Getting a Little Closer (PhD Story)

One of those moments on the road to a PhD.  I need 5,000 words for my next review. I finished a sentence, typed the full stop, and looked at the bottom of the screen to see that the document has exactly 5,000 words.  Now these aren’t the same 5,000 words I need for the review, and I have to use many thousands more in the coming days.  It was just a moment. A small celebration.

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Josette Bushell-Mingo

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One of the great joys of my early days in professional theatre was a Blade Runner-esque version of Of Mice and Men with an extraordinary actress and an amazing person, and even though our paths have not crossed in many years, my thoughts have gone to her several times, and I finally looked her up to find that she is just as extraordinary these days.

This is her website and her Wikipedia page

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Frank Langella

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  I have fallen for Frank.  He speaks with quavering deliberation, as though he settling on the thought as the words form.
He is riveting as Gabriel, the Russian handler for the embedded agents, in The Americans. He pulls off a non-impersonation of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon alongside Michael Sheen’s Frost that shows the intelligence and the deep distrust of a man who was closed off from reality and morality.  In Robot and Frankhe plays a crotchety former cat burglar who is beginning to lose touch with the world, whose son gives him a “health robot” who by focusing on Frank’s health, gives him a new lease on life.  The activities that they engage in are not all above board.  Langella acting against the flat voice of the robot, drives the whole film at 10 mph allowing the audience to slow down and yet be drawm in by him. Time to see him in more films.

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Steve Almond: We Need to Make the Media We Need

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We are swimming in a world of lies and hype.  Politics and the consumer society are mostly based on telling us what we want to hear. And we are happy to hear exactly that. Trump supporters and his haters both.  “What do you do,” asked one of Steve Almond’s students, “if, no matter what you write, the reader won’t believe you?” Almond writes, “the nation, as a whole, seems to have no answer for it now.”  And boy, we don’t.  Even the sober mainstream press is not helping us take our eyes off the car crash that is our national experience at the moment.  He goes on to point out that the rhetorical term for all this is “epistemic closure.” “Which is what happens when folks lock themselves inside an ideological echo chamber.”

What we have is “a president for whom lying is not a last resort but a vital political tool. The essential crisis here isn’t that Trump lies. It’s that his lies work because journalists continually debate and debunk them.”

Almond’s conclusion, is that we need to read the stories that are trying to tell us what is really going on. And to read those stories with an eye to where they might be  slanted and find others to get as full a story as we can.  We will never know all the details, all the facts, but lets live in this world and not some fantasy that feeds our insecurities.

“We need to turn our attention toward those who stand to lose medical insurance or clean drinking water or even the sustenance supplied by a program like Meals on Wheels. All of us must summon the courage to seek out news sources that challenge our beliefs using empiricism, not innuendo.”

Read Almond’s full article from The Boston Globe magazine, May 28, 2017.

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The Age of Anger byPankaj Mishra

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It is more than time for all of us to think about the flaws in the worlds we believe in, the worlds we are trying to achieve, and the worlds we inhabit.  Our dream worlds admit everyone, nor do they acknowledge the pain we have caused and continue to cause for the lifestyles we live.  Mishra’s Age of Anger  does some of the work, but he misses in many ways. He focuses on thinkers as representative of times and the actors in those times. The driving force of many of his ideas is Rousseau.  He also tends to lump together the angers of Trump voters, Brexiteers and ISIS in a way that is too glib.  Many of you have well thought out arguments about these topics, and Mishra will prompt you to resurrect those.

Franklin Foer in the New York Times:
Liberalism has no choice but to sincerely wrestle with its discontents, to become
reacquainted with its moral blind spots and political weaknesses. Technocracy —
which defines so much of the modern liberal spirit — doesn’t have a natural grasp of
psychology and emotion. But if it hopes to stave off the dark forces, it needs to grow
adept at understanding the less tangible roots of anger, the human experience
uncaptured by data, the resentments that understandably fester. A decent liberalism
would read sharp critics like Mishra and learn.

Richard Evans in The Guardian:
Of course it is right to point to the downside of “modernisation”, however the term is conceived: in particular the violent and sometimes genocidal impact of European imperialism on other parts of the world in the 19th century, and the poverty and exploitation engendered by industrialisation. If 19th-century Europe was generally peaceful, its peace was punctuated by episodes of extreme and bloody violence. But history is a many-sided phenomenon. It cannot in the end be made to serve the interests of explaining the present through the vast and questionable arguments Pankaj Mishra puts forward in this thought-provoking book.

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Fred Marchant – Book Notes

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In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
The poems in Fred Marchant’s autobiographical collection Said Not Said generously observed and filled with wisdom.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
“Poet, editor, and translator Marchant displays an unflinching tenderness in a collection of sonically and architecturally precise poems. Whether describing mental violence or political conflict, he seeks the humanity in despair and the spirit of dreams and memories.”

In his own words, here is Fred Marchant ‘s Book Notes music playlist for his poetry collection Said Not Said:

Fred’s Playlist

Your read what Fred has to say about the music here at Largehearted Boy

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RIP Robert M. Pirsig

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ZatAMM meant a whole lot to me.  I still haven’t figured out how well the philosophy holds up, but it inspired me when I became a teacher–even though I read it at a time when I would not have become a teacher if you had threatened that Donald Trump was going to be president of the country I lived in, if I didn’t–and the idea of quality is powerful in so many parts of my life.  I love it more for the fact that my son read it and lives out many of the principles that Pirsig espouses.

This is the cover that will always live in my memory, even though the book fell apart some time ago.

New York Times Obituary
The Guardian obituary
Original New York Times review by Edward Abbey
WashingtonPost
LitHub
BoingBoing

Websites:
Levity

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GEORGE SAUNDERS – BY THE BOOK

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george-saunders-by-the-bookSomething makes me trust GS, and now I want to read: Things I already wanted to read Moonglow, Swing Time,The Attention Merchants, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and things I now want to read: Good Clean Fun (Nick Offerman), Words Without Music (Philip Glass), Resurrection (Tolstoy), and a slew of short stories.

I love that what most moves him are “depictions of good ness that are not fraudulent or sentimental.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/books/review/george-saunders-by-the-book.html

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Nat Hentoff (1925 -2017)

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Nat Hentoff, who described himself as a lower case “l” libertarian and “a Jewish, atheist, civil liberatarian, left-wing, prolifer” died on Saturday.  A contrarian on a par in many ways with Christopher Hitchens and others–he saw what was the gospel of the day and spoke up against.  He has the sentimentality of Jewishness and Boston, despite his radical positions.

Obituaries:

Village Voice
New York Times
The Boston Globe

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