ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: Weeknotes

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 12

Weeknotes are back. Which means, sadly, that my vacation is over and normal life has resumed.

Work

I spent the week catching up. Emails, phone meetings, memo writing, and other sundry administrative tasks. Don’t you love forms that must be signed the old fashioned way? That means receiving the form, printing it, signing it, scanning it, and then emailing it onward. An electronic signature would take a fraction of the time to sign and send back. And no, this isn’t a legal document or a HIPAA/FERPA form. Sigh.

Reading/Watching/Listening

I am behind on my 20 Books of Summer list. I am reading, but not as much, and I’ve been reading non-list books like Iain M. Bank’s Culture novel, Matter. It’s very good, although frequently quite discursive in that patented Banks way. But I’m enjoying it. I did manage to read Sarah Morgan’s most recent release, which I wrote about in a previous post, and I liked it a lot.

I’m still thinking about the Women’s Fiction/Genre Romance debate. A lot of my romland friends are bummed by the switch to WF by longtime romance authors, but the market for contemporary and historical romance is just not very profitable for publishers anymore. If you don’t want to self-publish then you pretty much have to move into a romance-adjacent genre, or at least that’s how it seems to me. It isn’t new for romance authors to shift to more high-profile genres with hardback options; category authors started doing it in the 1980s and 1990s. It might just be that social media amplifies the voices who dislike these moves, or it may be that social media and the internet more generally allow more people to see publishing shifts happen in real time than was the case in the past. Anyway, I’m still going on a author-by-author, book-by-book basis.

I fell way behind on my podcasts but have been catching bits and pieces of the Women’s World Cup. England v. USA on Tuesday should be something. England demolished Norway and the USA did not look its best while beating France, so who knows.

We watched another episode of Good Omens (still fun) and the first episode of the most recent season of Endeavour, which has finally premiered on PBS. We were gone for the first one and missed the second one, but PBS gives us a few weeks to catch up for free if we give them our email. It was good! Although Endeavour’s moustache is not. It’s very true to 1970s style, I admit, but I keep wanting to reach into the TV and brush it off his face.

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Weeknote 10

Things are starting to heat up, what with getting ready to go on vacation, doing California house stuff, and herding cats I mean colleagues for work.

Work

I could just cut and paste from last week: admin, advising, etc.

I did get a book chapter sent off, though, so I can add something to the “my own damn work” side of the ledger.

Reading/Watching/Making

The biggest Reading/Watching event was the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, which Liverpool won comfortably. The score was 2-0 and Tottenham did press them, but a penalty to Liverpool 22 seconds in (inadvertent handball, but still a handball) meant the game took on a set cast very early. It wasn’t a pretty or exciting game, but I’ll take it, thank you very much. The team was fantastic this year and they deserved to come out with a major trophy at the end of it. Somewhere between 250k and 500k people jammed the streets of Liverpool for the victory parade, which is pretty impressive given the city population is 550k, and I’m pretty sure there are some Everton fans living there.

What does this have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, I’ve been reading David Peace’s wonderful novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Red or Dead, since it was published in 2013. I start it, get 100-300 pages in, put it down, come back to it, rinse and repeat. It’s a book for literary footie fans, which can’t be a huge demographic. But I find it wonderful and fascinating and I don’t want it to end. I picked it up again this spring and I’m more than halfway through (it’s over 700 pages of minute details about Shankly and the football seasons). The repetition makes it hypnotic and almost zen-like, and Shankly is the hero we wish we had these days. Far from perfect but utterly admirable. I think I’ve been unable to finish because I don’t want it to end, but now that we’ve won a trophy again and look like the team Shankly created, it might be time to finally read the whole thing. And I can always start over when I’m done, right?

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Weeknote 9

This was a less settled week than I expected, but I got a lot done. Not necessarily the things I wanted to get done, but things that had to get done.

Work

Lots of phone meetings and lots of emails. Again! But I have to get this stuff taken care of before June, when people start to take off for various places and become harder to reach. Memos, reading, advising, and the like.

I did get to do a little of my own work, which was nice. It’s amazing how easy it is to get out of the swing when you don’t write for a week. Gah.

Reading/Watching/Making

I read three library books and one from the TBR. I talked about the library books in my last post. They were an interesting mix: one translated lit fic by a major author, one translated mystery by an author who is very popular in his home country, and one recently published lit fic novel that is something of an It Book. I was impressed by the first, enjoyed the second as a good example of its type, and was disappointed by the last. It Books are as much of a phenomenon in the Literary Bookternet as they are in the genre communities, and I won’t belabor a point I’ve made often, but I need to ration my intake of The Books Currently Dominating My Goodreads Feed. So many readers gave the It Book 5 stars, and I just don’t see it. It’s clearly the work of a talented and creative writer, but it was so heavy-handed in its politics. I’m happy to read about politics, but I’m pretty much done with diatribes and choir-preaching.

I also finished up my reread of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by the great John le CarrĂ©. I’m slowly rereading all the Smiley novels in order, and this is considered his best novel by many. For me it’s a tossup with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold; TTSS is longer and more complex, while TSHCiFtC is short and taut and hits you like a sledgehammer. TTSS is also something of a Condition of England novel in addition to being a spy story, which gives it a lot of depth. This is probably the first time I’ve reread it where I followed every plot turn and puzzle piece and knew what was going on the whole time, but it was still a page turner.

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