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Joshua Whiting

learner, writer, creator, librarianish person

a stream

All posts and notes on this site, sorted by when published.


A Break for a Minute to Imagine

[Originally Posted: 2020.04.16]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

In the past month I’ve found myself paralyzed in regards to social media, both personally and professionally. Whenever I peak into my feeds I’ve been easily overwhelmed by the content I see: deluges of RESOURCES FOR “ONLINE LEARNING1,” endless interludes of stay-at-home inanities and banalities, and then literal death and suffering, since underneath all of this inconvenience, opportunism, and political posturing it turns out there is an actual tragic pandemic that is taking lives.

I haven’t known how to contribute to this world, and ultimately decided the best way to contribute would be to just stay quiet. Or maybe I just choked and failed by dropping out of this resource-sharing, curating, connecting game at the very moment when it was suddenly THE THING TO DO.

In the past month I’ve found myself paralyzed in regards to social media, both personally and professionally. Whenever I peak into my feeds I’ve been easily overwhelmed by the content I see: deluges of RESOURCES FOR “ONLINE LEARNING1,” endless interludes of stay-at-home inanities and banalities, and then literal death and suffering, since underneath all of this inconvenience, opportunism, and political posturing it turns out there is an actual tragic pandemic that is taking lives.

I haven’t known how to contribute to this world, and ultimately decided the best way to contribute would be to just stay quiet. Or maybe I just choked and failed by dropping out of this resource-sharing, curating, connecting game at the very moment when it was suddenly THE THING TO DO.

A couple of Sundays ago the weather was wonderful and I tried to get my kids to go outside with me on a walk or a hike or even just a drive, and they didn’t want to do it (this was the third day in a row I had invited them on such an excursion), so ultimately I went on a drive by myself. I headed east of Salt Lake for a particular side canyon dirt road I know that isn’t too high in elevation and that I had always found pretty much deserted when I visited in the past. I wanted to be able to socially isolate, and ever hopeful, scope it out to see if the snow had melted enough for a hike there with my kids on another day. When I arrived, the parking on the side of the road was full. There were far more people there at that moment than the collective number of all the people I had ever seen in all my previous visits to this place over the past 15+ years. Families and groups of people were out walking up and down this dirt road, with unleashed dogs running everywhere. One walking person, whose dog had just run in front of the car in front of me, almost getting hit and causing all traffic on the road to just stop for an awkwardly long period of time, loudly complained into my open window, “I don’t know why everyone wants to drive down this road TODAY!” just as a cyclist zoomed in between us and all the cars, dogs, and walkers as well. It was jarring and I felt exposed, and although technically I guess everyone was maybe keeping the 6 feet rule beyond their own families and groups it felt like the exact opposite of social distancing. I realized I had made a mistake and should have just stayed home, sat in my backyard or at my desk with the window open. I’m privileged to have these things, especially right now.

Turns out my 7yo daughter, the one we generally think of as the big extrovert in a mostly introvert family, hates video calls. She doesn’t want to be seen on them, whether it is with her grandparents, her cousins, or her teacher and classmates. She doesn’t want to converse with people. She finally got a little used to them by doing one with her brother from different rooms of our house. She spent the entire time just making goofy faces and noises at him until he laughed. (Didn’t take long because she is really funny, to be honest.) The next week after that she did join in a chat with her cousins, but never showed herself on screen. At one point in the chat she went outside on our old trampoline and put down the tablet with her microphone muted and the camera facing the sky, lay down next to it, and just listened to the chat. At another point she employed a small bunny rabbit puppet as a bonkers surrogate that would jump sideways into view and hop around in front of her brother’s face making ridiculous noises.

A curious thing I’ve noticed about myself is that the social networks I’m most consistently active on are those where I don’t actually know anyone or interact with them in any kind of way beyond following, reading, or maybe “liking” their posts. During this time of my social media confusion and my silence on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and other places where I actually know some people, I’ve still been faithfully logging and reviewing the movies I watch on Letterboxd, where I know no one (except one old co-worker who doesn’t post excessively) and get very little response from my posts. I continue to faithfully scrobble all my music listening on last.fm, where I likewise know no one and interact with virtually no one.

A few months ago I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what I might post on this very website and started adding things here semi-consistently, but I was barely sharing it out at all anywhere else. It was kind of my secret spot. Then I shared a couple of things on twitter and facebook and soon after that I heard from a some people face-to-face that they had looked at the site. I got weirded out and my enthusiasm strangely waned. I mean, theoretically a primary reason to have a website and share things on it is at the very least with the intention or hope that other people might look at it, right?

Two weeks after it was expected, my 9yo son still hasn’t finished the first main lesson page2 he was supposed to do at home. These pages are a combination of art and writing created by students on lusciously thick 11x17 paper, collected throughout the year, then sewnbound by the teacher and presented back to the student in a collection at the end of the school year. For the time being, we were to take a picture of the finished page and email it to his teacher. I believe this is the only assignment of this distance learning period for which she has requested such evidence of it being completed.

He colored the borders and drew the art on the top half of the page. He drafted the 5-sentence paragraph on the process of turning wool into cloth in his writing notebook, with only a single spelling error—sheer for shear—which he quickly corrected and added to his personal dictionary as per teacher instructions. He carefully wrote the first sentence of that paragraph in cursive on the lesson page. It was pretty much lunchtime, and he took a break for a minute “to imagine.” A week later he was still imagining.

I thought that sharing lots of digital resources was kind of my thing. I thought that communicating and connecting with people mainly online was kind of my thing. Turns out, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’m not actually that good at it. Maybe I don’t actually like it or want it. Yet I keep thinking about it. I don’t quite know my path forward, but I’m going to start by posting this, finally, and then just maybe start sharing things again without overthinking? Yeah, right.

TL;DR- I was into social distancing and digital learning before they were cool, but now you all have come and ruined my scene.

Or maybe I’m losing my edge.3

4


  1. Lists of resources, and lists of lists of resources, and calendars of live stream events, and google drive folders filled with google docs containing links to these lists of lists, all being shared by edtech vendors and educelebrities and enthusiastic library listserv participants and cousins on Facebook who I haven’t seen in a decade or two.

    The image below was my original starting point for this post:

    REEEESSOOURCCES!!! ↩︎

  2. I guess I had to out myself here sooner or later as a public school district employee who is totally devoted to the public school project but whose kids attend a Waldorf charter school. It’s all my wife’s fault—she was interested in Waldorf education before I ever met her, and wanted to get involved as soon as she found out about a Waldorf school opening up in Salt Lake—and I am happy with my kids' education there. This distance/digital-mediated learning poses a particularly weird challenge for Waldorf teachers, by the way, but that’s a whole different blog post (or maybe handwritten letter copied from a handwritten journal entry?) ↩︎

  3.  ↩︎
  4. Made a tweet thread in association with this post, and just wanted to document it here.

     ↩︎
Standalone post link: A Break for a Minute to Imagine
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I Watched Permanent Vacation, 1980

[Originally Posted: 2020.03.07]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

It’s actually kind of inspiring how bad this film is.

Permanent Vacation Poster Image

It’s actually kind of inspiring how bad this film is.

Permanent Vacation Poster Image

I watched this in scattered 15-20 minute increments over the course of four or five days, due to either getting bored or falling asleep at each attempt to continue. I nevertheless kept coming back out of some stubborn need to see it through. When I found myself inexplicably awake at 5:30 this Saturday morning after having fallen asleep to it yet again the night before, I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I loaded it up and re-watched the last few minutes of it.

I’m convinced now there is a purposefulness and assuredness to its badness, a kind of punk obstinacy against making a good or entertaining film. It also seems a possibility that the whole film exists simply as an extended setup to tell the sick and clever “Doppler Effect” joke. And to just try out a lot of different things cinematically. Now that I think more on the film, there are many other jokes or situations that potentially could have been really humorous, but did not strike me as humorous as I was watching. Perhaps the bad acting and awkwardness serves the same disorienting purpose that noise/feedback/atonality serve in no wave, punk, and other experimental music?

The reason this film’s badness inspires me, or I should say gives me hope, is for my own creative life and for other creators: it is perhaps the best example I have encountered lately that one can make a thing that might be objectively awful, but come out from it having learned and grown, and proceed to make much stronger work in the future. Everything I saw and loved in Jarmusch’s later films (the humor, the obsession with music, the poetry, the awkwardly long, quiet, intimate takes) is already here in this film, but obscured. It is as if for his subsequent films he just had to learn to adjust and recalibrate settings to allow the humor and emotion to come into clearer focus. Or maybe he just needed a better lead actor, to be honest.

In the end I’m quite glad that I persisted in watching this seemingly terrible film and took some moments to think and write about it.

Watched in part for the Film School Drop Outs Challenge of 2017-2018 that I am still slowly, stubbornly, thoroughly working my way through in 2020. Week 34 - Revision (2017) - Movement - No Wave (1976-1985)

(First posted on letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/jdwhiting/film/permanent-vacation/)

Standalone post link: I Watched Permanent Vacation, 1980
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I Watched Stranger Than Paradise, 1984

[Originally Posted: 2020.03.01]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

I feel like every moment of my life going forward could be another scene of this film.

Stranger Than Paradise Poster Image

I feel like every moment of my life going forward could be another scene of this film.

Stranger Than Paradise Poster Image


This morning I woke up and went out on my back porch to appease our dog’s boredom with a game of fetch. It was a quiet, not-quite-spring Sunday morning; the only sounds beyond my dog’s running and occasional barks were some squirrels jumping between bare tree branches and at one point some unseen geese calling as they flew overhead. Snow began to fall, but was not sticking to the yellow grass and concrete. I didn’t really want to go out there but it ended up being low-key beautiful. I felt like I was in another scene of this film.


I kind of want to get out an actual deck of cards and play solitaire today, something I haven’t done in at least 15 years. I’m not sure I quite even remember the rules.


My grandma taught me and my cousins how to play rummy. I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house as a kid and teenager playing rummy at the kitchen table. Sometimes the tv or radio would be turned onto something random and blaring, because my grandma was hard of hearing. There was an instrumental flute version of “Bllie Jean” that often played on the easy listening radio station she liked. When no one else was there I think she spent a lot of time playing solitaire.


Watched this last night and thought it was funny and well done. Didn’t like it quite as much as Paterson (a personal favorite and my only Jarmusch film watched to this point), but it had a simplicity and purity which was undeniable.


I feel like every moment of my life going forward could be another scene of this film.

Watched this for my old Film School Drop Outs Challenge: Week 34 - Revision (2017) - Movement - No Wave (1976-1985).

(First posted on letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/jdwhiting/film/stranger-than-paradise/)

Standalone post link: I Watched Stranger Than Paradise, 1984
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Giulietta Masina - first and second impressions, while I was supposed to be regarding the genius of Fellini*

[Originally Posted: 2020.02.17]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

I think she might be the most hilarious actor I’ve ever watched.

Nights of Cabiria - Poster

La Strada - Poster

I think she might be the most hilarious actor I’ve ever watched.

Nights of Cabiria - Poster

La Strada - Poster

I watched La Strada, 1954, on February 14, 2020.

I watched Nights of Cabiria, 1957, on February 16, 2020.

I came to watch La Strada and Nights of Cabiria because Fellini was the next topic for an old film challenge that I’m still working my way through, but more than anything I came away from them a huge Giulietta Masina fan. I think she might be the most hilarious actor I’ve ever watched. Just her facial expressions and movements made me laugh out loud numerous times. She imbued both of these films, which on paper would be total slogs or unbearable tragedies, with so much humor and life. It seems almost unbelievable that Zampanò and the other characters in the films didn’t see this charisma and feeling themselves, and make her as much of a star as they could in their worlds. I guess that speaks all the more to the tragedy underlying these tales, our failure to see the wonder and value in our fellow humans.

I guess if nothing else the genius of Fellini is that he married Giulietta Masina and made these films for her to act in. Now I’m not entirely sure if I will even like a Fellini movie that doesn’t have Masina in it. He probably has genius beyond this too, but we will see.

Watched for the Film School Drop Outs - 2018 Challenge: Week 33 - Revision (2017) - Auteurs - Federico Fellini

Standalone post link: Giulietta Masina - first and second impressions, while I was supposed to be regarding the genius of Fellini*
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Listening: The Slow Rush

[Originally Posted: 2020.02.15]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

The Slow Rush by Tame Impala - Cover

Exceeded my expectations, and I can’t remember the last time a new album from an artist I already liked has done that. There is a warmth here that I haven’t heard in any of his work up until now. This is the electro psychedelic yacht rock I’ve been prepared for my entire life without realizing, every single track an absolute adult contemporary jam.

The Slow Rush by Tame Impala - Cover

Exceeded my expectations, and I can’t remember the last time a new album from an artist I already liked has done that. There is a warmth here that I haven’t heard in any of his work up until now. This is the electro psychedelic yacht rock I’ve been prepared for my entire life without realizing, every single track an absolute adult contemporary jam.

If I didn’t have so many other listening projects already queued up I’d probably just listen to this on repeat for the next couple of weeks.

Created a “Favorite Music of 2020” collection mainly so that I could add this to it as the first entry.

Standalone post link: Listening: The Slow Rush
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Book Review - The Roots of Rap

[Originally Posted: 2020.02.12]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

I posted a review of The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison, on Goodreads, and I’m expanding on it slightly below.

The Roots of Rap - Cover Image

I was excited about this book and assumed I would love it because of the subject matter, but I guess I’m a little disappointed and feel the need to talk about it.

I posted a review of The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford and Frank Morrison, on Goodreads, and I’m expanding on it slightly below.

The Roots of Rap - Cover Image

I was excited about this book and assumed I would love it because of the subject matter, but I guess I’m a little disappointed and feel the need to talk about it.

For readers who don’t already know much of this history (which I assume is going to be most children who encounter this book, including those who are fans of contemporary rap and hip hop)1 the text moves so quickly and resorts to so much listing and name-checking without context that they will likely need to go to some other sources if they want to actually make any sense out of it. (Like maybe the book should come with a link to a YouTube playlist or something? At least a bibliography or discography.) There are moments in which it gives off a vibe that you should just already know these things, and if you don’t you should be a little embarrassed to raise your hand and ask, which in my opinion isn’t a great vibe for a children’s book.

On the other hand, for older readers and actual hip hop heads that do know, the illustrations will be perfect but I think the text reads kind of corny, while the back matter is extremely dry. Maybe I’m overthinking this or expecting too much, and the main point of this book is actually just for kids to flip through and look at the awesome pictures. And if they are interested in hip hop it works fine for that. It is just slightly frustrating when there are so many great stories that could be shared from the history of hip hop, but this book hardly gives readers a single hook into learning or exploring more about any of it. It also makes me wish that some actual rappers would write some children’s books about rap (and about everything else, for that matter.)

For better context, pair this with When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop (a great example of a specific engaging story from the early days of Hip Hop) or the Hip Hop Family Tree graphic novels (although I can’t remember whether those are particularly kid-friendly) to give a peak into some of those stories. And if you want to hear the actual music, since the book doesn’t reference any kind of playlist, these yearly History of Hip Hop mixes are one great resource.


  1. As evidence of just how obscure this history is, here is Lil Yachty, not just a casual young fan but an established recording artist in contemporary rap, essentially claiming he doesn’t know or care much about rap history: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7487023/lil-yachty-interview-fall-preview ↩︎

Standalone post link: Book Review - The Roots of Rap
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Read: The Undefeated

[Originally Posted: 2020.02.12]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

I read The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

Read: February 12, 2020

The Undefeated - Cover Image

I want to give this all the awards. It probably should have gotten even more awards than it did.

(A little ashamed to admit that I’m just finally getting around to this, but I’m repenting of my unreading ways and doing what I can do now. And despite my claims to keep track of all my reading here in 2020, I’m back on Goodreads as well, I guess…)

I read The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

Read: February 12, 2020

The Undefeated - Cover Image

I want to give this all the awards. It probably should have gotten even more awards than it did.

(A little ashamed to admit that I’m just finally getting around to this, but I’m repenting of my unreading ways and doing what I can do now. And despite my claims to keep track of all my reading here in 2020, I’m back on Goodreads as well, I guess…)

Nice official book trailer:

Standalone post link: Read: The Undefeated
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Reading: Charlotte's Web

[Originally Posted: 2020.01.11]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

I’m reading Charlotte’s Web with my kids at bedtime

Started Reading: January 4ish, 2020

Holding Charlotte’s Web in my hand

I’m reading Charlotte’s Web with my kids at bedtime

Started Reading: January 4ish, 2020

Holding Charlotte’s Web in my hand

Last Updated: January 14, 2020 This reading is restoring my faith in children’s fiction, after I got kind of burned out on it.

I’m still not entirely sure if I ever read this book all the way through as a child, or even paid attention to the movie all the way through as a child. I’m definitely paying attention now, though.

Standalone post link: Reading: Charlotte's Web
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Reading: In the Dream House

[Originally Posted: 2020.01.11]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

I Read In the Dream House: A Memoir

Started Reading: January 10, 2020 Finished Reading: January 11, 2020

Holding In the Dream House in my hand

I Read In the Dream House: A Memoir

Started Reading: January 10, 2020 Finished Reading: January 11, 2020

Holding In the Dream House in my hand

After reading Her Body and Other Parties a year or two ago I determined that I would read pretty much anything and everything that Machado chose to write and publish, and so here we are. A memoir about domestic abuse is not something I would generally seek out to read, but after sampling just a couple of sections I wanted to quickly read the entire book. Though the topic is serious and the underlying narrative is harrowing, the artful, fractured method she uses to explore this experience through all manner of genres, forms, and tones just excites me about writing more than anything else. I feel a little guilty having enjoyed this book as much as I did, but I think for all the trauma the author went through, she didn’t mean for this to be a traumatic read.

Try it:

Standalone post link: Reading: In the Dream House
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My Reading in 2020

[Originally Posted: 2020.01.10]
[Last Updated: 2021.02.20]

I used to be meticulous about tracking even my most minute reading updates on Goodreads1, but I’ve fallen off in the past few months, and I’m not entirely sure why.2

In the meantime while I try to figure that out, I’ve decided to post random3 updates4 about my reading on Twitter and also to experiment with creating a new thread/series here on this website that will serve as a running log of my reading life.

I used to be meticulous about tracking even my most minute reading updates on Goodreads1, but I’ve fallen off in the past few months, and I’m not entirely sure why.2

In the meantime while I try to figure that out, I’ve decided to post random3 updates4 about my reading on Twitter and also to experiment with creating a new thread/series here on this website that will serve as a running log of my reading life.

I may end up going back to active Goodreads use because I have a lot of friends there and I like to see what they are reading, and I think at least some of them like to see what I’m reading as well. But I’m still going to try this other method for 2020. I guess it is part of making this website my home location on the internet and keeping my content for myself and out of silos.

Tweets Cited


  1.  ↩︎
  2. This confessional tweet thread gets at part of what is going on with me. It also shares a great article about librarian reading burnout:

     ↩︎
  3.  ↩︎
  4.  ↩︎
Standalone post link: My Reading in 2020
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Copyright 2022 Joshua David Whiting. Made in Millcreek, Utah, USA. Contact me. Built with Hugo and my own WP51 theme, still a work in progress. Hosted via Github and Netlify.