amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Will Vote

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Insomnia

Sleeplessness has become a real problem for me again. I think insomnia is more definitive, more deeply a part of my self and life these days than my queerness is. Is there an Insomniac Pride Parade for me to march (I suppose it would be more a stumble) in? I have dealt with occasional sleeplessness all my life, but since a health crisis and hospitalization back in 2016 insomnia has been a chronic and acute condition, what feels like the central struggle of my existence. Given that these happen to be the Trump Republican years that means there feel like two ongoing and urgent central struggles of my existence more or less all the time. It's not a particularly good feeling -- indeed, at the moment it doesn't always seem entirely survivable. For a time last year I was able to manage my onset-insomnia a bit with the use of cannabis -- but this now seems to me a temporary measure with costs to match the benefits (real though they are, and everybody reacts differently, granted), the effectiveness diminishes and for me there can be dependency issues and worries about vestigial fogginess interfering with teaching. Losing that briefly effective crutch has been pretty demoralizing, I must say, and the daily news isn't helping. As at once the nation drifts, apparently irresistibly, into authoritarian cruelty and self-defeating stupidity so too I have lost the once natural, once easy, once blissful gift of the ability to drift into restorative sleep. Black out curtains, an ebb-tide recording, earplugs, a sleep mask, passionflower tea, yoga, diet and exercise, long baths, stimulus control (segregation of sleep from work space, etc.), relaxation techniques via meditation and auto-hypnosis scripts, and anything else I can find in the arsenal of behavioral and cognitive psychology are the tools I have at hand to carve out a liveable space in the midst of this distress. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Baby Bonds

Republicans want and are trying to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients (with the consequence that the young, elderly, and disabled folks who most depend on the program are imperiled) right after they voted for tax cuts for the richest inheritors of massive wealth even as investments and supports of the economy are eviscerated.

You don't have to read critical theory to understand the values, aims, and consequences of these decisions. They are plain to see. At a time like this it feels worse than useless to keep flogging the same painfully obvious points over and over again.  Trump is an incompetent, intemperate, unqualified criminal and the Republicans are enabling him for tax cuts for the rich and to bully queers and people of color -- me, many people I love, many students I love and care for, millions I don't know, but from whose efforts and intelligence I benefit every day. If Republicans get their way I will die in a feudal slaughterhouse amidst greenhouse storms.

Republicans are dismantling our notional and ineffectual democracy and implementing a more plutocratic and authoritarian country from which Republicans imagine they will benefit. Many will die who would otherwise live, many will be lost to suffering and distress who would otherwise contribute to the support of society and progressive solution of our shared problems. The single best way to stop this development is to vote for enough Democrats to stop the Republicans from doing their worst. This is not to say Democrats are good or even good enough, of course it is just to say that voting Democrats into office is the single thing most of my readers can do to address the extremity of our present distress. As a queer ecosocialist feminist you will be unsurprised to discover that most Democrats regularly disappoint and enrage me even as I vote for them as the best alternative on offer as they almost inevitably are.

Now, set all that aside for a moment. I do want to say that there are worlds of deeper imaginative possibility that we should contemplate abstractly, concretely, aspirationally. If this is not only a time of distress and death -- it is also the time of revolutionary democracy. In a world in which Democrats re-assumed control, enfranchised all voters, strengthened social security by raising the income cap, implemented non-militarized accountable community policing models, provided Medicare as a public option onto universal coverage as a right, allowed bargaining to lower pharmaceutical costs, allowed post offices to work as non-profit savings and loans to provide equitable financial services for all, subsidized soil restorative agriculture programs and farmer's markets in urban and rural food deserts, raised taxes on the richest, invested in rapid rail, windfarms, solar infrastructure, burying wires and otherwise weatherizing our energy and transportation infrastructure, new possibilities emerge to address sustainability and inequity and open up the possibilities of discovery and diverse pleasures of which freedom significantly consists. Another such proposal, which I just read about this morning from the Roosevelt Institute, is to provide "baby bonds" to citizens at birth that are designed to redress radical wealth inequality and provide a basis for equitable growth and prosperity. It seems to me that "baby bonds" might be a rhetorically effective way to advocate for reparations for slavery and Jim Crow (understood as continuing on in current disenfranchisement, mass incarceration and police profiling, redlining and predatory lending, inequitable education, environmental racism).
The economy has room to grow, which means it’s the right time to think big about the social safety net. Roosevelt collaborators, economists Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton, are doing just that. As a way to combat rising inequality and level the economic playing field in the U.S., they propose (link is here) giving every newborn a “Baby Bond,” or a one-time deposit at birth tied to socioeconomic status. “The key ingredient of how successful you will be in America is how wealthy your family is,” Hamilton told The Washington Post. Every child deserves a fair chance. To build upward mobility for all Americans, big ideas are needed.
Maybe we will claw back to a state of sufficient sanity to work toward such proposals. If we beat the Republicans back, maybe we can even push Democrats from the left into progressive transformation. My students are generationally devoted to civil rights, sustainability, diversity, secularity more than my own was as a general matter. If the heavy hand of the last generation of cishet white supremacist ablist consumerism doesn't manage to destroy the country or the world, I am eager to welcome and collaborate with rising generations to repair the harms of history and build a fairer freer world before I leave it. My bond, for the babies.   

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Shithole Survey

Isn't She Lovely

I love everything about this.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Springing for Le Guin

Over the fall the last few months I took up the novels of Tariq Ali's The Islam Quintet and managed to finish them over the course of the term, more or less, and I was looking for a comparably rewarding project of side-reading for the spring: The arrival of a beautiful new two volume Library of America edition of Ursula Le Guin's Hainish works (not all of which I have read I am embarrassed to say, but a few of which I am very eager to read again while looking forward to the new ones). School starts next Friday, so I'm getting a bit of an early start on Rocannon's World, which I haven't read before but am already enjoying. (I'm still also reading snatches for work, I mentioned David Cousins Hoy's work on critical theory a little while ago, and I'm also looking at Puar's Right to Maim, which may be coming up in an independent study, and Nato Thompson's Living As Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 as I think more about connections between art-making and theory-making and the building of clarity, agency, equity, and resistance.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Orwell's 1984 -- Mapped

via openculture:

The Koch Brothers Understand the Significance of Puerto Ricans Moving to Florida Even If Democrats Don't

Pay. Attention. To. Florida.

via Electoral-vote.com:
It is estimated that 300,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to the U.S. mainland as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Large parts of the island are still without electricity or safe water, so few will be moving back soon, if at all. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, so as soon as they register in Florida or any other state, they are eligible to vote. The Koch brothers know this, so they have set up a massive outreach program to help these people, and not incidentally make sure they are familiar with the Koch brothers' favorite candidates and why these would be great people to vote for. It won't be an easy sell, though. Many of these people are aware of how much the Trump administration did for Texas and Florida and how little (basically zero) it did for Puerto Rico after all three were hit by hurricanes. Many of these people have family and friends already on the mainland, and these people may explain American politics to them, possibly in a different way than the Koch brothers. Nevertheless, the ESL courses and other aid the brothers are providing may win them some friends. At present, Democrats have no comparable outreach program.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Vacation Days...

I'm re-reading David C. Hoy's chapters in the book he co-wrote on Critical Theory with Thomas McCarthy (whose chapters, you will forgive me, I am not re-reading) in anticipation of teaching the latest iteration of my critical theory survey course. I've taught dozens of versions of this class -- but like so much else I really find I am questioning and re-thinking the value and utility of texts I have been teaching for years. In the time of Trump what kinds of theory do the work of clarification, organization, resistance to tyranny? My Fontenelle, Kant, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Barthes, Debord sequence in the first half of the term is so very pale and male and philosophically stale -- it's true we will also grapple with W.E.B. Du Bois, Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, Hannah Arendt, Naomi Klein, Frantz Fanon, Donna Haraway, Michel Foucault, Angela Davis, Laura Mulvey, Kobena Mercer, Achille Mbembe, Gayatri Spivak, Carol Adams, and more, but weaving what is vital in contemporary critique, in its intersectional genealogy and deconstruction of able-bodied, cisheteronormative white supremacy, with the philosophical pretensions (and hence endless mansplaining) of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and the Frankfurt school just feels more fraught every livelong day.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Sunday Walk

A great day so far -- a full night's sleep for a change, short letters off to my pen pals, our usual long Sunday stroll down Piedmont Avenue to breakfast at our favorite diner, then a short jaunt to Mountain View cemetery, one hill like a drunken costume party with a European castle, an Egyptian Pyramid, a re-staged Calvary, a Greek temple, here an obelisk, there a stone sphere, leaning to and fro as the soil was roiled by earthquakes and settling... all so strange, so quiet, so lovely. Then I found my Driver's License right after I had finally reconciled myself to the fact that I had really lost it -- it was like enacting Tolkein's "On Fairy Stories," help unlooked-for arrives in the magical universe! Tonight we're watching some Miss Marple and another episode of Space: 1999... A lovely day!

An Early Lesson I'm Forever Relearning

Expanding the Estate Tax Could Begin to Subsidize the Reparations to End White Supremacy

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Submitted Without Comment

Friday, January 05, 2018

Geothermal As Renewable Energy

I found this rather interesting. According to the US Energy Information Administration, by 2016 geothermal resources fueled more than 44% of Nevada's renewable electricity generation and nearly 10% of Nevada's total net electricity generation, a larger share than any other state. Nevada ranked second in US for geothermal electricity generation that year. I suspect geothermal heating/cooling systems combined with very simple building practices like attic fans and front porches would be effective (at least as supplements) in the midwest and east coast than here in the west coast but that the Republican skew of the region prevents any action on this (white supremacy and climate change denialism go hand in hand).

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Wednesday Walk

The earthquake woke me up after two in the morning, and tho' I finally got back to sleep a couple hours later again, all in all it was a tough night and it has left me feeling exhausted all day long. Eric saved the day, took the afternoon off, we braved a little rain here and there, and we took a walk to Piedmont Avenue as we usually do Sundays, got burritos and some candy from the fancy candy store for tonight, strolled through the big columbarium at Mountain View, checked out all the new construction, clowned around. Looking forward to the silliness of Project Runway All Stars tonight. Sleepy day. A day for reading and vegging.

Sessions Is Re-Escalating the Racist Republican War on Drugs

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I have been using medical cannabis this year to manage what has otherwise become quite brutal insomnia. Sessions signal that he will set a hammer to shatter the enabling policy for ongoing legalization efforts will hurt many many people, me included, and stall what was beginning to be a promising end to the catastrophically failed racist War on Drugs (that legalization has been profoundly uneven in ways that still reflect the racism of the whole War on Drugs is also true and lamentable but this Sessions move will exacerbate all that is worst and blunt all that has been best about it to the benefit of no one at all). Nice to see Californians and Coloradans immediately promising resistance and aid.





Up Against It

This ain't what democracy looks like.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

We're Swinging Left in 2018!

They're Coming For Us. We're Coming For Them.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Wringing In The New Year

In years past, I have followed the usual custom and posted in the first days of the new year a list of posts that attracted the most attention or which I thought deserved more attention... but I haven't really used the blog to post longform ruminations or polemics this year and so I don't think there are highlights for me to skywrite that way this time around.

2017 has been a terrible year, that is to say a year full of terrifying events and greater dangers still. This has been a year of endless demoralizing Trump Republican atrocities of course. The racists and queer bashing bigots I escaped from Indiana and then from Georgia in my move to build a life in California are now demolishing professional and ethical and policy norms left and right across the country, abolishing regulations and social programs, destroying evidence and evidence-based policy-making, implementing obscene bigotry in immigration, healthcare, foreign aid, policing, escalating all the ongoing conflicts in our ongoing wartime occupations and undeclared conflicts while exacerbating new conflicts elsewhere, undermining every even notionally progressive advance from the Obama turning of the post-Reagan tide (and yeah, Snidely Whiplash, it was hardly utopia before, we all noticed that already). While the Resistance has been more effective than I feared it would, the Trump administration and straight white America has been exactly as bad as I feared it would. Also, this year Eric and I lost our cherished adorababy kitty Sarah.

Now, you may recall from last year's report that I spent much of that year in recovery from a life-threatening medical condition that continues to make its demands on me. As part of that recovery, I made a huge number of changes in my life, discontinued alcohol and most pain killers and sleep aids (which exacerbate my platelet condition), took up yoga and long walks with Eric, changed my diet, and so on. The brutal insomnia I have battled most of my life got much worse last year -- world and work anxieties and the loss of sleep-aids were a devastating one-two punch, for which medical cannabis is providing something a saving grace (while introducing a host of new issues with which I still grapple, from uneven effectiveness to muzzy-headed hangovers to worries about dependency). The results of all my efforts have been fairly amazing, and they have made this truly terrible year (for all the obvious reasons) not only terrible for me after all. On January 1st, 2017, I weighed 272 pounds, and on January 1st, 2018, I weighed 182 pounds. Yes, I lost nearly a hundred pounds this year -- a hundred pounds, a foot off of my waist, t-shirts from XL to M, and an ass on city buses transformed from clumsy wide-load to unobtrusive slim-fit. Whatever else I can say about this superannuated frame, I am a much less achy, slow-moving, hard-breathing mass now than I was last year, and in every way feel better, and occupy space more comfortably and less awkwardly than for years before.

All this has made such a difference for me. And while I have not been writing in public in my blog very much, this is not to say that I have relinquished my writing practice altogether -- on the contrary, I have rekindled important friendships through epistolary correspondence this year, confessing the distress and effort of these last months and working my way to a better place through it all. Again, this has been a year of pain and fear and loss -- and yet, the connections I have strengthened and the practices I have undertaken to cope have yielded up a crop of insights, and care, and sunlit days in loving company.

I have found teaching especially difficult in the midst of this distress. My students rightly fear for their futures and I wonder about the true value of what I strive so diligently to teach them: The insights of critical theory provided the material out of which I reinvented myself into a liveably queer version of myself and resist a world I would rewrite in the image of the queer equities ecologies and democracies I value, but does the language of critical theory really help everybody as it does and did me? Does it not alienate others, fetishize particular models of clarity and practice at the cost of other valuable ways of thinking and communicating? While critical theory can provide language for testimony to distress and to facilitate coalition building in the face of difference, it may also rationalize complacency, justify elitism, undermine pragmatism, create divisions. Are my art students doing theory when they are doing art, not just when they are talking about art? If so, shouldn't that change how I teach theory -- and not just to my art students?

In a post yesterday, I mentioned my personal resolution for the new year, "Where I am now fearful, I will strive instead to be more grateful or more helpful until the fear is gone." This is above all else a resolution about my teaching practice -- a resolution about making my teaching better for my students but also about making my life better through my teaching with my students. As a person struggling with depression and anxiety I have discovered that beyond the indispensability of self-care in the face of the demands of the world that other-regard facilitates self-care most of all, in turning from the text of my personal distress to the texts I explicate for my students, in turning from my fears that I will be unclear or forgetful or uninspiring to the actual needs and performance of my students I find I turn from the self-regard that threatens to inter me in my anxiety and despondency to no good purpose at all. Of course, as I mentioned earlier on in the year, after years of organizing, bargaining, negotiating, SFAI ratified a contract with my union, and I just secured a promotion, raise, and some welcome benefits as a result. For the first time in many years I feel a measure of recognition and support for the work I am doing in my institution, and it is in this context that I mean to devote myself ever more to my teaching practice as a practice of ongoing self-creation as well as the place I help others make progressive and expressive change in the world. Trump and Republicans and bigotry and greedheadedness will continue to make their blind bloody way this year, and I will continue to rant and rail and resist onward to what I hope is a restorative mid-term without still more new wars and greenhouse storms to derange history further utterly beyond hope of healing.