The Updates #22

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Week 22 of the updates and I bet you thought I'd quit by now!

A black and white photo of a condemned building at the Wrentham Developmental Center
Wrentham Developmental Center

As of this posting, I have about 2.5 transcripts to go (out of 25).  So I made significant progress during the break.  I have my partner, Christine and my friend Melba to thank for doing co-working sessions with me throughout the break and getting through hours of transcripts.  I will finish up the transcripts this week and get into reading and analyzing soon!  In reality, I think that means I'm not going to be walking in May but I still plan to finish by June 1.  That's 6 months away and I feel that I can do it; the momentum is there; the biggest task is just showing up every day to get work done on it.  
  • 150 days until June 1

I was largely away from work this week, though neve really away. The semester starts next Monday (January 9th) and the classes in the LMS open today (January 2), so inevitably there are questions to answer from faculty. Still, I've mostly been away. What I have been working on during this time is my course, CVC292-1: Special Topics in Civic Engagement:Digital Interventions: AI & Education. I'll be sharing the syllabus soon enough but I'm excited to run a course with students that have direct implications for their education and the institution as a whole.

What I'm Reading
A photo of a window inside the local library that includes some painted glass which has flowery imagery in it.
A View from the Library

The Pearl by John Steinbeck
:  The more I read of Steinbeck, the more I like his work. I read (and since reread on occasion) Of Mice and Men and some of his short stories.  I know The Pearl is another one of those stories that is also read in high school and happened to give it a listen this week. I certainly know of and have watched (but not read) The Grapes of Wrath. I found it interesting to see across the works that I'm familiar with of Steinbecks, how much he grapples with a fierce intensity, inner life, and experience of people who live in state of precarity and The Pearl was no different in this regard.  Short but full of moments in which the tension of living in a harsh world can be felt.  

Black Looks: Race and Representation by bell hooks:  One of 2 books by hooks this week, this collection of essays covers a variety of different topics around how Black bodies ideas, experiences, etc are re-presented in the culture.  hooks' criticism feels provocative for the time and still relevant for today in that there seems little she says that I don't think still has resonance to cultural representations today.  Still, I would be fascinated to see how she might explore some if these essays in light of some of today's works.  

Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies by bell hooks:  Primarily, this collection of essays and interviews (with some that also show up in Black Looks) focuses on the moving image. Published decades ago, her writing focuses mainly on the 1980s and 1990s, which will still leave the reader to find some of the lesser known films she critiques (short films, documentaries) while simultaneously, looking at the more popular films (particularly those of Spike Lee) to revisit and reconsider their opinions of such works.  Again, it's one of those collections that I would be fascinated to see how she might revisit, reimagine, or contrast with certain pockets of media today.  

Gideon Falls Volumes 1-6 by Jeff Lemire:  If you follow me, you know I read nearly everything of Lemire and this was a series that I had read the first trade paperback but never got back to.  Finally, I got all 6 graphic novels from the library and made my way through during the holiday break. I enjoyed it and found it an interesting journey but not sure I valued the ending.  I like Lemire's work, especially when it falls into the realm of weird and horror but I'm not sure I got an ending that felt solid as I have with his other works.  

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert:  I stumbled upon this at the library and thought it would be a good read.  It's a deep narrative about loss, direction, and the stories we need to get us from one point to another.  Semi-autobiographical, the story lingers with the reader as we think about what we have lost and how we moved on.

What I'm Watching

Willow:  I'm continuing to enjoy this story even if it feels a bit too loose with conventions.  The latest episode included Christian Slater which was a curious addition and I'm wondering about the background on why he was chosen--I'm guessing it has something to do with the original production (e.g. was he originally or potentially cast as Mad Martigan?).  Still, the story's pacing I feel is reasonably good compared to other narratives.

His Dark Materials:  Maybe because I know it's the final season (because it's following the books reasonably) or maybe it's the caliber of actors and actresses, or just the plot and how they move it forward, but I am definitely feeling and enjoying this final (3rd) season of His Dark Materials. If you're looking for 3 seasons of a sci-fi/fantasy tale with lots of great visuals, compelling characters, and interesting moral quandaries, watch this!

Kindred:  We watched the final episode of season 1 and dear lord, there needs to be a season 2.  If you have Hulu, get this on your watchlist stat!  There's so much about this show that intrigues me from its efforts to adapt Butler's work and update it to 2016 to the introduction and playing with long-term and short-term intergenerational trauma to the ways it engages in the white gaze.  The final episode had elements that weren't so surprising but still stirring.  

This Week's Photos

Wrentham Developmental Center:  Chris and I did a random adventure with another couple on Saturday and we found ourselves at a historical site that was apparently a large campus with thousands of "feeble minded" (the site's description, certainly not mind) children during the first 2/3's of the 20th century.  Some parts of the grounds are still used as a place for people with disabilities but it feels so strange to see the dilapidated and decaying buildings, where inevitable trauma occurred next to buildings with people today who may not be getting the same care but are still having to look at the remnants of a horrible past.  This photo captured the ways that the defunct buildings sit on the property as an uncomfortable presence.

A View from the Library:  This week, I got to spend some time at the local library to do some more work and from the carol that I was sitting in, I saw this window and image that with the sun coming from behind it, I thought was just a nice visual and of course, that then had me thinking about the intention of creating it and putting (or keeping?) and internal window.

What's on My Mind

A Year in Reading:  So I completed 312 books this year (physical books, graphic novels, and audiobooks).  Among this, I crossed the 5000th book mark on my GoodReads "Read" shelf. Of course, nearly half of them are audiobooks (2449 at the time of writing this).  I'm pretty sure it's more than that but there are books I have entirely forgotten and I only started documenting on GoodReads in 2008 or so (15 years ago?!?!?).  I'm happy with what I made it to this year.  I've been able to do it for the last 2 years and think it might be the right-size goal for me.  Overall, my numbers are typically between 200-300 if the last decade:
  • 2013 ‎(411)
  • 2014 ‎(228)
  • 2015 ‎(225)
  • 2016 ‎(185)
  • 2017 ‎(202)
  • 2018 ‎(258)
  • 2019 ‎(281)
  • 2020 ‎(270)
  • 2021 ‎(304)
  • 2022 ‎(312)
If I keep this up, then I might be passing over the 10,000 book mark in another 17 years or so,  Maybe I can aim for 15 years--hahaha.  

Where do I even begin with the different books of the year?  It's hard to say really.  There's so much that I explored and appreciated:  poetry, plays, science-fiction, "classic literature", essay collections, history, cultural studies, and so much more.  I look forward to when the dissertation is over and I will spend a bit more time expounding on things like this.  But for now, well, just grateful I get to be exposed to and learn from so many different voices.  

Words for the year:  As we start the “new year”, I have followed the wisdom of other folks and moving away from resolutions and looking more toward a theme or set of words to capture how I want to be in 2023.  Those words are focus, kind, and earnest.  I feel like centering these words and doing my best to think about what it means to uphold them daily will be a challenge at times and also in that challenge, I will find growth, discovery, and be someone different by the end of 2023.  I guess we’ll find out.  
So why these words? I am sure some might read these words and feel like I exhibit them already (at least with focus, after saying I just read 300+ books this past year), but I think I see these terms and I know aspire to them and find ways towards them but I don’t believe I center them in my work and life in ways that I think I would like to.  For focus, I would say that yes, I can focus and yet, I know I still regularly seek distraction or find ways of putting things off.  Sure, I still get things done but not in a way that I think from intentional focus might produce them. And mayhaps my thinking is shifting because of using things like FocusMate or scheduling co-working folks to keep me on track.

With kindness, I know that while there are times I’m kind, I’m also callous at times–at least when I see the depths of ways that others show up, help, provide insight, etc. It's something that I think I need to reflect more deeply on and want to use this year to do that.  

And earnestness–that’s a bit more complicated to explain, I suppose. I think it intersects with focus and kindness, in that I want to find a way to better appreciate people and life and at times, it feels like I don’t.  Or rather, I do on a surface level but I don’t always give that appreciation a deeper place in my heart and mind.  So, here’s to a year of trying to do all three.  I suppose if I can even do one better by year's end, I’ll be better off.  

Till next week...

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