The Updates #19

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Week 19 of the updates and this has been going on for months!

A playbill for The Gamm Theatre's December 2022 play, It's a Wonderful Life Radio Play. It features a while man in a suit holding a mug next to a Black woman in a dress speaking into an old radio microphone.
It's a Wonderful Life Radio Playbill

I've started to get back in the groove this week. I've been doing a few hours on transcribing and am getting into a rhythm. The new goal is to have everything transcribed by the end of December which I think is a manageable task.  Then I can start the read-throughs; though even now, I'm re-emerging myself and keeping an eye on things that I didn't notice the first time around.  Of course, that includes things where I realize I should have asked more relevant questions but I guess that's par for the course.  
  • 79 days until March 1
  • 93 days until March 15
  • 124 days until April 15
  • 171 days until June 1

 This week and the next two are a bit of a crunch in general because of the holiday season and also between we’re wrapping up the Fall semester at work and the Spring semester starts January 9th, which means things need to be in order by January 3–so there’s a lot to contend with and figure out before break if I want to have a break that is free from (this) work.
If I look back at last year, this was just 3 months in and I was planning and figuring out my first full semester (I had just CU in September 2021; just after the semester started).  So what’s fascinating and exciting is that I can tangibly see the difference in my work AND in CU’s growth.  That is, there was no real process around semester preparation and transition.  Now, there is more of a process (though still needs work).  Between colleagues and myself, we have structures and practices in place that just weren’t there last year.  That’s exciting because it means we’re doing better by our faculty and by our students.  It’s also great for me to see how much I have changed in the last year and the relationship with my faculty has grown and developed.  Some of them are now friends and I have a connection with most of them that wasn’t there last year.  They come to me for help, insights, and advice, and also they provide the same in turn. So while things feel like there’s always so much going on (per last letter), they also feel really great.

What I'm Reading

The Nox by Joe White: This was a sci-fi Audible origianl (free for some accounts) and it was ok. It's a talke about folks on an exhibition into the artic  in the near future and has a mix of different sci-fi tropes. As an episodic full-cast production, I felt like it wasn't particularly great or maybe just a bit formulaic in its soundscape and plot development.  
A red sign that says "Free to all" in English with Chinese writing under it
BPL - Chinatown

Stoner by Jon Williams
: This book showed up in some newsletter on higher ed that someone was reflecting on.  It's a novel from the 1950s that follows a student-become-faculty, William Stoner and his life as an academic throughout the early 20th century and across both World Wars. There are parts of this that are classic higher ed in terms of the squabbles, the ways students are seen, the dysfunctional families of academics, and the way academia is a romanticized experience; even this novel seemed to satirize and challenge some of those notions.  Still, there are parts of it that remind me of how far we've come and need to go with education. It's a novel that still centered and upholds the voice of white men, often dismissing or disparaging women, Black people, and even people with disabilities.  It's worth taking a read to get a sense of how academia was presented and re-presented in the first half of the 20th century.  

Dio Holy Diver by Steve Niles: I've missed Niles and some of his horror.  He's a solid comic horror writer and Dio Holy Diver definitely has moments of dread, darkness, and perversity.  The story is of a holy man who comes to a community that is peaceful and caring and trusting but also participates in sacrilegious activities and is guarded by a dragon.  The holy man decides he must do whatever he can in order to show them the evil of their ways.  What I appreciate about the story is that the villain really does think he's the hero, yet it's pretty clear he is not.

How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann: A modern take on fairy tales that worked really well.  Five women are requested to meet for a support group around their 15 seconds of fame and the trauma they experiences. Each week, a different woman shares her tale of survival of the initial episode and what life has been like since. Some of their stories lightly intersect and they all seem to have to navigate a modern media landscape that makes their life that much more challenging--which, of course, is interesting reflection on the ways that (particularly) young women may experience traumatic incidents to which they can never escape in the age of the Internet. Overall, the plot and characters are fascinating and an ending that is a bit meta and a feels like a natural conclusion.  

Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress: This play is fascinating for its focus and when it was written. Childress, a mid-20th century Black author and playwright provides this fascinating play exploring the role of Black people as objects for white salvation.  The story circles around a cast for an opening play and the racial tension amongst them in the early 1950s (also when it was published).  The play to be performed is one that takes place in the South and entails a lynching.  The tension of the play that slowly mounts is why is the lynching necessary.  It's a powerful question that has been regularly asked and still doesn't seem to be answerable in dominant (read: white) culture about how marginalized bodies are used for the purpose of white entertainment and then cast aside when no longer needed or when the same people resist to be dismissed (examples in sports abound from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick). The play covers more than just this--including powerful considerations about what it takes for Black people to be seen as legitimate in the realm of entertainment (and if they ever are)--questions that are still asked today by some of the best narrative works today.  

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler: A standard gumshoe detective tale with Marlowe, one of Chandler's famous characters. It's got your standard colorful characters, femme fatales, and a detective who may get knocked down but can still solve the crime in the end.  The set up is a guy is looking for his  wife who disappeared and left a letter.  Marlowe soon finds him chasing several questionable characters and discovering that there is more than one mystery to solve.  

What I'm Watching

American Horror Story Season 11: This is the season set in New York in the early 1980s, focusing on a series of murders of gay people while at the same time, a mysterious illness is beginning to appear.  Three episodes in and as always, there's lots to get lost in and be intrigued by with Murphy's series.  I do really think it has ruined movie-horror for me because the deliberate nature and intricate plots, ironic twists, and meta-commentary just can't be beat with two-hour movies.  I don't know if I'm as compelled as other seasons, I'm still here for the ride.  

This Week's Photos

It's a Wonderful Life Radio Playbill: Chris scored tickets to this show at the Gamm Theatre because she knows I'm a sucker for It's a Wonderful Life and radio plays. The production was lovely and they did a lot fun things with the script and by making it a radio play.  I have to write some thoughts about "radio plays" at some point because there's so much to consider with the performative nature of them in front of a live audience. Still this photo was chosen because it was a moment of the week that I had a lot of joy and excitement.

BPL - Chinatown:  I had the chance to meet up with my boss and a good friend and co-author, Danielle Leek. She currently works at the Urban College of Boston, a college that is strikingly similar to College Unbound in terms of who we serve and how we try to serve them.  They occupy space in the same building as the Boston Public Library's Chinatown library so I spent some time relaxing there and reaching.  This sign and its language popped up in several places around the area and well, it just reminds me of the importance of libraries and the fact that as others have observed--if libraries didn't exist today and someone tried to create them, our society would whole-heartedly reject them as some form of socialism or government control.  

What's on My Mind

The other thing that is occupying my mental space today is the launch of ChatGPT.  You might have heard of this in the last two weeks (or not). It’s a program that uses artificial intelligence to create responses to whatever you type into the chatbox. These responses are entirely new (not just taking information from other sites).  So this means if you have a question like, “what is the meaning of life” or “how do I cook an hard boiled egg?” or “What are the ethical implications of climate change”--it will actually provide a several-hundred word response.  The responses vary in quality but it is an interesting feat to watch and play with.  A simple primer can be found here.  
There’s a lot of conversation about “what this means”. Some folks are claiming that it’s the end of writing; others are claiming it doesn’t mean anything; while some folks are claiming this will change writing but not in the ways that we think it will. Its meaning is still hard to fully consider.  While I’m often skeptical about both technology and the dialogue around technology, I feel like this has some possibilities to positively influence how we work and create.  It reminds me of when computers started to be able to play chess and the lessons that we’ve learned since around it is that a human/computer combination chess player can do much better than a computer on its own. So this leads me to wonder if human and machine co-creating might provide us with new ways of expressing ourselves through the written word.  I dunno, but it’s what’ I’m thinking about today!  Two thinkers that I appreciate and am always interest in hearing their thoughts have also share some initial considerations:  John Warner and Hank Green.  Meanwhile, I've been keeping track of the questions I am asking ChatGPT and the answers that it is providing--I'll continue to update that as I continue to play.

Till next week...

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