The Updates #18

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Week 18 of the updates and these are the thoughts!


Slow progress this week--too many other things going on but I'm hoping by the end of this week, I'll be back in the saddle with working towards getting this done.
  • 86 days until March 1
  • 100 days until March 15
  • 131 days until April 15
  • 179 days until June 1

Lance is standing next to a lighting structured that is in the shape of a hobby horse in a way that looks like he is riding it.
Lance and Rupert the Horse

This week, I had an interesting insight about my work that is both the challenge and part of why it is so valuable to me. I was talking to my therapist and she asked how I was doing and the following insight came to me.  I appreciate that I get to work at a place where we are doing important work but it can be challenging in many ways.  We have such big dreams and goals–we wish to do so many things and can generate all the ways that we should be and more.  I love it for the dreams that it offers up.  And yet, to make those dreams happen, it means we have to do a great many things.  In fact, each day, we must try to advance these dreams incrementally.  In fact, there are so many dreams that it is nigh-impossible to work on all of them all the time. So many of them require significant and deep work that one must be focused on for weeks, if not months, at a time. 

So, the challenge that I navigate daily and weekly is that I have to choose which dreams to follow right now and which ones to defer.  Which ones do I focus on to the exclusion of others?  And what harm happens as a result of not pursuing those other dreams just yet?  What does it mean to focus on X and Y exclusively so that progress can be made but knowing that Z, A, B, and C are left waiting to be built months or even years down the road?  I can tell myself that it’s for the “greater good” and hope that’s true, though a part of me wonders and rightfully challenges whether I’m choosing X and Y because I find them easier or don’t challenge me in ways that I’m uncomfortable with.  And in choosing the path of X and Y, I’m choosing (my) comfort over the (real?) work that needs to be done.

I know–this is very much a heady internal dialogue that some folks might dismiss with a “you’re doing the best you can” or “you’re doing good work because you’re there”--and I recognize a truth in those thoughts.  Yet, it’s a thing I have learned about myself.  I have to grapple with these questions and do the due diligence of self-interrogation and reflection; it’s in those moments that I can better understand myself and check myself against the ways we (in general) can trick ourselves into false senses of truth or even into complicity. 

Why do I worry about complicity?  Well, there’s a lot of injustice in the world and so much of it happens through complicity and a willingness to not look or intentional avoidance. It’s understandable why we are that way–if we try to look every injustice in the face, we will quickly be exhausted before we even get out the door in the morning–hell, we might not even be able to get out of bed.  Still, what is the toll on us by looking away?  What part of our own selves do we submerge, reject, fail to recognize when we are complicit or look away from the pains of others.  So that's my thinking on work this week.

A black and white photo of an alley with a dumpster.  On the dumpster are the words "police state" in spray paint.
Police State in Providence

What I'm Reading

Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin: After her last amazing book (Race After Technology), Benjamin returns with a more personal and positive-oriented book that explores how to create viral justice.  Building upon the metaphor of a virus like COVID-19, Benjamin draws upon myriad examples of things that started small and yet grow into great pillars of justice in many different walks of life.  There are ways it reminds me of (and certainly is in dialogue with) Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown among other critical and hopeful writers and creators.  If you get the audiobook, you also get a joyful interview with her and Ibram X. Kendi. 

The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation by Cathy O'Neil: O'Neil's new book examines the ways that shame operates within society and how it is both weaponized and turned into opportunities to profit. She explores topics like fat shaming, people who are or have been incarcerated, people using social services, and people who have been attacked as a result of public mistakes they have made.  She takes a thoughtful approach about how different industries finds strategic ways to profit from shame and keep leveraging shame to keep people stuck in their situations or even harmful behaviors.  She also explores the ways cultures evolve around shame such as incel culture.  It's a dynamic book that raises questions about what it means to use shame. She does not say shame shouldn't exist but rather more critical ways of deploying it when it is in the interest of society.  

Banned Books: The World's Most Controversial Books, Past and Present by D.K. Publishing: This short book goes into that collection of books about books that will contribute to my "To Read" list never having an actual end. In this case, the book explores a variety of books that have been banned across the world over the last 600 years. It covers up until the late 2010s.  Each book has some discussion of the content, the history of the book, and why or how a ban was attempted and how long it was successful. None of the books were surprising nor the reasons for them; that we're still having conversations about banned books shows how little we have actually learned.

Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, #10) by Robert Jordan: Took me a little long with this one as it is definitely one of the books in the series where it feels like nothing is happening but a whole lot of talking and inability to act. Still, once I was about a third into it, I got the momentum to go at a reasonable clip.  The next book is the last that Jordan himself wrote so I'm curious to see how the final three line up with the first 11.  

Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters: Waters perversity is beautiful and if you love John Waters, you will love this book.  If you have no idea who John Waters is, please read up before opening this book. It is hilarious in its scenes and juxtapositions; chock-full of the most ridiculous circumstances and characters.  Readers should be ready for a more sex, violence, and absurdity than any one novel deserves to have.  I can explain the plot but it's not worth explaining because the plot is less relevant to the mood and atmosphere that Waters produces where whatever is the most bizarre thing that can arise from a given situation is likely to happen.  If you're not laughing and asking "WTF" with each chapter, then you should write the sequel.

Criminal Macabre: The Big Bleed Out by Steve Niles: It's been a while since I've read Niles and this series in particular. It's not his best work but it's clearly something he has fun doing--exploring the life of a gumshoe detective who explores the darker and supernatural side of society.  This series has Cal falling hard for a woman whom he knows he can't have. 

Primordial by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart: We know I love Lemire and he can do no wrong.  Primordial is an alternative-history and speculative fictional jaunt into the space race and what happened to the animals that were sent into space during the early test flights.  It's imaginative and wistful--allowing for us to imagine something different than the idea that humans sent animals to probably painful deaths in space to further our own curiosity.  

What I'm Watching

Willow: So far, I'm two episodes into this and I'm certainly here for it.  I love Warwick Davis and really enjoyed this film as a kid.  I'm finding that it is fun, it offer something beyond what has gone before, and ready for an adventure.  I'm feeling this more than I did Rings of Power but maybe less than Wheel of Time.  I think the thing that feel less exciting (thus far) is that we're dealing with a Willow who hasn't seemed to grow as much as one would hope after a few decades so there's a dynamic about him as barely keeping his shite together that feels disengenous to who he is at the end of the film.  Still, I'm here for it. 

Welcome to Chippendales: There's elements of this that remind me of HBO's Minx (about a fictional magazine in the 1970s featuring naked pictures of men) and the 2000 film, Rated X about the Mitchell brothers (created of the famous pornographic film, Behind the Green Door).  It has its charm and a central cast who definitely play well off and against one another.  Kumail Nanjiani i fantastic in this lead role and it's fascinating to see Murray Bartlett in this after just having watched season 1 of White Lotus.  The series is not for the faint of heart not just because of the topic (opening a male strip club in the 1980s) but there are definitely some harsher elements of the series.

This Week's Photos

 Lance and Rupert the Horse: Obviously, I didn't take this photo.  My partner, Chris did.  We were at Roger Williams Zoo "Zoolights" and enjoying walking through the zoo in the night with all the lights. She was encouraging me to take a photo after I took one of her.  I wasn't finding the right photo to capture and then, things started to clicking (pun intended?).  I wanted to be goofy but wasn't finding the right thing that balanced being goofy and would make visual sense for me.  But this one--this was it.  Riding the hobby horse (I named him, Rupert) was exactly the level of goof and silliness I was looking for.  

Police State in Providence: I was running home from work on Monday and came across this moment. It's probably the 4th time I've seen "Police State" tagged around the city. This is one of the benefits of moving around a city on foot or by bike is that you start to see things and catch things that you just can't catch when driving.  What I found interesting about this tag is that where I have seen it is pretty spread out--in terms of some miles between the tags.  Additionally, taking this photo as a black and white in this alley gives it a particular look that captured what I felt in the moment.  

What's on My Mind

I think the crux of my thinking this week is what I shared about work so I'll leave it at that.  

Till next week...

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