Tag Archives: Reviews

I Enjoyed Iron Man 3, But…

I enjoyed Iron Man 3.  I was entertained.  I found Ben Kingsley delightful (and, truth be told, I was giddy when I found out he would be in it).   Plenty of scenes induced white knuckles, serious breath holding, and laughter.

But…

Upon leaving the theatre I felt a slight pang of disappointment.  Was it the acting?  No.  Was it the action? No.  In fact, the film really was good fun.

But…

Iron Man 3 contained the basic formula for Blockbuster madness: a great cast, charming dialogue, and explosions galore.  What was this “something” that it left out?

I realized the film lacked a “moral” to the story.  Superhero films engage audiences on more than an action/entertaining level.  They often provoke and affirm a value towards moral behavior. In the first Iron Man, for example, Tony Stark underwent a character transformation that highlighted a reorientation for “Right” and “Justice.”  Initially he indulged in a purely hedonistic lifestyle and when confronted with the dire consequences he chose change.  That moment of transformation was part and parcel to being “super.”  One could argue his evolved approach to business took on a John Stuart Mill-esque Utilitarian calculation for “higher pleasure” to bring about the best consequences.

But…

This film presupposed an acceptance of “hero versus villain” as a sufficient formula.  Where was the “Ah-ha” moment for Stark here?  Yes, watching the development of the Iron Man suits captures our attention, however these really are not what make Tony Stark interesting as a Hero.  For the superhero, the moral compass serves as the driving force and the abilities (or suits in this case) are a vehicle for expressing a character. Iron Man 3 seems bereft of authentic purpose and personal growth.

What are your thoughts about the movie?


Shhh! I’m an Introvert

Intrigued by the title, I picked up Susan Cain’s book Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  My initial interest was geared towards the latter part of the title “a world that can’t stop talking.”  I assumed the book would be a sort of sociological/cultural analysis of American society.  But, after plowing through the first chapter, I found myself a bit startled to see so much of my own personality in her description of an introvert.  In fact, she lists twenty “yes/no” questions for the reader to determine the extent of one’s introversion; the more one marks “yes,” the more one is introverted.  I answered “yes” to 18 of the questions!   The more I read on I could feel a sort of weight lifted off my shoulders.  Indeed, because I am not particularly shy I had not thought of myself in this fashion; however, Cain points out that there is a common confusion between shyness and introvertedness.  Introverts are not necessarily shy.  Quite the contrary, introverts can give presentations and be social.  The distinguishing trait is that introverts retreat from interaction in order to re-boot.  Some introverts need more time than others.

I should back up here.  Why was I feeling like a weight had been lifted?  Cain explores the dynamics of being an introvert from biology, psychology, and referencing famous historical figures who were introverts.  As I was reading I realized not only that I expressed the traits of an introvert but that I have spent of good deal of my life apologizing and feeling guilty about being introverted.  Let me be blunt: I thought I was just plain weird!

From when I was young and throughout my college years, for example, I attended social gatherings but I was usually one of the first to leave.  After two hours of chatting I wanted nothing more than to be at home and to read.  Now, at the end of a long week of teaching, I notice that I need a day (or three) for myself to recover from all of the interaction.  I absolutely love teaching, but to be effective I must take a time out from the world once the work week is over.  I will plant myself at home with a book, turn off the phone, and sometimes postpone or reschedule social plans.  Even emailing gets suspended for this re-booting time.

Reading, an inherently solitary affair, has been and remains a large part of my life.  I read for nearly five hours a day. (Some days I have been known to read all day.  When I started The Brothers Karamazov, for instance, no one saw me for a week.)  I read a novel a week (give or take) in addition to reviewing my lectures, grading, and of course, reading Philosophy.  This is something I would rarely share with anyone because I knew it was…well…weird.  However, Cain’s book has assured me that this is quite typical and dare I say it, normal, given the disposition of being introverted.  She traces the trend to become extroverted as part and parcel of an American “success” to the publication and phenomenon of How to Win Friends and Influence People.  With the onset of this popular book, the ideal mode of communication swayed towards talkativeness and being outgoing.  Success meant, in part, imbibing the extrovert persona.  This inevitably eclipsed the power of the introverted disposition.  Qualities such as listening and retreating to problem solve (rather than group think) were undervalued.

At different points in my life a few people have said things to me along the lines of I needed to be out more or that I must spend time alone because of some childhood trauma. (Side note: childhood IS traumatic.) While reading Cain’s book these memories sprouted and gave me pause, for I had allowed people to make me feel sheepish about me being me.

After reading Cain’s book I not only know more about the sociological and biological dimensions of introversion, but I’ve actually come to be more comfortable about myself.  I’m not weird.  I’m not anti-social.  I’m an introvert!

For my dear readers, extroverts and introverts, never let anyone try to make you feel strange for delving into what you love.  I think that is the overarching reason I wanted to create this post.  Be stylish, interesting, social, quiet, creative, mathematical…whatever!  Just be tuned into what makes you YOU and flourish.

Click here for my Amazon Author Page.


A Review of Tips From The Professor

*Book Review by Dr. Wayne Hubert

Tips From the Professor: A Guide for College Success by Dr. Gwendolyn Dolske  is not just another student handbook for successfully navigating undergraduate life.  It is not ponderous, theoretical, and impractical as so many student guides are, but rather it is concrete, experiential, and most of all, fresh in its approach.

Naturally, Dr. Dolske covers familiar and expected topics like time management, strategies for studying, writing papers, classroom presentations, and she illustrates them with specific examples from her own experiences as an undergraduate as well as those of her own current students.  Instead of theory, Dr. Dolske grounds her presentation in real life, her own and her students’.

Dr. Dolske also covers issues that are not usually found in student guides.  For example, she explains to her readers how to talk to their instructors, how to ask for letters of recommendation, how to manage money, how to understand grading, and–without doubt my favorite–how to be fully present during class time.   It is worth purchasing the book if only to read this section.

I also appreciate how  Dr. Dolske speaks to her audience as a mentor, eager to help, encourage, and pave the way for those new to the undergraduate experience.  She has learned much as a student and as a Professor, and she wants her readers to have what benefits she has earned and received.

Though this wonderful handbook will enjoy wide appeal, Dr. Dolske has a particular audience in mind.  She is writing to students who not only want to enjoy college and get good grades, but she is also writing to those students who understand the need for personal responsibility and discipline, those who in the end desire a good education.  With Dr. Dolske’s lively and useful guide, those students can have it all.

Wayne Hubert, Ph.D

Emeritus Dean Of Arts and Humanities

Chaffey College

Rancho Cucamonga, California


A few words on the book Zeitoun

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers chronicles the plight of one family in the throes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  This true story, and a compelling one at that, delves not only into the damage and chaos caused by the storm, but also the compounded issue for the Syrian born American, Zeitoun, making his way in a post 9/11 era.  His wife and children left before the storm hit and he chose to stay behind for the sake of looking after his business.  Initially he is glad to have remained in New Orleans because he was able to move much of their family’s possessions to the top floor of their home out of harm’s way.  When his neighborhood essentially became a river, he made use of a canoe bought not long before the storm.  In his canoe, Zeitoun travels up and down his streets seeing everything anew.  The point of view is at once sobering and delightful.  I write delightful because Eggers crafted Zeitoun’s character in an uplifting fashion teasing out a sense of exploration and purpose.  By traveling around in the canoe, he was able to rescue an elderly woman, an elderly couple, and feed a few domestic dogs left behind.  He called his wife daily and expressed joy at being able to do God’s work during this devastation. With a generous spirit, Zeitoun believed he was meant to be in New Orleans for others.

The book takes a drastic turn when, a few days after the storm, law enforcement and volunteer guards patrolling the area in search of looters and the like come to Zeitoun’s home and arrest him without explanation.  It is only after being manhandled, handcuffed, and detained that he is informed of their charges: he is a terrorist with Al Qaeda.  The gross error is, to say the least, disturbing. Because of the storm, the judicial system failed to function and this good man, Zeitoun, found himself in the middle of this awful mess for nearly 30 days without a right to a phone call, a proper place to sleep, a proper meal, or representation.

I appreciated this book for the window it provides into the experience of the storm and for its overarching theme of addressing injustice.  It is often said that when disaster hits we can see people coming together and get a glimpse at the best of humanity.  Zeitoun offered this.  But, in a disaster where a clear authority or legal structure falls, there is the disheartening possibility of moral failure.  Eggers, through the story of Zeitoun, exposes this and makes us reflect on it.

This is a fantastic book and I have been recommending it right and left to friends and students.


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