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Joshua Whiting

learner, writer, creator, librarianish person

a stream

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


While Reading: Weird Little Robots

[Originally Posted: 2019.10.08]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

![Weird Little Robots - Cover (plus my daughter’s collection of dismembered lego minifigs)](/notes/2019/10/Weird Little Robots - Cover.jpg)

I’m reading Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi and Corinna Luyken to my kids right now, and so far it feels kind of like if Kate Dicamillo had collaborated with Stephen Spielberg on one of his 80s Amblin projects. In other words, I’m enjoying it. And my kids like it, too.

![Weird Little Robots - Cover (plus my daughter’s collection of dismembered lego minifigs)](/notes/2019/10/Weird Little Robots - Cover.jpg)

I’m reading Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi and Corinna Luyken to my kids right now, and so far it feels kind of like if Kate Dicamillo had collaborated with Stephen Spielberg on one of his 80s Amblin projects. In other words, I’m enjoying it. And my kids like it, too.

![Weird Little Robots - Inside Spread - 1](/notes/2019/10/Weird Little Robots - Inside Spread - 1.jpg)

![Weird Little Robots - Inside Spread - 2](/notes/2019/10/Weird Little Robots - Inside Spread - 2.jpg)

(Disclosure 1: I did creepily take these pictures in the lamp light of my kids' bedroom after they fell asleep tonight.)

(Disclosure 2: The publisher did provide my school district with this copy of Weird Little Robots for review purposes, and it will end up in a school library or be given away to a student after I’ve reviewed it.)

Standalone post link: While Reading: Weird Little Robots
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Mesita made me a 5-Second Song on Twitter

[Originally Posted: 2019.09.29]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

Mesita made me a 5-second song on twitter. I love that he does this and that I finally got the guts to ask for one, and he did it.

Mesita made me a 5-second song on twitter. I love that he does this and that I finally got the guts to ask for one, and he did it.

His professionally recorded music is quite good, btw. I’ve listened to it a little over the years but need to dig into his discography more.

Standalone post link: Mesita made me a 5-Second Song on Twitter
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Big Cottonwood Regional Park Photosphere with Deconstructed Puppy and Ghost Girl

[Originally Posted: 2019.09.29]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.25]

Big Cottonwood Regional Park Photosphere with Detached Puppy Tail and Ghost Girl

My daughter really wanted to be immortalized as a ghostly figure on google maps so I decided to make this photosphere public. See also: our deconstructed puppy’s detached floating tail.

Big Cottonwood Regional Park Photosphere with Detached Puppy Tail and Ghost Girl

My daughter really wanted to be immortalized as a ghostly figure on google maps so I decided to make this photosphere public. See also: our deconstructed puppy’s detached floating tail.

If you spend much time on Google Street View looking at the photospheres this kind of stuff often pops up and my kids love it and have started looking for it. They are usually accidents or mistakes but we decided to make one this way on purpose.

At some point I might start a Pinterest board to collect screenshots of some of the weirdest ones we have found.

Standalone post link: Big Cottonwood Regional Park Photosphere with Deconstructed Puppy and Ghost Girl
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While Reading and Listening: Feed

[Originally Posted: 2019.09.08]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

Today I happened upon an excerpt from Tommy Pico’s forthcoming poem/book Feed, and I’m weirdly excited about it now.

Screenshot of the preview of ‘Feed’ by Tommy Pico from the Poetry Foundation website

Today I happened upon an excerpt from Tommy Pico’s forthcoming poem/book Feed, and I’m weirdly excited about it now.

Screenshot of the preview of ‘Feed’ by Tommy Pico from the Poetry Foundation website

The books of the @heyteebs Tetralogy, taken now that I have copies of all of them and retconned into this old post

I can’t claim to be a studious or consistent follower of contemporary poetry, but Pico’s first book IRL jumped out at me a few years ago and since then he’s become one of my favorite contemporary poets. He is writing some of the most fun, funny, irreverent, low-key profound, and casually innovative poetry that I’ve come across, and Feed looks and sounds to be his best work yet.

I say “sounds” because I also found on his website a link to this audio excerpt of Feed that has him reading/reciting what I assume is a big chunk of Feed while simultaneously serving as a sort of audio walking guide to the High Line Gardens in New York City. The way he reads his poem is fantastic, and it makes me want to seek out more such audio recordings / podcasts of him and maybe other poets reading their work if they do it sincerely like this and not in that 90s “poetry reading” cadence I remember so well from high school and college, and probably used myself a few times. (Pico is a genuinely, uniquely great reader of his own work, but hopefully also a lot has just changed for the better since I used to go to poetry readings back in the 90s and 00s.)

https://soundcloud.com/highlinenyc/high-line-feed-soundscape-tommy-pico

I’ve never been to High Line (or anywhere in New York City for that matter) but I have fond feelings for it as the apparent inspiration for one of my family’s favorite picture books, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. I don’t know if it is a stretch, but Brown and Pico seem to be working on some similar themes, though in vastly different formats for different audiences. I mainly just wanted an excuse to put this here and give this book a shout-out, though.

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown - Cover

Standalone post link: While Reading and Listening: Feed
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KAINA - 'House'

[Originally Posted: 2019.07.16]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

“House” by KAINA. Beautiful, timely song opening a killer new album.

“House” by KAINA. Beautiful, timely song opening a killer new album.

Learned about KAINA from Jamila Wood’s twitter feed. Jamila Woods released this incredible album a month or so ago:

Standalone post link: KAINA - 'House'
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Apichatpong Weerasethakul

[Originally Posted: 2019.07.15]
[Last Updated: 2022.07.16]

Screenshot of Posters from some films by or about Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul

I’ve now watched every single item in this collection of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul at least once, and I’m getting pretty obsessed.

Screenshot of Posters from some films by or about Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul

I’ve now watched every single item in this collection of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul at least once, and I’m getting pretty obsessed.

Currently scouring the internet to find what of his short films and installations are available on YouTube or other more obscure spots. I had hoped to find a playlist or a simple filmography web page somewhere curating video links, or if not, create one myself and share it.

Not having a lot of luck, though. His website is nice and detailed, just doesn’t have means provided to actually watch many of the short films described.

So far I did find these little digital video experiments on a youtube account associated with his website, both partly involving dogs. 2019: (sound is important on this one, so turn it up.)

2017:

I might write something more real or complete about Weerasethakul at some point, but for now, just needed to share this. I think for the first time since I’ve gone down the path of trying to watch and learn more about films I’ve found someone who I might be able to call my favorite filmmaker, at least provisionally.

Standalone post link: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
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I guess I'm finally ready to admit to the world that I have a new website

[Originally Posted: 2019.07.09]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

Ever do that thing where you start building a new website, and even write and publish a few things on the website, but never tell anyone about the website or link to the things on the website?

Ever do that thing where you start building a new website, and even write and publish a few things on the website, but never tell anyone about the website or link to the things on the website?

I guess I’m finally ready to admit to the world that I have a new website, such as it is. https://jdwhiting.com/

*And by “the world” I basically mean whatever fraction of my 700ish twitter followers and my 200ish Facebook friends happen to be logged in sometime in the next few hours and blessed by the almighty algorithm to see this status update.

Standalone post link: I guess I'm finally ready to admit to the world that I have a new website
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Some Thoughts and Highlights After Listening Exclusively to Music Made by Women for the Past Four Months

[Originally Posted: 2019.07.07]
[Last Updated: 2021.02.20]

A few days into March I decided that, for the remainder of the month, I would only listen to music created by women. We’re a week into July now and I haven’t gone back yet.

My 8 most-listened-to musical artists of the last 30 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

My 8 most-listened-to musical artists of the last 30 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

A few days into March I decided that, for the remainder of the month, I would only listen to music created by women. We’re a week into July now and I haven’t gone back yet.

My 8 most-listened-to musical artists of the last 30 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

My 8 most-listened-to musical artists of the last 30 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

Why?

I had a rather unfortunate first inspiration for this project. The thought started initially as I was trying to determine if I ever could or should listen to his music again, since he had been one of the artists up next in my discography listening project and in the dim past of the 2000s was a pretty important artist to me.) But this article and especially this thought quoted in the article

gave me pause, and made me rethink and question the importance and legitimacy of my little dilemma over whether to listen to music made by a terrible person.

I obsess over my music listening history, and in the past year or two I’ve done pretty well at parity between male and female artists in my listening habits. But after thinking on these things I took a serious look at the ratios in my iTunes library and my old CD/record collections, and they were straight-up horrible. I realized my habits and unconscious default in music-listening was still very much to turn to male artists, and I was sure I was missing out on a lot by not consciously looking for more women musicians, both new and long-established artists.

A second inspiration was Patty Griffin’s new album. My wife is a huge Patty Griffin fan, and I’m a minor Patty Griffin fan. In March I saw that Griffin had a new album coming out and surprise-bought it for my wife.

After listening to it a couple of times I started looking around for reviews and they were scarce. It seemed like there was a really weird lack of attention for an album of this calibre. I couldn’t help but think that if this exact set of songs with the same arrangements and production had been put out by a man, someone like Bruce Springsteen, Beck, Robert Plant (who does background vocals on a couple of tracks here), or for ultimate argument’s sake let’s say Ryan Adams, it would be hailed as “career-defining,” “return to form,” album of the year, 5 stars from Rolling Stone, Grammy buzz, all sins forgiven, big tour, &c. But hardly anyone was talking at all about this phenomenal album, and it seemed increasingly probable to me that this might be simply because it was created by a woman rather than a man, and therefore wasn’t thought of in that same way by many critics and fans of this type of music as made by men.

I love a good music challenge, so the decision was easily made. At the time, early March, I was working my way album-by-album through the Outkast discography, which I was committed to completing and, frankly, I was enjoying way too much to even consider putting aside. (Hot take: one of the strongest six-album runs in all of recorded popular music.) Around March 10, 2019, after finally listening to Idlewild for the first time, I took a rest from listening to music made by men.

What

I started immediately with Janelle Monáe, and honestly this was partly because she showed up on several tracks on that last Outkast album and was the most Outkast-ish female artist I could think of at the time. (Not listening through Outkast’s catalog again was my only actual sacrifice for this endeavor.)

But then I started digging. I discovered Sister Rosetta Tharpe, criminally overlooked by all the ‘History of Rock and Roll’ and American roots music syllabi, books, and documentaries I have encountered in my life up until now. I’m positive she wasn’t mentioned in the lectures or textbook of my college History of Rock and Roll course in the early 2000s. She is absolutely essential, though:

I tried several of Patty Smith’s albums for the first time. Now that I’ve finally listened to her it seems like everyone else in the world already knows about Patty Smith, but even though I’ve dug into rock and punk history at various points in my life both officially and casually (most notably in the aforementioned college-level History of Rock class), I was always allowed to ignore her. I found her first two albums revelational and possibly the best, key parts of 70s New York punk, not just the token woman spouting off some random poetry over guitars that my music professor made her out to be without even bothering to play any of her music for us. (Actually, “spouting off random poetry over guitars” sounds like a perfect description for potentially peak rock and roll, now that I think about it. I’ve long been an idiot for skipping on this.) It’s now clear to me that many of my favorite musical artists, male or female, would not exist as they do without Patty Smith - she’s foundational to post-punk and so much more. For example, a random track on her fourth album sounds like the whole future discography of R.E.M. distilled and prophesied in a single song.

I intended to go through Kate Bush’s discography, but after trying her first album it didn’t really stick. (I’ll probably still go back at some point.)

I crawled through new release playlists and mostly skipped the male artists. I came across Mereba, a great find.

I couldn’t wait for Big Thief’s new album.

I became obsessed most of all with Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood; I’ve listened to it at least 10 or 20 times now, but I guess not in the last few weeks.

The newer artists I probably would have found and listened to regardless of whether I was doing this project, but even in that case it gave me permission to really focus on them and listen to them multiple times in a way I might not have otherwise, if I’d been letting my listening time be taken up with so many men.

Continued…

At the end of March, I figured I should make it a full month, so I decided to continue on to April 15. Then the middle of April came and went. If a male artist came up on a playlist or on the radio it was okay, but whenever I was making a conscious choice to listen to something it was still always going to be a female artist, or at least a band led by a woman. It just became a habit, and I liked it.

Jay Som always on repeat.

Early 70s Carole King albums always on repeat.

LEGACY! LEGACY! by Jamila Woods has been my latest obsession throughout June and is my current AOTY. This album could be and likely already is the basis for an entire curriculum, a much more worthy curriculum than the one I encountered in that History of Rock and Roll class mentioned above. Rather than write more myself I’m just going to point you to some good things that others have said about it, as well as what Woods says about it herself.

Some of these artists and albums were new to me, but many were old, long-standing comforts that I’ve just allowed myself to listen to again and again these past months. Maybe that’s why it has been so easy to just continue with my women-only listening program. We’re now a week into July, and I haven’t stopped yet. I haven’t even listened to the new Vampire Weekend, which this post tells me I could perhaps somehow justify because it actually includes occasional collaborations with some female musicians. (That article is so weird to me, by the way. In one sense I like that it brings light to a heartening trend. On the other hand, how about more articles just about female musicians themselves, rather than how awesome the veteran indie dudebros are for finally bringing a few female voices into their projects 10 to 20 years into their careers.)

What Have I Learned?

I thought I already knew better, but keeping myself focused exclusively on women artists for so long made me finally become more fully cognizant of the weird, incorrect ideas inculcated in me as a 13-year-old boy trying to learn about music and make his way in the adolescent social world: that the default, recognized source for “good music” was a group of white men with guitars, and that music made by women was not for me and listening to too much of it could actually somehow be risky to my perceived masculinity. I think I’ve finally eradicated the last remnants of these pathological thoughts from my system.

So, what now? I think having written up this post I might be able to finally close down the formal listening experiment. At the outset of the project I had envisioned epic twitter threads sharing all the awesome music and musicians I was discovering and exploring each day. That did not happen, and it’s not going to, other than I incorporated some of those thoughts and links above, in this post. Instead, going forward I’ll just have to make sharing neat and unique stuff that I enjoy a more general or daily practice on my part as I go along, not some impossible perfect plan. That’s another post and project, though.

I might finally listen to that new Vampire Weekend, the new Khalid, and a few other male artists' tracks I’ve been banking up over the past few months. But going forward my musical selections and defaults are never going to be the same again, and I’ll probably continue for quite a while to listen to more female artists than I do male artists before I reach some kind of parity. Also, I think I’ll always be immediately skeptical about any new band entirely made up of dudes, and playlists entirely made up of bands entirely made up of dudes.

My 5 most-listened-to albums of the last 90 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

My 5 most-listened-to albums of the last 90 days (last.fm profile screenshot)

Standalone post link: Some Thoughts and Highlights After Listening Exclusively to Music Made by Women for the Past Four Months
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Now (July 7, 2019)

[Originally Posted: 2019.07.07]
[Last Updated: 2019.07.07]

Some of the things I’m working on and thinking about these days…

Some of the things I’m working on and thinking about these days…

  • I’m still tinkering with this website, but I’m going to start sharing things from it on social media networks, and basically publicly acknowledge its existence.

  • Taking some actual time off work to take my kids on adventures big and small, and to give my wife a break since the kids are home all day every day right now.

    • Big adventure example: camping by the Colorado River outside Moab and Arches National Park.
    • Small adventure example: riding bikes yesterday at a nature park by our neighborhood. Well, they rode bikes and I mostly sat at a bench and wrote in a notebook.
  • I’m in serious summer project mode at work, when I’m at work. Right now I’m about to set up a new theme and revamp a lot of things at granitemedia.org so that the site can be more secure and functional, and hopefully a bit easier to read and navigate. Beyond that, I am generally attempting to learn, fix, and improve a lot of things I often can’t make the time for during the school year.

  • I’m chairing the Children’s Fiction Committee for the Beehive Book Awards again next year. Right now we are in summer reading mode, just finding potential nominations for the 2021 long list which we will meet to determine in the fall.

  • Just finished up a month four months of listening exclusively to music made by women. Best listening project I’ve ever done, though I didn’t know quite how to end it.

  • Currently on a deep dive into the films and art of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Taking a little break from my Film School Drop Outs 2018 Challenge.

This page was last updated on July 7, 2019. See my prior ‘now’ updates here.


Credit for the ‘now’ page concept goes to Derek Sivers. I had envisioned a page of this sort for my new website, but my concept was vague and I didn’t have a clear way forward until I happened upon someone with a ‘now’ page and followed the trail back to the source. I think you should make one too.

Standalone post link: Now (July 7, 2019)
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Misadventures in Book Reviewing: Thoughts After Reading and Reviewing *We’re Not From Here*

[Originally Posted: 2019.05.31]
[Last Updated: 2022.02.19]

I reviewed this book last week, and in doing so made some serious mistakes, which I’m hoping to learn from going forward. We’re Not From Here - Cover Image

I reviewed this book last week, and in doing so made some serious mistakes, which I’m hoping to learn from going forward. We’re Not From Here - Cover Image

Mistake #1:

The whole time I was reading the novel I assumed the narrator was a boy. I can point to several possible reasons in the text why I came to that assumption, but in the end they are flimsy justifications for my assumption, held up only by gender stereotypes, clichéd attitudes, and expected conventions of storytelling, all of which I would be unfairly imputing onto the text when they simply are not there. In fact, the text was consciously constructed by the author so as not to gender the narrator, and there really isn’t a legitimate way to argue from the text that the narrator is either male or female. I brought my bias, assumptions, and lazy reading to the book and came away with an incorrect assumption, which I then propagated on the internet.

There is one really positive thing I hope I can take away from this mistake. I hope by becoming aware of this problem through misgendering a character in a book, I can be more conscious of others and in the future perhaps avoid misgendering an actual person in real life. I believe this whole learning exercise I am going through is part of the reason why the author chose to create the book in this fashion. It is a nice playground in which to learn this, and yet another way that this book can be used for learning and discussion.

Mistake #2:

Before writing my review I consciously avoided reading other reviews of this book or really anything about this book other than the book itself and probably the publisher’s blurb. I told myself I had decided on this because I didn’t want to be influenced by others and inadvertently restate whatever others said about the book. This is a semi-legitimate fear, but in reality my decision was an attempt to just get a book review written without thinking about it too much or spending too much time on it. It was a short cut, and it didn’t really work. I realize now that I owe it to any author or book which I am taking the time to write about to write well, and that includes doing proper research and close reading. Not only does this do the creator of the work better justice, but it also can save me from looking foolish; in the case of this book, some more reading about it would have prevented me from making Mistake #1 (noted above.)

By the way, We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey is an awesome book. You should totally read it and share it with kids that you know. Here’s my review:

https://www.granitemedia.org/2019/05/were-not-from-here/

After Earth is rendered uninhabitable for reasons*, Lan’s family are among the last 2400 or so humans living on the Mars base. When they start running out of food, supplies, and any other options, they are relatively excited to receive an invitation from the insect-like Zhuri and a couple of other species to come to the distant planet Choom as refugees. 20 years of deep-space hibernation travel later when the humans wake up in Choom’s orbit, things have changed and the Zhuri are no longer so enthusiastic about bringing in a species who just blew up their own planet. They nonetheless let one human reproductive unit come down to the planet and go to school and work as a trial: Lan’s family. Can Lan survive the school day and charm the Zhuri into letting them stay, and letting the rest of the humans come down as well?

On one level this book is a cartoonish/sitcom-styled sci-fi in which the goofball kid Lan, their despondent former pop star sister, and their parents find themselves trying to fit in with the mosquitoish inhabitants of a beige, hex-shaped suburbia on Planet Choom. On another level it is a sophisticated middle-grade satire and a masterclass in media literacy and political science that speaks to compelling contemporary issues such as the worldwide refugee crisis and the responding rise of populist/nationalist anti-immigration political movements, news media manipulation, and more. That might sound like a lot for an ostensibly humorous middle-grade novel, but I promise you it does not come off as heavy at all; it is light with some completely age-appropriate dark humor. I think kids will enjoy this on either or both the silly and serious levels, and it would make for great discussions.

*nuclear war, mainly

Correction: The text of this review originally referred to the character/narrator Lan as a boy. This was a presumption entirely made by the reviewer. The author kindly pointed out that Lan’s gender is never specified in the text. You can learn more in the author’s guest post on Nerdy Book Club: “One Book, Two Imaginations.”

Standalone post link: Misadventures in Book Reviewing: Thoughts After Reading and Reviewing *We’re Not From Here*
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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.