The Updates #13

Estimated Reading Time:  12 minutes

Week 13 of the updates and here we are!  

A black and white photo of a mud turtle with a near-perfect reflection on the tank wall.
MJ In the Mirror

And this week was a win!  I completed my 25th (out of 24) interviews (yes, you read that right; I was aiming for 24 but for better sampling, I ended up doing one more).  All I can say is that DAMN! It feels so good to have been able to accomplish this.  25 interviews in 49 days, discussing a topic that can be hard for people to comfortably talk about in the open. While I still have a bit to go, the completion of this has never felt more in view!

While I was mostly back to shape, there's a lot of sickness going on at work; colds, flus, COVID, and the like.  Lot of folks trying to both rest and also get work done (which I get) and worried about how the winter will be.  I'm also, once again, trying to get back into a rhythm.  Monday-Wednesday are office days and also later days because of class on Tuesday and Wednesday night.  Thursday morning feels like a hangover and also, if chock-full of meetings.  I think I'm going to do more block scheduling and maybe some more FocusMate booking to keep time protected to do a bit more deeper work than what can often happen in the office.  More to play with!  I'm also playing with Notion after a colleague mentioned it and trying to set it up in a way that is useful and keeps me on task about what's next.

What I'm Reading
A firepit with escaping in the foreground with a garage behind it which has a large inflatable spider on it.
Lenore at the Fire

A Court of Thorns and Roses Part 1 & 2 (Graphic Audio) by Sarah J. Maas
:  I've been told to read this but I'm still making my way through the Wheel of Time and have a ton of books to read after that; so I checked out the Graphic Audio full-cast production.  Graphic Audio always brings a strong game and the audio experience was excellent.  The story was compelling through I found while I was intrigued with the world, the main story felt flat at times or just too much hitting the same notes.  

The Stone King by Kel McDonald:  An orphan who works as part of a guild of young thieves exploited by some adults, Ave decides to try to make big by stealing healing moss from a giant stone figure that roams the countryside.  While stealing the moss, she also finds a red gem that she also takes.  When she gets back to the city, the stone giant follows and begins destroying the city.  The story was all right but again, the world that the city exists in was intriguing.  the color schemes too made the world feel gray and gritty to the point that you could taste it in your teeth.  

Space Story by Fiona Ostby:  The story of a family trying to reunite while the planet dies.  It's simple but deep in the feels as you learn about the budding love of the couple, the challenges of being a parent, and the anguish of being separated.  

Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to Recharge You Metabolism and Renew Your Health by Wil Cole:  The book explores and then guides you through an approach that blends intuitive eating with intermittent fasting. Overall, there were some interesting ideas within this book though it too often sounded like every other health and dieting book out there. It did those things for me that make it feel like it is trying too hard to say, "they're all illegitimate, but this is the real deal."  The first of these is making sure you  know when they are citing "science" by saying things like "in the prestigious journal, Nature".  Then, there's always the attempt to say, "No, this is the legitimate way we developed our eating habits through evolution."  And, of course, there's the chestnut that, "this isn't for losing weight but just taking care of yourself--but the weight will drop."  There's lots of tips but then there's also things that feel outside the author's lane like when he talks about, "and while you're at it, you should go on a social media diet."  (None of these are actual quotes but ironic summaries).  I got a few ideas but didn't feel like it offered me sumptuous meal.  

The ART of Facilitation: Communicate So They Remember by Tina Frey Clements: Here again, the book offered me a few tips and reminders about how to improve facilitation for workshops and events but when she started right off the bat with talking about "learning styles", I knew this was more flash than substance; sure enough there were lots of generalized comments that left me dubious about the book as a whole, even if I found some tips relevant.  

Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We'll Win Them Back by Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow: I'm a big fan of Cory Doctorow and this was now the second Kickstarter of his that I have participated in to help produce an audiobook.  And the money was more than worth it because Giblin and Doctorow bring an analysis of capitalism that is next level.  To me, it goes where Shoshana Zuboff's Surveillance Capitalism doesn't and blends in a good deal of Naomi Klein's work about capitalism.  The initial framing of the book focuses on the fact that while we have some safeguards against monopolies, we do not have real safeguards from oligopolies or monopsonies.  Many industries (particularly creative industries such as books, music, film, television, comics, etc) are held up by oligopolies wherein a few large companies control most of the market and because of that, they can (albeit illegally) collective work to control pricing and services to a degree unprecedented.  Coupled with this nefarious practice is monopsony, wherein companies like Amazon, Google, and LiveNation the like, become the singular buyer in a market (books, ads, ticket selling, etc), which means companies and individual sellers are beholder and cut off from their customers unless they adhere to the practices and prices dictated by the intermediary.  This rent-seeking practice shows up every and does much to hurt a thriving and diverse community of ideas, artistic creations, and experiences.  That's the first half of the book and boy, it's damning but also quite insightful.  In the second half, Giblin and Doctorow explore examples of resistance as well as recommendations for systemic approaches to addressing the problems.  That, like most books, is where it falters a bit in that they all seem pie in the sky and we are not able as an individual to plug into them as well as we might.  It is a structural issue and yet, if folks don't feel they have the capacity or even the fullest understanding of how to do the small things up through the systematic things, I think it feels harder to do anything other than feel frustrated.  Still--one of the best analyses on capitalism that I've read.   

What I'm Watching

Werewolf by Night: I saw this pop up on Disney+ but didn't actually hear much about it leading up to and after its release.  It's a 1-hour special that introduces a couple of the more supernatural creatures of the Marvel Universe like the werewolf and Man-Thing. It felt like a pilot but with no follow up.  It played tribute to the more supernatural elements of the Marvel universe and was largely black and white to invoke the Universal monsters of the 1930s and 1940s.  Not great but it kept me interested.

Tales of the Jedi:  Six 15-or-so minute episodes focused primarily on the backstories of Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku.  All in all, they were solid; each had a clear story arc and helped us understand the characters in different ways.  Dooku's stories were more intriguing because less is known about him and seeing how he was moved and challenged with the death of Qui Gon Jinn was interesting to see. 

Imitation of Life (1959):  Last week, we watched the 1934 version of this movie; it had many flaws in its depiction of Delilah and the dynamics between her and Bea, but I found its discussion of passing intriguing for a mainstream film of the day.  This version felt like a further step back. The acting felt over the top and the story moved away from a business created and thriving by the two women (Bea and Delilah in 1934) into one that focused more on (white) gender and sexism. Rather than Delilah be the reason and means by which Bea succeeds, a romantic lead takes more center stage. So while Lora (Bea in the 1934 film) and Annie (Delilah in the 1934 film) have a strong bond, it is underserved and de-centered to focus on Annie's career navigating the sexism of theatre and film industries. This feels on par for the 1950s but is disappoint nonetheless. While Annie's daughter, Sarah Jane (Peola in the 1934 film) still attempts to pass, this storyline gets details, clarity, and trauma (helping audiences to understand the discrimination to some degree). Yet, the film goes to lengths to also further villify Sarah Jane, making her haughty, deceitful, and much more sexualized. The 1934 version is problematic for many reasons yet it does center Bea and Delilah's relationship in a way that the 1959 does not. And, of course, all this has led me to get the book from the library and see how it was written.

This Week's Photos

MJ in the Mirror:  First shared on Instagram, I took this of our turtle, MJ when I was feeding him one night this week.  I liked the color image but the black and white I found really stunning.  I feel like this is something that could be turned into a larger photo for display in the house or something.

Lenore at the Fire:  We had a Halloween gathering this weekend and that included putting out "Lenore" (the giant spider) and getting a fire going.  I thought the line up of the flames with Lenore right behind it made for a fun shot--like something they would have done for special effects in an old black and white film.

What's on My Mind
Perspective When You're Not Looking:  I had an incident this week that I'm still thinking about for what it continues to teach me about perspective. While biking from the office to the campus this week, I came across a man on his back on the sidewalk struggling to get up.  I stopped to see if I could help.  I worked with the man to help him up but he couldn't maintain his balance and kept falling back.  We were standing next to a bush that had a fence embedded in it.  He kept trying to walk but had no sense of balance. Meanwhile, I kept trying to hold him up and talk with him about where he wanted to go and how we could get him there. We were both calm and communicative but the man was in distress, being uncertain about where he was and how he could find where he needed to go.  The man was light and also I was trying to give him some level of autonomy with movement so I tried to hold him up by his jacket.  This went on for a few minutes (in the rain, mind you).  

Some folks driving by were slowing down as if to check out the scene but then kept going.  Then, my colleague came walking around the corner, letting me know that another colleague had said they saw what was going on.  The colleague that showed up was showing up out of care and concern for me because the colleague that called had said that there seemed to be some level of distress going on.  As it was later described, the scene appeared that I was holding a black man up with a fist into a bush. That is in some ways, an accurate description and yet, when I realized the visual of it, I, too, had to wonder what I was thinking.

Yes, I was trying to help someone in distress; yes, I was holding that person up with their coat because that felt like the right thing to hold him up by so he could test his balance or use the bush/fence for support to help orient himself. But without that context, it sets a visual that would certainly raise some concerns.  Context does matter and also, the awareness of others' contexts and how things look from the outside can be equally important.  So yeah, still thinking about that one.

Till next week...

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