This site benefits/suffers/both from consisting of posts about a wide range of topics, all linked under the amorphous heading “data-driven storytelling.”
In an attempt to impose some coherent structure, I am organizing related posts both chronologically and thematically.
The sequence of events that resulted in the unifying concept of “interrogating memory” went like this:
- September 2014: Facebook post for my 48th birthday rank-ordering 24 favorites films noir
- December 2014: Defend epidemiology doctorate at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH); within two months, doctoral committee and I begin to haggle over publication
- March 2015: Start building comprehensive film noir database (4,825 titles as of January 2019) as result of September 2014 Facebook post
- May 2015: Skip official BUSPH Commencement in lieu of informal private ceremony; haggling had become personal and nasty
- June 2015: End four-year senior data analytic position at Joslin Diabetes Center (19 years in health-related data analysis career) when federal grant funding expires
- July 2015-July 2017: Look for new position in field, more half-heartedly than I care to admit
- Early 2016: Realize 50th birthday coming in September, begin to think about discovering truth of genetic family as present to self. This goes nowhere fast.
- August 2016: Commence long-overdue psychotherapy and begin to take low-dose anti-depressant. Early sessions zero on in establishing my “identity.”
- September 2016: Turn 50. World does not end.
- December 2016: Debut Just Bear With Me blog, inspired to large degree by the accessible data journalism of FiveThirtyEight.
- Early 2017: Realize am spending far more time writing about American politics and culture than anything related to epidemiology (which, along with biostatistics, was focus of 10 years of graduate study at BUSPH).
- May 2017: Publish Film Noir: A Personal Journey
- June 2017: Begin to express doubts about my career path
- Summer 2017:
- Decide to set aside job search to become a full-time writer.
- Wife Nell and I complete 23andMe genetic testing kits.
- I formally begin process to unseal adoption records.
- Nell suggests I write a book; my mind turns to May film noir post.
- First online research steps lead me to Ancestry and Newspapers. I happily pay full subscription fees for both sites.
By August 2017, I was fully engaged in three interlocking processes:
- Writing a book with the working title Interrogating Memory: Film Noir Spurs a Deep Dive Into My Family History…and My Own.
- Using online tools (and documents I had carefully archived over the years) to build comprehensive, ever-expanding family trees, first for my legal family (the only family I ever knew until the last 18 months) and later for my genetic family
- Using 23andMe’s DNA Relatives tool to supplement slow-moving legal process to learn about genetic family.
This is easily the single most entertaining and rewarding process I have ever undertaken—especially when you learn the death of your father’s father’s father—the handsome and dapper David Louis Berger—made the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer in October 1919!
And it is far from complete.
On July 4, 2019, I wrote a series of tweets that tied two sets of genealogical strands into a single, all-American narrative.
The funny thing is that I had never intended to write that much about these genealogical research process, given that I had originally conceived this site to be a place to disseminate “data-driven” odds and ends.
The innate storyteller in me could not resist, however, and on July 22, 2017, I wrote 23and…Who? This proved to be a relatively popular post, so whatever residual disinclination I felt to continue writing about my familial research evaporated almost immediately.
In fact, in a span of four days in mid-August 2017 I wrote three consecutive posts about what I was learning.
(I took an even deeper dive into one of those fires here.)
One month later I returned to the research with a cri de coeur about the perils of genealogical research.
I had little new to report until December 2017, when I wrote the following three consecutive posts; in the second one I finally dropped the tattered pretense that this site is solely devoted to “objective data-driven” analyses:
After a two-month hiatus during which I described in glorious detail my recent adventures in San Francisco, I returned to my genealogical investigations with two posts:
These were followed by a May 2018 post focusing less upon genealogy and more on my ongoing search for identity.
That August, I traveled to my birth city of Philadelphia, PA to conduct on-site research (and to visit friends and family). I shared what I learned from that trip in a three-part series:
With a follow-up visit in August 2019.
From September until mid-December 2018, I was preoccupied with the 2018 midterm elections. It was not until what would have been my maternal grandfather Samuel Kohn’s 104th birthday (or so I had always understood) that I returned to both the book and the research. I followed that up with a cri de coeur reprise less than one month later, followed in February 2019 by the tale of my paternal great-great-uncle.
Finally, here are the posts that are about my life (separate from my taste in music and love for baseball) but do not necessarily fall under the heading of “interrogating memory.”
Two posts related to the Netflix series Stranger Things touched on such deeply personal issues as mental health, my relationship with my parents and my obsessive nature”
In January 2021, I completed a first draft of Interrogating Memory. The following month, I began to search for a literary agent, understanding this was a key step on the way to publication. To help spur that process, I began the “That Time My…” series of short excerpts on March 8.
Until next time…