Showing posts from February, 2020

Review: The Auctioneer

The Auctioneer by Joan Samson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Auctioneer is a fascinating story of the slow unraveling of a town and its people. When a charming auctioneer shows up in a small town in New Hampshire, everyone is excited as he works his skills to convince people to donate to a weekly auction and effortlessly builds up funds for the police force. But his appetite for donations continues to grow as people have less and less to give and that's when bad things start happening to people. John Moore and his family watch as they find themselves compelled and subtly threatened to give away almost everything own, piece by piece and a biting tension builds throughout the town. Samson does so well with the delivery of the story that it feels like a warm smile slowly morphing into a menacing smile and the reader, like the townsfolk, is never quite sure when that line is crossed. In many ways, the story is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery in the ways in which the people…

Review: An African American and Latinx History of the United States

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if we reframed the history of the United States through social, cultural, and political lens of Latin America and African history. That is, most U.S. histories work from a European lens, invoking the influences, historical contexts, and politics of Europe in the making of the U.S. It's to be expected given how much U.S. history has been told in a way to appease white people at the cost of marginalizing and ignoring people of color. But Ortiz takes this approach and crafts a powerful narrative that draws upon a great many primary sources that show just how much things like the Haitian Revolution, the political landscape of Mexico, and the strives for freedom throughout Latin American and Africa were intertwined with the struggle for freedom in the US. He moves from the Revolution to the election of Trump to show the ways in which the struggle continues today and how Latinx and Afric…

The PhD Chronicles: Back into the Rythm

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

So I recently mentioned that I'm getting back on track with my dissertation and so, since it's been about a month, I figured I'd give an update. 

Overall--it's going well. I feel like I'm actually making progress. For oer a month now, I've managed to work 20-30 minutes each day, if not longer on other days. This is a great and consistent effort that allows me to see actual progress; something that I need. 

So how have I been able to do it?  After a year of nearly faltering, I feel like I've turned the corner and am chipping away.  Here are some of things that have been working for me.  What I would suggest is that this is essentially a recipe. A grouping of habits that have helped me and "tastes" great to my palate.  You should certainly mix and match with what you think will work for you but also, maybe experiment a bit to figure out what's working. Sometimes, it's our own assumptions about what we think wo…

Review: Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you fairly assess a book that is about deep reading and the superior thinking that devices from that but includes as part of its argument something taken right out of an urban legend--thereby, undermining and questioning the research that the author put into the book to make the argument? That's the question I'm grappling with as I review this book. At a point where she is arguing that we need to, of course, "think of the children" (my quote, not her), she mentions that prisons are evaluating third-grade literacy levels to project future beds. This is a falsehood that is easily discovered by Googling and yet, she leverages it as a rallying call. If there is proof of shallow reading, then mayhaps it's referring to that urban legend.

Wolf provides a powerful and thought-provoking series of letters about the challenges and concerns that are (or maybe or we worry are…

The Hustle and the Tapestry

Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes

Tl/dr: I do a lot but seriously, I (mostly) know what I'm doing...

To those that know me, it should serve as no surprise that on regular occasions, I have been accused of doing too much. Like way too much. It's a fair accusation to direct at me because from the outside, yes, it can look like I have 5,001 sticks in the fire and meanwhile, I'm also fishing with five poles, knitting two sweaters, oh and making coffee (because all of this runs on coffee).

But in this post, I want to draw out something that I innately understand about what I'm doing. To do this, I hope to make a distinction between what has been commonly named "the hustle" and introduce my own approach, which I consider to be "the tapestry." (It is, without a doubt, a false dichotomy and that's ok!)

The oracle of all words, Urban Dictionary gives us some good definitions that draw this out:

Definition 1: To have the courage, confidence, self beli…

Review: I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture by A.D. Jameson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a delightfully interminable Star Wars fan, this book triggered all the feels. Jameson provides a personal and cultural history of geek culture since the emergence of Star Wars in the 1970s. He marks Star Wars as the birth of geek culture's rise to pop culture dominance in TV, film, conventions, and much more. Throughout, he explores the pivotal ways in which Star Wars and other major geek-entities (comic books, RPG tabletop gaming, fantasy books, etc) played pivotal roles in making geek culture more mainstream culture. Of course, within that, he acknowledges the tension between those who are hardcore fans of the cultural product in its "original form" (whatever we want to mean by that) and in its various adaptations, remakes, deviations, etc. He has a very strong bone to pick with Peter Biskind and his film and cultural histories, believing Biskind, am…

Name That Book...Diving into the Stacks

Estimated Reading Time: 6.5 minutes

Let’s play a game. For the first half of this post, I will describe details of a particular book about higher education and you will try to guess which one it is.  When you finish reading the list, feel free to skip down to the comments (no peeking!), and call out what book you think I’m referring to or take to Twitter, tag me (@leaton01) using the hashtag #WhatBookIsIt.  Share a link if you thought it was a good book too (we all like recommendations, right?).

Let’s begin: The author states (no googling quotes) that the doctoral student “No longer enjoys the bargaining power that mere possession [of a doctoral degree] once betokened and as competition becomes keener, the matter of placement grows more critical…” and departments are not properly training doctoral students to do anything besides research. Scholarly employment has hit its saturation point and higher education is now creating the “learned unemployed.”Less than 50% of students pursuing adva…