The Updates #26

Estimated Reading Time:  8 minutes

Week 26 of the updates and I've somehow been doing this for 6 months--say what?!?!?!

Zero progress and that's to be expected between work, grand jury duty, wake, and funeral--this week was enough.  This upcoming week I have a plan in place to get stuff done and get moving.
  • 122 days until June 1
A large mural that takes up the side of a 8-9 story tall building.  The mural has imagery from indigenous cultures with a woman in the center; the woman is split between a younger woman and her grandmother while they hold a portrait of another ancestor.
Indigenous Mural in Providence

We're after the rush of the start of the semester which is good but also, with grand jury duty this week, it means I'm treading water and not moving forward. That carries some frustration for me as there are lots I need to do. I am hoping this week that things will normalize a bit more than the last few weeks and I can start to move forward with projects that are on my to-do list.

What I'm Reading

Great Courses: How Horror Works in Books and Film by Shannon Scott: A short lecture series on horror that explores different aspects of horror and grounds it in some historical and contemporary (to the 2010s) examples. Based on my own work, it's a course I could probably create (taught a course on Monsters and horror for 5 years) and appreciated the mixture of choices and specific themes covered. It's enjoyable but didn't find it to have a lot of depth--it moved too fast to do that. 

Great Courses: America's Long Struggle against Slavery by Richard Bell: Bell's approach to the history of slavery was to leverage the different views and struggles embodied in the enslavement of humans in the American continents with a particular focus on the US and Black people. The focus really is on the struggle for emancipation and so Bell highlights the changes approaches and practices by white enslavers while also highlighting the numerous ways slavery was not blindly accepted but challenged for hundreds of years before it actually ended.  Bell shows the different speakers, writers, and abolitionists who advocated, schemed, and fought to free enslaved people and end the institution.  It's a powerful lecture series that's likely to show folks more than they realized about how much resistance there was even before the Civil War.
Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport That Wasn't Built for Us by Alison Mariella Désir: A book that every runner should read.  Désir centers the experience of Black people in long-distance running--something that is routinely marginalized both in the history of long-distance running and in current mainstream culture.  Her book is both memoir of her own history with long-distance running and encountering it as a white-dominated and exclusive space to how she helped craft Black spaces for long-distance running.  Within that, she also explores the different challenges and threats that exist to Black runners and how she and others must navigate them.  

The Ally by Iván Repila: A smart and satirical novel where a man sets out to be the ultimate feminist (in the ultimately mansplaining way) by creating a hostile masculinist group to provoke feminists into more full-on confrontation and violence. What lingers with this novel is just how possible something like this feels possible given the misogyny throughout many pockets of the world and the internet.  

Benny Rose, the Cannibal King by Hailey Piper: A short novel about kids in a town who find themselves pursued by the all-encompasing urban legend, Benny Rose, the Cannibal King.  They must find a way to survive his violent pursuit while also avoiding the people who seem to be aiding and abetting him.  It has some moments and is definitely worth a read if you go in for horror and appreciate the slasher in novel form.
A black and white photo of an alley surrounded by brick walls and half of it is in sunlight and half of it is in shade.
Split Alley

Not All Robots Volume 1 by Mark Russell
: This series has some strong potential. It's the future, robots have become common place, and in fact, humans are largely useless (except of hairdressers) and must have a robot in every home who is the single employed person.  However, the current model of robots is soon to be replaced with mandroids--more human-looking robots.  Meanwhile, the tension between humans and robots continues to escalate as robots continue to hoard jobs, accidentally kill humans without consequences, and seem to be increasingly angry with humans.  It will be hard to not read this series without thinking about the complex racial dynamics at play in the US today.  The first volume definitely has my attention.  

Now Let Me Fly: A Portrait of Eugene Bullard by Ronald Wimberly: This graphic novel shares the life of Eugene Bullard, on of the first Black American military fighter pilots. This story shares his life from childhood upbringing to his service and taking flight in World War I with the Foreign Legion (because the US did not allow Black men to fly military planes). The graphic novel does a lot with few words.  That is, there are some graphic memoirs that have 500+ words on a page and instead, Wimberly works with the image to communicate a lot more and therefore actually says (with words) a lot less.  A solid read to check out!

Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka: A collection of shorter pieces by Tezuka that have often some science-fiction or horror angle.  I think it's cool to see more of his work and also, this feels like it's digging at the bottom of the barrel as some of it, the level of sexism feels much more palpable than other works.  

What I'm Watching

Fleishman Is In Trouble: The final episode was a solid conclusion. I appreciated how this series really worked on drawing out the sympathy and limitations of all the primary characters; no one gets out clean and yet, everyone deserves to see their humanity recognized.  

This Week's Photos

Indigenous Mural in Providence:  I regularly see this mural and often get lost in its beauty and imagery.  And on occasion, I take a photo of it--even though I already have a photo of it, I just can resist.  It's a provocative image that sits in downtown Providence. It was made more powerful when I recently learned that the woman on the left is a graduate of College Unbound.  When my phone did the portrait feature, I found it to be even more provocative and had to include it this week.

Split Alley:  While walking to work from the courthouse, I saw this alley and there was just something about it that called to me.  The split of sun and shadow was exquisite and I knew it would do well as a black and white photo.

What's on My Mind

Grand Jury Duty:  I remember in my criminal justice course, I first learned about the quote, "You can indict a ham sandwich."  Well, this first week of grand jury duty has certainly proven that.  I'll have more to say afterwards but needless to say, it's very clear that the criminal justice system does not operate in a fair and straightforward way but it seems like many folks don't understand that and that's alarming.  Of course, I can't help but thinking about it in relation to the release of the Tyre Nichols video and how often the criminal justice system fails people of color and other marginalized folks.  It's gonna be a long 5 more weeks and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be making any friends here.  

Words of the Year

Focus: That was hard this week but I feel like I still managed to grab pockets to keep my attention on the things I needed to get down.  Now, if I can just do that with my dissertation, I can get moving along.

Kind: I feel like I did well with this one this week, mostly. I reached out to folks that I knew were having a challenging week and, of course, did my best to be there for Chris and her family throughout the wake and funeral.  I still catch myself in moments where I realize I'm operating out of self-centeredness rather than care for others and I feel like I'm catching this more often.  

Earnest: Each week, I have to revisit the meaning of this word and try to figure out where it has or hasn't been in the week.  The word calls to me and yet, I have trouble keeping my understanding of it in focus.  I keep thinking of it as a sense of compassion that derives its power through intentional honesty--close to kindness but also something different.  Yet, every week when I go to look at the definitions available, I'm not really finding it explained that way.  Am I thinking of the wrong word?  If so, please let me know!

Till next week...

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