them and that I was there to help.  In my own mind, I spent the day thinking about what it means to connect and how to engage in action that is meaningful to move foward.  I realized that I and others would need some group support and guidance so I created the Time to Act group on Facebook to help people (including myself) to find guidance, support, and feedback on how to move forward.


November 11:  Time to Act

I spent time further wordsmithing the purpose and setting up the Time to Act group before launching it and inviting friends who I thought would be interested in joining or learning from.  Since then, it's up to about 500 members and more people are joining and inviting others.  Beyond that I also began to work with a good friend of mine about looking at an opportunity to reach out to the Electoral College (we began talking about this on the 10th actually).  A petition started int he past few days had us thinking.  The petition is an attempt to get the people that compose the Electoral College to change their vote.  It is an absolute moonshot to convince them but at the time of this composing, over 3.5 million people had signed it.  I also had conversations with my partner about the actions we wanted ot take together in the days to come.


November 12:  The Actions Grows

And today.  Today has been a mixture of engaging in idea-exchange with the group; composing a list of groups I wanted to monthly donate to, working with my friend in the above-mentioned project, and forming a plan for the days ahead.  It's getting energize by hearing from others in the group about the actions they plan to take and thinking about ways to better understand and connect with people that are different from me.  


Where am I going from here?

So now I'm off to think about more ways to act and seeing what are things I can do each day to act.  As I execute or explore new methods I will be definitely sharing them here on this blog but also within the group mention above.


What can I do?

I provided some initial ideas in the previous post about what to do.  Here are some more personal actions that people can take in the aftermath of the election.  
  1. Check in with people who may be made more vulnerable by the change of things to see what it is that you can do to help them.
  2. Reach out to organizations (e.g. local Muslim centers, women's centers, immigration protection organizations) to communicate support or ask ways in which you can support and advocate for their protection in the days to come.
  3. Write letters to local, state, and federal representatives voicing your concerns about how the country is moving forward and ask what you can do and what they can do.
  4. Avoid posting memes: Sound strange? I'm starting to think memes are one of the misinformative ways in which created echo chambers as they often marginalize the other person's point of view beyond the ability to create reasonable difference.
  5. Talk with people who did not vote the way you did and listen carefully to why it was they made that decision. The goal is to listen and learn; not to defend and attack. Just a few off the top of my head.

It's Not About the Candidate

I'm already writing a blog post about the issues around the election, my emotions, and things I'm reconsidering. But I want to be clear about my views on this. I'm not necessarily hateful towards the President Elect. I ultimately want him to succeed because his failure will do even more harm. However, it is undeniable that he used a range of hateful and fearful tactics that increased the vulnerability of groups that were already subordinate in our society. In the days since the election, hate groups and individual bigots have seen his election as a justification for their disregard for human decency and respect. And for that, I do hold the President Elect accountable for, especially since he had done nothing significant to quell the hatred.

That's all for now!  I'd love to hear what everyone else is doing and hear more about your ideas.  



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