The Updates #9

Estimated Reading Time:  9 minutes

Week 9 of the updates and here we are!  

A view Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City in the background with a wall of life-preservers in the foreground
A view of Fairmont Le
Château Frontenac and
a wall of life-preservers

Despite being away for much of the week, I still managed to get in another 5 interviews, bringing the total count to 13 interviews and another 7 scheduled.  So I still have at least another 4 more to do and in particular, I'm looking for tenure-track or tenured faculty who may be using platforms like LibGen and SciHub.  For more information, you can always check the research study webpage.

Not much going on because I'm still on vacation.  In fact, by the time this blog is posted, I should be at my first day back in two weeks.  I'm actually looking forward to it which tells me that the vacation served its purpose in getting me away from work and into other things and also, that I'm working at some place I enjoyed.  

What I'm Reading
Not as much reading as last week but still enjoyable explorations.

How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor: Critical Thinking in the Age of Bias, Contested Truth, and Disinformation by Thomas C. Foster: I've really liked Foster's other works and have regularly used them in courses that I teach.  He's tackled literature in general, poetry, novels, and film.  All are solid explorations that are accessible and have helped myself, at times, (here's looking at you poetry), and my students really dig deeper into exploring the written word.  This book attempts to continue on that tradition and, at times, does, but honestly, should have been two different books--a book about reading and appreciating nonfiction that fit within the dynamics of the previous books, and a book about navigating the second half of the title (after the colon).  Yes, these are intertwined but one could say that much about all previous books too.  What emerges is a book that is helpful in some places in understanding nonfiction in general approaches, genres, and concepts, and at other times, a concentrated critique of information in the past decade.  The disjoint is palpable and it has moments beyond the critique that can feel a bit like "get of my lawn" when Foster explores and explains his take on online writing (arguing that a lot of it is poor in some capacity--but that's no real different than the printed word).  So while I liked it, it felt a bit less valuable than others in the series for how I've come to use them.  

The Heron by Don Winslow: This short novella is not much to write home about except that from my limited reading of Winslow is that it is a perfect introduction and exploration of his style. The story focuses on revenge among criminals over love and money.  The prose is strong but sparse; the story  moves to a mostly foreseeable conclusion yet one that feels balanced in how the tale is told.    

The Island by Adrian McKinty:  I've read one other books by McKinty and this has the same flavor to it.  It has some level of intensity, some level of sacrifice, and some level of knowing it will be all right in the end.  In this case, a doctor, his (much) younger second (trophy) wife, and two kids from the dead first wife are on vacation in Australia where the doctor buys his way onto a private island to please his kids.  He accidentally kills a young woman with his car and the local clannish family with an old Irish matriarch who are hostile to anyone on their island decides they need their justice.  It was enjoyable enough to listen to but not sure I'd recommend it unless you enjoy thrillers.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir by Natasha Trethewey:  Whoa--this one.  Trethewey relieves her childhood and distills a series of moments and objects that capture her experience growing up as a biracial child who witnesses the failure of society to care and protect her mother.  Even knowing what is coming (Trethewey says it in the beginning), the memoir is a gut-punch of observation, clinical reporting (as in including transcripts of phone calls and court files), and compelling prose. While it could be easy to reach for the sensational, Trethewey is more reserved and often explains in clear language, letting the tension and anguish of the moment be held as much by the reader as by the words the author provides. As a meditation on life, race, gender, and justice, the memoir leaves the reader contemplating the ways our society fails to protect people even when it is blatantly clear their protection is warranted and what it says that this happens regularly and to people of color.  That's one of the powerful elements of Trethewey's writing is that she draws out the racial dynamics that impact her and her mother's life, but never overtly draws the lines--instead, the lines become strikingly clear when she draws upon the police and court records the demonstrate what did and didn't happen.  

What I'm Watching

Andor:  Still enjoying it.  I'm intriguied by the presentation of Mon Mothma and a husband who (at least in episode 4) seems antagonistic to her and the rebels.  

Brookyln 99:  Finally finished the series. Enjoyable--sure, but feel like the last season seemed to undermine its intention with addressing racial injustice in the first episode or two and then nearly dismissing it after that.  That was disappointing. I enjoyed some of the ways they wrapped it up (Rosa's being the best).  Glad I watched it but it wouldn't make my top 10.  
Bushes in the shape of a man with a cloak kneeling down and planting a tree.
One of the displays at

House of Dragon
: I'm about three episodes into this. I'm intrigued enough to keep going (it's pulling me in more than The Rings of Power). I'm missing Peter Dinklage but Matt Smith is an acceptable substitute.  In truth though, I'm feeling there's not much here to enjoy but more like rehashing Game of Thrones. It all feels rather masturbatory--dragons and battles and who will be the next ruler, oh my.  This is always the challenge with pre-quel series; they have to somehow outdoor their predecessor but still make the original series feel worth it.  Star Wars does this well with some of its series and films prior to the original trilogy and flubs with others.  I'm doubtful that House of Dragon is rising to the occasion--but it's only 3 episodes.

Elvis:  I'm a sucker for Baz Luhrmann so, of course, I was going to watch the Elvis biopic. Visually stunning and musically enjoyable as so many of his stories are.  The story felt a bit of patchwork and a bit of forcing things into places. The strong dynamic of Black musical influence on Elvis is well known but I question how it is was portrayed in the film--I appreciate giving the direct nods but don't know enough if that was Luhrmann's attempt to give credit or there was geniune efforts on Elvis's behalf.  The timing could have been better clarified too--a few times it was hard to place when along the timeline and I would get lost in thought to that rather than focusing on the movie.  But still--for a 150+ minute movie, I enjoyed it.  

This Week's Photos

Quebec City: I took this photo when I was on the boat for the tour along the St. Lawrence River. The rain hadn't started yet and the image is a great juxtaposition of the hotel and grandeur that dominates about 2/3 of the image while the bottom is a wall filled with life-preservers.  Those preserves are an art display of preservers taken from Syrian refugees that had made it to the shores of Europe. 

Mosaicultures Gardner: Visiting the Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal was such a cool experience and so rich with stunning visual composites of animals, nature, and symbols invoking nature, the environment, and indigenous people.  It was so magical to walk around and to see the work they did in this space.  This display is towards the ends--just when you think you are all done and viola--here is one more figure to grab your attention.  

What's on My Mind

Quebec City:  A beautiful city in a beautiful space.  This is my second visit to Quebec--the first happened back in September, 2006.  I remember that because I had gone to Quebec City and was in the midst of driving to Montreal when I got a call that I would be teaching my first college-course on Thursday (it was Sunday or Monday).  It was a bit surreal and exciting.  This trip to Quebec City did not entail such changes but it was just as delightful as I remember it and I had more opportunity to explore since my partner came up with a fantastic itinerary.  It was a mixture of walking around and exploring as well as a boat tour along the St. Lawrence River (with plenty of rain), a visit to Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal and a drive around Île d'Orléans, which had great views, shops, and food!

Finding the right tool: So as I mentioned before I've been trying to find the right tool/process/routine to keep myself focused on the things that I want to make sure I do each day/week month.  I've tried different things from a giant whiteboard to notebooks (and bullet journaling), checklists galore, and the like.  This week, I'm exploring digital bullet journals and thinking if this would be the right space for me to start on track with things. I need to dig in a little more and build out one or two examples to see if it feels like the right tool.  

Till next week...

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  1. I'm a big fan of Notion as a platform for digital bullet journaling

    1. can you say some more? do you have a good template/example that you can share?


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