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Showing posts from February, 2021

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

Starting and Working Remotely in a Pandemic

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Estimated Reading Time: 8.5 minutes A colleague at work was recently leaving his job for a new one and in wishing him luck on his new venture, I emphasized that if there's anything I can do to help, to let me know.  He asked if I had any tips for starting a new job in the pandemic.  He asked because that's what I did b ack in April 2020 when I started up as the Educational Programs Manager at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, which I have been working at for nearly 10 months, entirely remotely.    Since my colleague asked and I wrote up some pointers, I might as well share them.   Obviously, I'm not the first to work remotely nor am I the first to start remotely in a pandemic.  So much of my advice can probably found elsewhere.  And, of course, we should always heed Baz Luhrmann's commentary on advice from " Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) ":  " Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing t

Poem #48: The Puppet-Player by Angelina Weld Grimké

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Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes Title : The Puppet-Player Source:  Wikimedia Author : Angelina Weld Grimké Source :   Poets.org Poem Sometimes it seems as though some puppet-player,    A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin Sits just beyond the border of our seeing,    Twitching the strings with slow, sardonic grin. Reflection In some ways, this feels like the opposite of Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask."  Instead, of people hiding behind masks and thus, being their own sort of puppeteers in control of what others see, Grimke suggests we're at the mercy of some puppet master.  This puppet-master does not seem to be the same as God or at least, not a god that Grimke sees in any good light.  Then we get that gorgeous line "A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin".  We get the alliteration of the first 4 c-words and even the fifth c-word produces a hard sound.  Between the sound and the description--nothing about that line suggests benevolence--we feel a menacing pup

Poem #47: The Banjo Player by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes Source:  Wikimedia Title : The Banjo Player Author : Fenton Johnson Source :   Poerty.org Poem  There is music in me, the music of a peasant people.   I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of the cabin and the field. At    the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets in March; there is always food and    drink for me there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks    the little children clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle. But I fear that I am a failure. Last night a woman called me a troubadour. What is a troubadour? Reflection There's an interesting question at the center of this poem that I rather like given my own exploration into popular culture studies and thinking about the often arbitrary lines we draw between high, middle, and low-brow culture.  Johnson seems to be raising some of those questions I'm often pondering within this poem.  The speaker

Poem #46: The Minister by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes Source: Wikimedia Title : The Minister Author : Fenton Johnson Source :   Poerty.org Poem           I mastered pastoral theology, the Greek of the Apostles, and all the difficult subjects in a minister’s curriculum.           I was as learned as any in this country when the Bishop ordained me.           And I went to preside over Mount Moriah, largest flock in the Conference.           I preached the Word as I felt it, I visited the sick and dying and comforted the afflicted in spirit.           I loved my work because I loved my God.           But I lost my charge to Sam Jenkins, who has not been to school four years in his life.           I lost my charge because I could not make my congregation shout.              And my dollar money was small, very small.           Sam Jenkins can tear a Bible to tatters and his congregation destroys the pews with their shouting and stamping.           Sam Jenkins leads in the gift of raising dollar money.      

Poem #45: The Miracle by Fenton Johnson

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes Soure: Wikimedia Title : The Miracle Author : Fenton Johnson Source :  Poerty.org Poem Though I was dwelling in a prison house,  My soul was wandering by the carefree stream Through fields of green with gold eyed daisies strewn,  And daffodils and sunflower cavaliers.  And near me played a little browneyed child,  A winsome creature God alone conceived,  “Oh, little friend,” I begged. “Give me a flower That I might bear it to my lonely cell.”  He plucked a dandelion, an ugly bloom,  But tenderly he placed it in my hand,  And in his eyes I saw the sign of love.  ‘Twas then the dandelion became a rose.  Reflection This is one of those poems without a rhyming scheme and yet to read aloud, it is so very easy to derive the rhythm and flow of the words (or at least, it is for me).  The notion of this poem reminds me of how we celebrate beauty as a rarity and we see that with flowers.  The dandelion does have its own natural beauty but because of its abunda

Poem #44: From the Dark Tower by Countee Cullen

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes Title : From the Dark Tower Author :  Countee Cullen Source :   African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 . Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3. Link : You can find this poem here . Poem We shall not always plant while others reap The golden increment of bursting fruit, Not always countenance, abject and mute, That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap; Not everlastingly while others sleep Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute, Not always bend to some more subtle brute; We were not made to eternally weep. The night whose sable breast relieves the stark, White stars is no less lovely being dark, And there are buds that cannot bloom at all In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall; So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds, And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds. Reflection I read this over a few times (including aloud) to appreciate it more clearly. Something that often happens to me (and I

Poem #43: Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes Title : Yet Do I Marvel Author :  Countee Cullen Source :   African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 . Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3. Link : You can find this poem here . Poem I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind And did He stoop to quibble could tell why The little buried mole continues blind, Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die, Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus To struggle up a never-ending stair. Inscrutable His ways are, and immune To catechism by a mind too strewn With petty cares to slightly understand What awful brain compels His awful hand. Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing! Reflection The first thing that I realized was that this was a sonnet.  I'm not well-versed in the different poetry styles but I can thank Michael Drout for drilling into

Review: What's the Point of College?: Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform

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What's the Point of College?: Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform by Johann N. Neem My rating: 4 of 5 stars Neem's concise and insightful book guides readers into the complex elements that make up higher education in the early 21st century. He provides historical context to many of the internal challenges of colleges and universities as the issues that confuse the general public about the nature of higher education.  For instance, he provides a rich discussion of understanding the difference about a college education as the battle between enrichment of the individual and seeking for the preparation of a career. He convincingly makes an argument in favor of the former given that the latter does not have the proven track record that people tend to think it does.  In other places, he draws out the challenges among tenure track faculty and other institutional members and how this creates of challenges and disconnects in higher education.  His work is highly access

Poem #42: Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes Title : Mother to Son Author :  Langston Hughes Source :   African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 . Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3. Link : You can find  this poem on t his website . Poem Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. Reflection It's hard to read this poem and not wonder if this was a message Hughes received directly from his mother or a motherly figure in his life. That's not to say it could not hav

Poem #41: Bound No'th Blues by Langston Hughes

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes Title : Bound No'th Blues Author :  Langston Hughes Source :   African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927 . Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3. Link : You can find  this poem on this website . Poem Goin’ down the road, Lawd, Goin’ down the road. Down the road, Lawd, Way, way down the road. Got to find somebody To help me carry this load. Road’s in front o’ me, Nothin’ to do but walk. Road’s in front of me, Walk…an’ walk…an’ walk. I’d like to meet a good friend To come along an’ talk. Hates to be lonely, Lawd, I hates to be sad. Says I hates to be lonely, Hates to be lonely an’ sad, But ever friend you finds seems Like they try to do you bad. Road, road, road, O! Road, road…road…road, road! Road, road, road, O! On the no’thern road. These Mississippi towns ain’t Fit fer a hoppin’ toad. Reflection The first thing that comes to mind when I read this is to wonder a rhythm or melody which to read this.  I re