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Review: Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another

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Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another by Matt Taibbi My rating: 5 of 5 stars Taibbi aims to provide an updated version of Noam Chomsky & Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent adapted to integrate the last thirty years of mass media practice coupled with Taibbi's own insider views and criticism about how media across all divides is failing the US in profound ways. His argument is not new (media is failing us) but his take that all mainstream popular news outlets (TV, radio, print-based, digitally based) are complicit in this destruction because they're all playing to specific audiences is rather important. Taibbi explores and explains how news entities continue to focus on a portion of the audience they believe they can maintain by offering a particularly biased focus and forgo trying to win over other news consumers. The result is that most people end up paying attention to the news media that fits their politi

Review: Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change

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Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change by Eitan Hersh My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is the book that so many of us need to read, thinking about, and act upon.  Hersh's argument is that there are a lot of people who believe they are politically active because they are engaged in daily news binging and social media arguments but not actually involved in political acts that help to expand one's influence or power.  Primarily, these folks (myself included here) know a lot about the national level blow-by-blow and have deeply-held beliefs about politics but find themselves less likely to do much to build a political powerbase (or support one) to enact change.  Hersh provides different reasons for this.  Sometimes, it's the disconnect between the moral philosophy of the participants (or nonparticipants as they were) and the fact that they would have to actually compromise and navigate complex dec

Review: From "Superman" to Man

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From "Superman" to Man by J.A. Rogers My rating: 4 of 5 stars Rogers' fictional polemic explores and deconstructs the racism that pervades the United States. The story focuses largely on a conversation between Dixon, a Black porter on a train, and the white Southern racist legislator as the legislator attempts to argue the "nature" of Black inferiority. Over the course of several days, the conversations wind and turn with him throwing up argument after argument. But whether a strawperson of sociology, biology, psychology, economics, culture, religion, etc, they all crumble against Dixon's ample intelligence and research. While Dixon is a fictional character, the research he calls upon is real, relying on scientists, philosophers, political thinkers, and many others both of the time and from centuries past. That's what is most striking about this book from 1917--the height of Jim Crow--that Rogers has such a systematic

Review: Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

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Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios My rating: 5 of 5 stars Rios's dissertation work-turned-book is a fantastic and powerful read that feels like a perfect counterpart to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness . Over several years, Rios situates himself among a group of Latino and Black young men in Oakland, California to learn from their vantage what life is like when society deems you a problem or menace. From his observations, interviews, and analysis, Rios highlights the many ways in which young people of color are stuck between living in challenging spaces that demand one kind of conformity while a predominantly white (and racist) culture demands conformity in another. These two demands are at odds with one another, leaving youth men determining what is the rational choice to pursue based on their situation (rather than the "rational" assumptions people not in their pos

Review: Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass

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Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L. Gray My rating: 4 of 5 stars Exploring life at what is referred to as "automation's last mile", Gray and Suri discuss the human cost to supposedly seamless technology. Their study is fascinating because while it highlights the many problems that the gig economy and invisible labor represent, they also identify that despite this very precarious work, some individuals who do it find meaningful ways of engaging in.  However, the crux of their discussion exposes the ways in which companies have made huge efforts to externalize nearly every aspect of costs to people they can pay but not consider employees and have utterly no responsibility to them (including giving useful feedback or even paying them properly).  What I appreciate about Gray and Suri's work is that they don't just focus on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, the most evident examp

Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price My rating: 5 of 5 stars We have all heard (and maybe preached) the refrain that "people are reading less" and with it, comes the deep dread of a zombie apocalypse worldwide, not of actual zombies but by people unable or unwilling to read or at the very least, humanity is made all the less for this great and tragic loss of reading. But Price largely shatters that perspective with an in insightful historical look at books and our fundamental misunderstanding about books and the poor public discourse we have around them. Her first focus is to dismantle the myth of people reading less coupled with a challenge that asks exactly when were people doing more reading and what did that consist of? She notes that reading is still happening in significant numbers but people are fixated on the idea that people aren't reading books. Of course, book sales tell a different story

Review: Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels

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Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels by David A. Beronä My rating: 4 of 5 stars Beronä explores the world of wordless books from the early and mid-20th century. These wood-cut novels (and other types of wordless visual stories) were a phenomenon within storytelling that seemed to operate in parallel to art movements and the development of comics.  Beronä's effort here is to provide a preliminary history of their emergence and the most well-know creators such as Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel, Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde. The book does not necessarily have a critical through the line but sits more as an introductory exploration into the creators and the works. Besides the introduction and the conclusion, each chapter explores a particular creator and some of their works. The essays are brief biographies of the authors and some detail and complexity about the nature of the works being discussed.  Much of the book is dedicated to excerpts (individu

Poem #50: El Beso by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time:  2 minutes Title : El Besto Source:  Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem Twilight—and you Quiet—the stars; Snare of the shine of your teeth, Your provocative laughter, The gloom of your hair; Lure of you, eye and lip; Yearning, yearning, Languor, surrender; Your mouth, And madness, madness, Tremulous, breathless, flaming, The space of a sigh; Then awakening—remembrance, Pain, regret—your sobbing; And again, quiet—the stars, Twilight—and you. Reflection In short tense lines, Grimke captures an essence of a passionate kiss and while I have never thought of it before, it is a beautiful description of what happens.  It both starts and ends with twilight and that makes me think about the moment when two people look at each other and exist in this limbo space of "yes or no"--it is a twilight, an in-between space.  The quiet is the moment where it seems it has been decided between both.  From there, each line reads like a pulling

Poem #49: The Want of You by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes Title : The Want of You Source: Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem A hint of gold where the moon will be;  Through the flocking clouds just a star or two;  Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed,  And oh! the crying want of you.  Reflection Like the feeling Grimke evokes in this poem, this poem is short and fleeting.  It feels like the memory of a taste that she looks to evoke with this imagery of something there but almost imperceptible yet inevitable.  Tied to the title, "The Want of You", it seems that the imperceptible absence in each of the images (flecks of gold, stars through the clouds, and subdued leaves) are about how longing can be ever-present, no matter the sits before us. And maybe it hasn't been a desire for another person, but our minds when occupied about something or someone, can maintain these dual thinking lines of both the world in front of us and where our mind is pulled.   Beyond the poe

Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

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Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez My rating: 4 of 5 stars Everyone in the town knew that Vicario brothers planned to kill Santiago Nasar in the morning. They weren't hesitant to tell everyone and the word-of-mouth traveled across the town in the span of hours.  Yet, in Nasar's morning venture to the town center and to the dock to witness the cardinal give his blessing on the town (from the boat), people largely were incapable of telling and protecting Nasar from the brutal death that awaited him.  Marquez's story unravels through an unnamed narrator who has returned to the town twenty-seven years later to investigate and explain why it was that Nasar dies. The narrative shifts in non-chronological order with each chapter, taking the reader from the Nasar's final walk to the mission embraced by the Vicario brothers to kill him and their efforts to get someone to stop them from committing the act to how the town reacted in the short