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Category: Weeknotes

Weeknote 7

Happy March! We were granted another sunny weekend with temperatures in the 50s. February did not feel nearly as long as endless January, but it didn’t fly by, either. But I think we are out of the bitter cold days, finally.

WORK

It’s grading time! Papers in Privacy and an exam in Political Protest. I am blessed with excellent graduate assistants, though, so I am very fortunate. And I have a couple of guest lecturers in protest, so I am easing into spring break. I’m on a law school panel about the Hong Kong protests this week, and there are a couple of committees for which I have to do some work, but otherwise it’s pretty quiet. Now that I’m not part of the governance apparatus for my department I can actually catch my breath and do things I want to do.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

On Sirius’s recommendation we also started watching the British TV series Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn, and were immediately hooked. The show is based on a series by Ann Cleeves and is set in northern England (the Angel of the North appears in the opening credit sequence). Vera is the stereotypical gruff loner detective but gender-switched. She doesn’t like children, has few friends, drinks, and is devoted to her job. But she cares deeply about the people around her, she just can’t/won’t show it. Blethyn is just as good as you’d expect. She plays the role with warmth and depth, and I love that she’s not playing her as the more common tough-as-nails type. There are several season so we have plenty of episodes to look forward to.

We also watched a very enjoyable independent film starring Keanu Reeves, called Henry’s Crime. Reeves is a highway tollbooth attendant who is tricked into driving a bunch of acquaintances to a bank robbery and is convicted of the ensuing crime. In prison he meets James Caan, who’s been in for years and is avoiding parole. When Reeves gets out he meets Vera Farmiga, an actress, and starts to have the first real adventure of his life. It’s entirely unbelievable and very low-key (to the point of being comatose, according to some reviewers), but the acting and Buffalo setting work well. If you’re a Keanu fan, check this out (we found it on Hoopla); you’ll get to see him performing scenes from The Cherry Orchard as a special bonus. He’s pretty good!

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Weeknote 6

It’s still February. It’s still winter, with the occasional warm day to suggest spring might show up eventually and the regular single-digit-degree morning to suggest otherwise.

WORK

We’re halfway through the semester, so time for midterms and papers. The poor students have been felled by one of the worse flu seasons we’ve seen in a while, so I’m just impressed when they show up to class and participate. Which they’ve been doing admirably, in both classes. In the Privacy class we watched and discussed CitizenFour, the documentary about Edward Snowden. Many of the students weren’t aware of the extent to which the government was hoovering up data on not just supposed terrorists but also citizens. And when your surveillance list comprises over 1.3 million names, that “supposed” is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished The Hobbit and will post my TBR Challenge review on it in the next couple of days. I enjoyed it a lot, and I probably would have adored it as a young person. The writing is occasionally quite lovely, although there are also sentences which I had to read two or three times to make sense of. It’s the ultimate Quest story, of course, and it’s very episodic. It isn’t really clear why each of the encounters and episodes needs to be in the story, except to introduce another part of the world and another set of interesting non-human characters. I also don’t understand at all why the film adaptation required three separate installments, except for the obvious motivation of that sweet, sweet financial return. I appreciated that in contrast to Peter Jackson, JRR Tolkien didn’t consider battles worthy of long descriptions. I got a good sense of what was going on and the characteristics of the participants in the amount of space he accorded them. I will move on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but after a break with some human literary companions.

We’ve been listening to music in the evenings rather than watching movies or TV shows. I know we watched something this week, but it must have been very timepass because I can’t remember what it was. I got back from a work function Friday night and enforced socializing left me fit only for a Midsomer Murders episode, which turned out to be one of the ones where the people are particularly unpleasant. And the policeman sidekick was the middle one who never clicked with Barnaby and was gone after a couple of seasons.

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Weeknote 5

February is moving slightly faster than January did, but that was a very low bar. As TheH says, it’s a bar the Corgis could walk over, no jumping required. It’s still mostly gray and cold and damp, with the occasional sunny and slightly warmer day to taunt us.

WORK

My Privacy class finally clicked. We’re out of the heavy theory section and reading older work on the online world as it used to be, which they find kind of interesting. And one of the examples was about free speech vs. writing violent material that can be accessed by younger teens. It was interesting. 50 Shades even came up, and I startled them by telling them more about it (and my involvement in the 50-related Romancelandia stuff) than they could ever have expected. It was amusing for all of us.

One of my weekly seminars featured a paper by a colleague from anthropology who is working on fashion and sustainability, which is extremely relevant to my interests these days. So that was another unexpected crossing of streams. We had a lively discussion; everyone can relate in some way to fashion, ecological issues, and the omnipresence of consumption capitalism. One person raised the interesting point that even among people who are focused on improving conditions and products at the local level, they opt to become entrepreneurs rather than to join with other like-minded people to improve existing labor and supply-chain conditions. Being a capitalist is still the default choice.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

We returned to Maigret, but rather than watching the next episode of the TV series we opted for a 1950s film starring Jean Gabin as Maigret. It was terrific. The print had been remastered and all of the performances were excellent.

I had two library holds come in this week and finished one of them: The Story of a Goat, by the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan. I have his previously translated novel in my TBR. That one earned him death threats from the Hindu nationalists and led him to declare that he would no longer write fiction. Luckily for us he changed his mind, but he made the main character an animal rather than a human. The Story of a Goat is exactly what it says on the tin: we meet Poonachi when she is a very young kid and is handed into the care of an old couple by a mysterious stranger. The story follows Poonachi’s growth to adulthood and all of the events that transpire during her life. The cast includes humans as well as the other goats among whom she lives and whom she encounters along the way. It’s an excellent novel, poignant and yet almost completely unsentimental. It’s not a happy story, but it has upbeat episodes along the way. Murugan is explicit that this is not an allegory, and I think that’s right. Poonachi and the other animals aren’t stand-ins for humans; instead, Murugan is showing us how the life cycles of humans and animals are not only intertwined, but more similar than we would like to believe, especially in terms of the lack of control most humans have over the circumstances of their existence. It reminded me somewhat of the works of Premchand, the great Hindi writer who frequently put animals at the center of his stories. Murugan’s novel is not the easiest read, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while, and unusual in the best ways.

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Weeknote 4

I almost forgot to write a weeknote this week. I guess I need to write it down in the ToDo list!

WORK

Classes are settling down. We’re almost out of the theoretical section of the readings, which is worthwhile but quite abstract and demanding, and into the problem/case parts. I’ve gotten a better handle on integrating contemporary examples with the theory in the Privacy class and it’s working better. After four weeks both classes are settling into a rhythm. The Protest class has been easy from the start, but Privacy has had more bumps. But I’m more comfortable now and they are too, I think.

I spent my “free” time reading scholarship files for a program that gives a select group of students a full ride. It’s designed for students who are research focused, and program has undergone some changes over the last few years thanks to the admissions office wanting more control. As administrative tasks go, this one is very rewarding.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I’ve fallen into the Midsomer Murders vortex and can’t get out. Pluto TV, which is essentially like a basic cable package but streaming, has binge channels of all kinds. We’ve become almost completely turned off by TV news, even of the BBC and PBS variety, and sports are mostly not available in the evening (we don’t watch much hockey or basketball until the playoff rounds). I chanced on a Midsomer Murders episode and it was kind of fun to revisit it. The best part for me, aside from the regular cast, are the excellent guest stars. Roger Allam as a no-good speculator. Anna Massey as a dangerously mad old spinster. Jenny Agutter as a still-lovely older woman whom too many many are attracted to. And so on. I think I’m close to burning out, though. There are only so many times I can hear that theme song.

I’m still reading the same books, so not much to report there. I haven’t been able to settle down and just read this week, hence the TV bingeing. I think the political news is finally getting to me. Iowa, WTF? Actually, I don’t have to ask, it’s pretty clear to see what happened. When you have inexperienced people designing complicated methods to operate complicated voting process you have clusterfucks waiting to happen. I think this piece on how the Iowa and Nevada contracts were an example of grift is spot on. This is not the time to be experimenting with untested systems by people whose connections rather than skills got them the contracts. The Democrats could easily lose this election to someone who never should have been elected once, let alone twice, all because they prefer the circular firing squad and drinking from the trough to fixing a badly broken system. There are few good options and they seem to be losing out to the not-good ones so far.

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Weeknote 3

This post is coming in just under the wire.

WORK

Classes are classes. Meetings are meetings. Lots of email. Nothing very interesting to report; I’m getting back into the rhythm of the semester. We figured out next fall’s curriculum for our program in the night school and fixed some summer school scheduling issues. Zzzzzz. (Yes, these tasks are part of the Director of Undergraduate Studies job, presumably because the classes are at the undergraduate level.)

The grad student I work with the most came back from a very successful six weeks of interviews and data collection, so that’s been fun to hear about. We have lots to catch up on and more work to do. But in a good way.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

We (re-)watched Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 this week. How’s that for popcorn viewing? TheH loves this series and I’ve finally gotten the hang of what’s going on. In further timepass opportunities, it turns out that Pluto TV has a dedicated Midsomer Murders channel , which has provided an alternative when the PBS NewsHour is preempted by wall-to-wall impeachment coverage. And no, we’re not watching. We read about it and listen to the recaps on the news programs. That’s more than enough.

I had a couple of fiction library holds come in and sent them back again because I’m not getting much reading time. I am working my way through the Cercas and it continues to be excellent. I’m also reading a couple of nonfiction books related to my Project 333 endeavour, The Conscious Closet and The Curated Closet. They’re both pretty good, although I’m skimming parts. I plan to write up my experiences with the first month of limiting my wardrobe and I’ll talk a bit more about them there. The books are very good for offering alternatives to (and reasons for avoiding) fast fashion, but since I’m not much of a fast fashion person that isn’t directly useful to me. But there are other aspects that are, and we should all be thinking about ways to limit our textile consumption given its effects on the environment.

Liverpool is 19 points ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League, and Anfield has finally decided it’s OK to sing the We’re Going to Win the League song. Me too. 🙂

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