The Future Is Fluid

Enjoying my visit to New York a lot already. This morning I had breakfast in our super nice hotel (Townhouse Inn). Tonight will be busy and I get tired easily, so I didn’t want to try to do anything big. I set off towards the nearest museum, which I knew nothing about – The Rubin Museum of Art, a few blocks away, picked out from Google Maps. It’s a museum dedicated to Himalayan arts and culture.

Along the way I browsed in a vintage jewelry store which had a lot of little wooden drawers full of stuff (like, a drawer for the 5 dollar tie pins, and 10, 15, and 20+ pins) There were drawers for brooches with people on them, animals, leaves, circle pins, birds…. I got a tie clip that is a very cute enameled bus from the 50s and something called a scarf clip that has morpho butterfly wings in the design that said it was from 1944. Anyway, I needed a clip because, all the way to the museum, I had to keep feeling at my neck to make sure my nice silk scarf didn’t fall off. Now the clip can make sure (or, I will lose a scarf AND a clip!)

At the museum I enjoyed the wrathful deities who represent wisdom and the small gold statues from the 13th-14th centuries especially the one of a historian and translator, Zhonnu Pel.

But I especially loved the the animations by Chitra Ganesh (The Scorpion Gesture), and The Road to Sanchi by Ghiora Aharoni. Of Ganesh’s animations I super loved the large glowing panel called Metropolis (must be in reference to the movie with Maria the robot) I watched it twice – get ready for the somewhat inaccurate/incomplete description from memory. It started out in sort of cosmic space/time in the stars with a Buddha and a writing (woman’s?) hand, some scrolls/books and a giant glowing flower and buildings which looked old (a monastery I think). More buildings arise in a mountain backdrop and then giant black feet stomp on everything so that the land and mountains fracture (I suppose many disasters including colonialism and invasions or diasporas) It is all a gorgeous technicolor neon collage. The giant feet are like Kali trampling and I also thought of the Monty Python foot. Felt that there were a lot of inter-references to stuff I missed but that didn’t lessen the impact – clearly more depth, but accessible to the ignorant. There is a rainbow, more buildings, an airplane, tall buildings and urban life appearing over and along with the older buildings and temples, then I think the 2nd buddha appears in a golden statue form, its face changes to a woman’s face (but I don’t know who specifically) and her body is like a cyborg goddess body which raises an arm and some sort of energy (weapon?) appears in her hand. It was gorgeous and apocalyptic and many-layered, with a relentless quality to the action. Loved it so much!!! Science fiction feminist visions are the best. My head exploded! I could have watched it 10 times! Thank you future historians of the (im)possible!

The other exhibit that really struck me was The Road to Sanchi by Ghiora Aharoni. It is a curving array of battered taxi meters in glass bell jars. The meter has a small strip of video screen playing and if you go around the back of each one there is a digital camera attached to the meter, playing the same video, full screen. Each one is a journey through busy crowded city streets (though in at least one, a more rural road) to a sacred place of various religions, in India and I think maybe Nepal.

I was pretty tired by this time so did not watch each of the 12 or so videos of the journey. I spent a fair amount of time with it though. My mind had already been floating through my own journey to new york from san francisco & through the street this morning on my scooter mingling with the crowds and enjoying the many layers of time of this city where on every block there are buildings in stages of dereliction and renewal built on geologic-feeling accretions of cement and tunnels and asphalt and pipes. Purple glass “light tunnel” windows inset into older bits of sidewalk. You can feel the infrastructure just seething.

Then, just before I got to the Road exhibit, I had sat at a desk by the elevator, where you can write a letter to a future museum visitor. On seeing that I realized that someone had handed me a letter from another visitor on my way in (I took it with thanks but assumed it was a sort of “please donate” brochure) So, I sat at the desk, got out the letter, and read it. Very sweet: “Dear Visitor, Don’t leave the museum without taking an idea that can impact how you live your life! Enjoy the wisdom of an ancient culture, whether you believe in religion or not. – Batya” Nice, as I am in fact not religious – only a poet. Maybe someone will enjoy the letter I left in the box.

So the idea in “The Road to Sanchi” of someone centering the pilgrimage (rather than a destination), through these multiple cameras/videos of specific places and times, but all playing at once, where I could wheel around their graceful arc (of time and space) made me very happy, feeling even more pleasantly catapulted in my awareness out of linear time and connected to many times and places. (Thinking of the artist’s, and by extension, everyone else’s, experiences of their lives). The somewhat chaotic street scenes, sense of not being in control (as a passenger not the driver) but in control as the viewer of art. And the battered, gritty, homey feeling of the iron taxi meters, of a place I have never been so they are not familiar to me, but from their being more or less the same made me feel they were familiar to others who are not me, another sensation/thought that is beautiful.

In a small library exhibit there were shelves of books on culture and history, travel journals, and science fiction, especially noticed the heavy amount of Octavia Butler’s books and then the book Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler (edited by Rebecca J. Holden & Nisi Shawl) just leaped out at me. I may have pulled it off the shelf to put it on top of the book stand display!

Notes on access: The museum is spread out through several floors with a small wheelchair lift to the main lobby and then a separate bank of elevators to 6 other floors. It was pretty accessible but larger powerchairs may have trouble with the somewhat narrow hallway to the bathroom (i.e. you could not turn around, and would have to back out of the bathroom and hall). There were a lot of free headsets with audio descriptions for some of the separate exhibits. The front doors were heavy but well balanced enough that I could (barely) open them but there were people in the lobby standing by to help. So all around, very accessible.

Now getting ready to meet friends for dinner and go out to the performance of Descent which I’m looking forward to quite a lot.

Nifty addition to treeherder

At work I just found out we have a nice change in Treeherder, the tool that monitors current Firefox (and other) builds. Without writing my usual 10 pages of explanation and backstory, I’ll just say that Treeherder shows whether the release engineering infrastructure has started the release promotion process to take the builds from the changeset specified and do some super mystery magic on them to make them suitable for actual release to Firefox users. We get an email from the notification system that this happened, but now we can follow along in the same tool we use to watch tests pass or fail.

gecko decision task for firefox and fennec

In this case, I used a different tool (Ship-It) to set up the parameters to take the test builds for the 1a24837f9ed232d8d2dc4535d11ee53c9847b109 changeset (say it 6 times, fast) for Firefox 59 beta 7 (plus the android and developer edition versions) and declare us ready to kick off this process. Instead of checking email notifications that only go to a particular mailing list, or diving straight into TaskCluster, I can see that near the end of the enormous list of automated tests running on various platforms, “Gecko Decision Task”. This tells us that the builds are now being “promoted”. I haven’t tried drilling deeper yet, but if you click on any of the links there (such as “promote_firefox”) then you get even more detail, including links to TaskCluster and its myriad, confusing joys.

As usual, I think it’s damn cool that all this happens “in the open” at Mozilla, so you don’t even have to be logged into anything to see quite a lot of detail. Anyone with an interest can learn a lot here, or even get involved and contribute, because of this level of commitment to transparency. It’s a good way to find out if you like the work, or to get work experience that you can easily show off in the future.

Reading Weeklypedia

Every week I read through the list of most updated Wikipedia articles, just out of curiosity. You can subscribe to Weeklypedia’s handy mailing list if you don’t have enough email or want to casually monitor trends in news and culture.

Most of the very active articles are related to sports, movies or TV shows, and military conflicts. And of course, any sort of natural disaster or extreme weather event. Sometimes, you can spot a group of friends or a Wikipedia editing party/workshop in the list of new articles. It’s interesting!

And there is neat metadata too. Last week, 40,167 registered users and 78,263 unregistered users made 814,642 edits to 361,740 articles.

I was riffling through this email last night during a bout of insomnia and thinking back to the fun times from running Wiki Wednesday events, and the creative things people would do with data from Wikimedia.

I want to recommend Weeklypedia here even if I don’t have any deep insights. It’s a nice additional source to reading the news, to know what people around the world are interested in at this moment, even if I’m mostly interested in the (rarer) political/military conflict articles. I found out about it from Mahmoud at the Free Bassel picnic in 2016 and have been reading it ever since.

Reading Talking Anarchy

I’m reading a little book called Talking Anarchy which is an extended interview with a guy named Colin Ward, because Danny is obsessed with him right now and made me watch a documentary about New Towns with him in it. This book looked a little boring, but in the good way that’s great once you get into it, like Moby Dick, but much shorter and with more breaks to look up people’s names in Wikipedia. So far I’m enjoying:

– Ward’s comments on cooperatives and anarchasocialism (that having somewhat of a Kropotkin-y socialist bent doesn’t mean you love giant centralized state authorities)

– His strategy for dealing with overly fervent nationalists who won’t listen to any criticisms of their favorite country: mockery is the only thing that works. (For whatever definition of “works”… which I guess is, makes you feel better and they don’t shoot you for it)

– His optimism about not everything being an enormous Ford like conglomerate. Sadly this is the bit where I turned to the front of the book to check the date (2003) Things seem to continue turning more toward enormous conglomerates (agriculture… shipping… etc) This is not the homebrew industrial revolutiony future we had hoped for.

– His description of Marie Louise Berneri‘s outrage at not being jailed for her pacifist crimes because of sexist law that she and her husband were one person and so he went to jail and she didn’t

– So far, his lack of sexist douchery, so rare and precious, that he is a guy who doesn’t discount women automatically on every possible ground and instead whole heartedly appears to have engaged with women anarchists and describes them with respect as important in the movement and in public discourse

– For example I really want to know more about Lilian Wolfe who ran the Freedom Press office for 25 years and sounds like a great person. I will just quote this bit, because I really liked it.

In 1943, Lilian Wolfe, who had been running a food shop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, abandoned it at the age of sixty-seven, in order to manage the office of Freedom Press in London. She died at ninety-eight in 1974, and Nicolas Walter explained how “For more than twenty-five years Lilian Wolfe was the centre of the administration of Freedom Press at its various premises in London. She was the person on whom every organization depends — the completely reliable worker who runs the office, opening and closing the shop, answering the telephone and the post, doing accounts and keeping people in touch. She maintained personal contact with the thousands of people who read the paper…” This was certainly true in my case. When I wrote, obscurely, from a military address, she would reply and would send me copies of journals from overseas, like La Protesta from Buenos Aires and L’Adunata from New York.

Ward talks about Wolfe a lot throughout the interviews but hasn’t gotten to the part where she goes to prison in 1916 for being a pacifist anarchist along with the Freedom Press folks. (She did not just pop up whole and pure out of the food shop in Stroud, obviously). I’d like to read a whole biography of her!

Last night reading the introduction I was delightfully derailed by two casual mentions of people (thus the long Wikipedia rabbit hole journey)

– Ward’s English teacher, or maybe just AN English teacher at the high school he went to, was “(…the father of the well-known poet and critic, Kathleen Raine, who was to write venomously and extremely snobbishly of him, the school, and Ilford in her first volume of autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields) ” I am tempted to look for that book! Anyone so venomous as to deserve three adverbs in one sentence must be great.

– Another charmingly parenthetical person, his next door office neighbor’s relative… “Next door to his office, Caulfield — who was brother-in-law to Britain’s solitary Futurist painter, C.R.W. Nevinson — let a flat at 28 Emperor’s Gate to Miron Grindea, the Romanian editor of the long-running little magazine, Adam.” OMG. Britain’s only Futurist painter sounds so very lonely! When I looked him up, he wasn’t really, it was just that he was thrown out of the Vorticists by Wyndham Lewis for writing a manifesto and publishing it all their names without consulting anyone. I like his paintings, but he sounds awfully cranky.

Miron Grindea, also fabulous. He sounds like a kindred spirit.

A connection made, too, where I realized I own a copy of BLAST, the Vorticist magazine. And also I suddenly imagined Nevinson the lonely Futurist as a character in Dance to the Music of Time (which, god knows, he’s probably in there, everyone else is.)

Danny not really obsessed with Colin Ward but, good god, if I find out the revolution I wanted was in my Houston backyard I would also be mad. Actually it sort of was and I was pissed off even in 1986 about not personally being part of the Legion of Doom. You are always just THAT CLOSE to the thing you want and maybe you are even IT — right now.

I’m sure this should be more about my theories of anarchy than about gossip about dead people, but gossip is part of my daily praxis. So there. Office managers of the world, unite.

Specificity in poems and songs

Rambling a bit about songs. The other day someone giggled when I referred to a “mix tape” and I barely even meant “mix CD”, I believe it was a constructed playlist that I’d made. But in my mind and language a personally edited collection of music will always be a mix tape, probably made clunkily from breathless moments trying to catch the beginning of a song from the radio to cassette tape (on a modern gramophone or victrola) without getting a DJ talking, and maybe going from that tape to a second tape for even worse quality sound.

I was thinking about how it is disconcerting in songs when there is a very specific reference clearly personal to the singer. I’ll be happily singing along, or adding the song to a MIX TAPE meant to convey a mood, and then I get jarred by the singer’s reference to their friends or girlfriend or some private joke of the band’s. Sometimes I just edit it out mentally, bracketing the specifics that I will never know about and trying to see it as a charming instance of the mood of the song.

It is a bit like the iconic quality of comics or images that Scott McCloud describes in Understanding Comics. The more generic the image of a person, the easier it is for us to imagine ourselves into that artwork, in some ways. We might encounter the specifics as alienating or difficult as readers or listeners.

Sometimes I like the specifics and sometimes I edit them out when reading or listening. Or when writing.

Other times these details are the entire point especially if that point is the unknowability of the details of another person’s experience. Or, if part of the point is to make you wonder and work to figure those details out, to find them out.

This year I am aiming to put my old poetry books and anthologies from 10-20 years ago up as ebooks or reprint them in paperback. A few of them are up already. The one that led me down this path of thought is Woodbird Jazzophone, which is basically me from 2003 or so rambling in a notebook about lying in a forest meadow watching the birds at a sort of poets’ retreat in a beautiful redwood cabin somewhere probably in Marin. I re-printed it without re-reading it closely, but it does have some obscure specifics that will never merit footnotes – about the history of the cabin that one of the neighbors in the woods explained. Even when I can’t remember those details, I remember the mood of that time.

Echoes in the poem that would not be immediately apparent – I spent long hours wrapped up in blankets on the front porch, in a lot of pain, watching the fog come off the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains some years before that, and watching acorn woodpeckers fly around putting acorns into holes in the trees. They share their caches of acorns, pretty cool cooperative birds. I couldn’t get around very well, and the sound of the neighborhood, birds waking up in the grey morning, people in cars leaving for school and commute, acorns and jays and hawks doing their thing, then cars coming back as people came home. It was an entertaining part of the day, a soundscape to go with the lightscape. I was thinking of those times and the good but bitter memories that can come from physical impairments and pain. Another echo from the woodpeckers goes back to my happy years in cooperative housing. I don’t think any of that would be apparent in the poem, which comes off like someone rambling free form about an afternoon in the woods.

The song earworming me as I write this is Always Give Your Love Away by Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom, an Austin band from the late 80s/early 90s that does that specificity trick pretty well. Though I think that song stays general.

Milton Mayer book

In between much lighter reading I’ve been plowing through “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-45” by Milton Mayer, published in 1955. OK, first off I wish it didn’t have a giant swastika on the cover since I can’t even leave it lying around the house without feeling embarrassed. Thanks, book designer?

The book feels like one of those mish-mash books created from already published magazine articles. Mayer is trying to complicate various explanations of “why the ordinary (non jewish) German in the 30s and 40s were in the Nazi Party or just went along with things and what that meant for them. He works in details about ten “friends” he made in Kronnenberg, along with a bunch of German history and some psychological/sociological speculation. Also trying to tell the narrative non linearly, but not very well. I didn’t think the book was very good, but stuck with it till the end.

There was a middle section that was pages and pages of him quoting another extra 11th “friend” or colleague who was a professor (maybe in Germany, then in the U.S. or England) basically outlining some thought on frog-boiling and considering the beginnings and endings of one’s actions.

Basic premise of the book of his “friends” was a bit gross since he was lying to them, was not their friend, they weren’t or wouldn’t have been his friends, and so on. Also they all sound super racist and anti-Semitic to the core so it was deeply unpleasant to hear their mild doubts of their actions leading up to and during the war.

Mayer makes some brief comparisons of race politics in the U.S. with the situation in Germany including mentioning racism against black people and the internment of Japanese Americans.

Better off to go read Hannah Arendt rather than this stuff. The last chapter had some interesting stuff about the CIA in the 50s training assassin squads of former SS officers – in Germany – to go after people they thought were dangerous communists – despite this being totally illegal in every way.


Getting back on the horse

Not heroin but blogging more rather than leaning on Facebook and Slack for all my casual writing, diary, and conversation online. Never mind maneuvers, blog straight at em. The other thing stopping me is a totally mundane task to twiddle the theme of this blog and restore all the images which were lost in a previous theme change early in 2017. Somehow, there is never time!

I started off the holiday break at the end of 2017 working over my vacation. Then spent a few days speed-publishing part of my book backlog to ebook formats, starting with very tiny poetry books from 2000 to about 2005, firing up my most recent press/imprint, Burn This Press. There are more coming – both more tiny books and bigger books and anthologies that didn’t have a wide distribution and never made it to a digital format.

Many other ambitions like traveling for a vacation, or visiting every museum in the San Francisco Bay Area, were shelved for when I feel more mobile and have less pressure at work. I still did some fun things in December though!

Among them, 2 christmases: Fakemas which we hold before the actual holiday, since both kids tend to go on trips to or with other family for Dec. 25. And then actual Christmas with my sister’s family.

Here’s a cute picture of Milo home from university and putting ornaments on our tiny, tiny tree — against a background of bookshelves! It’s on a small end table that’s a solid, heavy tree stump carved and painted to look like a pile of giant books.

putting ornaments on the tree

Background reading for poeting

Leisurely reading in progress of Rilke’s book about Rodin, to fill my mind with good context for some poems I’m writing about Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson’s dance piece, Descent from Beauty. Also in the works: Ovid (for Andromeda’s story), the Homeric Hymns to Aphrodite, and a visit to Stanford’s Rodin sculpture garden. I haven’t been there for years and always seem to be sick when the peninsula poets go at midsummer for a reading at the Gates of Hell in that garden.

I have much more to say about the version that I saw of this performance (work in progress seen earlier this year in San Francisco)!
Rilke’s glorious bullshit on Rodin’s use of gesture,

Movement has cast off sleep and is gathering force; right on the top, on th eapex of the brain where there is solitude, it prepares for its task, the task of centuries, limitless and without end. And in the right foot the first step waits.

One might describe this movement by saying that it rests enclosed in a tight bud. Let thought be set on fire, let the will be swept by tempest, and it will open.

This reminds me of two things immediately, one, my poem “The Envoy” about the envoy taking her first step from the spaceship (vaguely rewriting/regendering Genly Ai). Trying to capture the infinities in the first step’s motion as I think about the motion of walking, which I’m very familiar with from years of on and off bouts of rehab where you re-learn to do your gait correctly after limping, the step for mankind on the Moon, and the step that is still to come (for those of us who are not quite included in “mankind”).

The second thing is the irreverent “science fiction tai chi/qi gong” moves I was making up the other night as I explained to Danny how much nicer the senior tai chi class is when the moves have some imaginative language to go with them. Blue dragon, green dragon, picking a pepper, eat the pepper, oh it’s hot, dragon shakes its tail. I don’t have any clue whether this is something people make up on the spot or whether it is an age old tradition but in the privacy of one’s bedroom it is fun to open the pod bay doors, launch, extend your solar panels and turn them to the sun, enter geosynchronous orbit, the spice must flow, and so on. I recommend this practice for your amusement.


(Background reading for poeting
originally Posted on March 21, 2017 by Liz Henry – pics lost but restoring slowly from backup)



Not looking away

Quick blog post so that I feel more centered. There is no way to catch up as everything is moving so fast.
I had trouble looking at news after the election until a week before the inauguration. I read a lot of books instead and spent time with my family. (Huge binge on novels by Margaret Oliphant and some re-reading of many books by Octavia Butler, among others.) Posting lazily on Facebook instead of here, which doesn’t make any sense…. I feel better posting here, because it fits my philosophies of open information and an open web, anyone can link to it and read it without any fuss, and I control it. Though I like the interactiveness of getting comments on FB and the relative ease of posting photos.

Last week I went with the kids to the women’s march in Oakland joining up with an informal “crip contingent” with many friends. It was beautiful and heartening. I have not made it out to many marches in the last few years, but tried to support Occupy and Black Lives Matter and other protests through sifting through information on Twitter and livestreams and news and so on, gathering, filtering, verifying, amplifying. Protests are exhausting but also energizing! I want to show up, represent, be there in solidarity.

Here I am with the big banner. I live tweeted the whole time with one hand while driving my scooter, except for when I was holding one side of the banner. It was challenging to scoot while balancing it and to keep in pace with whoever was on the other side, in the middle of a huge, often packed, crowd. Corbett brought the banners and signs with help from others (I can’t remember the name of the woman who made the banner.. Kathrine? Kathleen? starts with a K. ) As always, I felt this amazing glow of pride and love to be with a radical crip crew and other disability rights activists, advocates, writers, poets, gorgeous people! The march was huge. They said 80-100 thousand people were marching in downtown Oakland that day.

Here’s Mariana and Ian with the banner, which reads “American Dream Must Be Accessible”. This photo got circulated a lot, as people liked the sign and it being carried by wheelchair users and I think also because of the dramatic arrow painted in the road in front of them, pointing forward.

Both kids are in this too but they are holding the middle of the banner and a sign. I was so proud of the kids stepping up to help out in whatever ways were needed, taping or zip tying signs and banners, steadying the signs which was exhausting and needed constant attention, watching out for little kids, scouting ahead for our group and reporting back. As I told them before hand there is nothing like a bunch of radical crips for radicalness and not giving a fuck. TRUE.

Meanwhile I had to work pretty hard at work doing Firefox release stuff for two weeks solid along with the rest of my team and other teams. The week before a release is super intense and the week after that is also a bumpy unpredictable ride. If it goes smoothly you can relax a bit. If not then it’s more of the absorbing the firehose and figuring out what to do. The complexity is enjoyable. I also feel useful and responsible. Getting you the best possible browser that we can!

I went to Point Reyes with my sister on a day trip and had a great time driving around in the sun through the green hills. We saw baby (newborn) seals at Drake’s Beach. I also bought fancy beautiful scarves at the place next to Cowgirl Creamery, getting really into this middle aged lady scarf wearing thing, admiring other people’s clearly beloved fancy scarves and fiddling with my own (ideally warm, and beautiful, and with a texture nice to feel as I fidget a lot and like something in my hands)

I have also been doing senior tai chi classes since mid-December trying to work something local and easy to get to into my life. Danny has been walking a mile every day. In theory I will add in daily youtube video tai chi workouts even if it’s just 10 minutes. I can do the hour long one at the Bernal Heights senior center but cannot keep up with even 5 minutes of the one across the street at the Library. The one at the 30th St. center, I can do the first half but not the 2nd. (Yet).

Saturday my plans were to rest and write (exhausted from my tai-chi-ing, work, the march) but instead because of the “Muslim ban” I went out to the airport with Danny and we joined the protest there. I live-tweeted the SFO protest as is my habit, for the time that I was there, till around 5. It feels like the way I can contribute best, to report on things live, be amusing, fierce, convey the excitement and passion of the crowd and that I’m feeling. Next time I will try typing as I can do it much faster, write more liveblog style, and type without looking at a screen unlike using the phone to tweet. (I come with a built in desk, my lap, since i’m sitting in a wheelchair!) It is also very informative and mindblowing to look at others’ impressions and reporting in real time. Again suitable for my skills of fast reading and absorbing information.

The protest started small before the suggested time of 3pm with a few dozen to 150 or so people in a loose circle chanting with signs and a lot of news media hanging on the fringes interviewing people who looked like airport bureaucrats, and police of many stripes hanging back complacently. A little bit before three, crowds of people surged into the international terminal area! The crowd doubled in size fast and then grew to well over a thousand. Lots of families, small groups of people with homemade signs on cardboard boxes or paper plates or just pieces of paper. No Trump, No Pence, No Wall, No Fence was a good chant, also LET THEM GO, LET THEM GO and Move, Trump, Move out the way. We went into the street blocking it off for a while and then moved back onto the sidewalks. It became clear people were planning to stay all night. Until everyone detained was released, and until the new planes flew in and they make sure everyone gets out! The lawyers set up makeshift offices — people even brought printers! Lots of people brought food (my friend Heather baked cookies and brought them by to drop off). It was beautifully spontaneous! Keep in mind the entire thing was a surprise as Trump announced it the afternoon before and people all over the country had the idea to go do sit-ins at the airports. It is still going on.

People holding signs in the protest outside SFO’s International Terminal on Saturday:

Sunday I considered going back but exhaustion and pain made me think that was a bad idea. It’s not going to help anything if I go into a pain/inflammation flareup and am stuck in bed for days or weeks. So I stayed in bed and wrote. I was going to write this blog post, but instead had the urge to respond to what I thought was a very moving act of support from the guy who runs the SFBART social media accounts, and the SF airport officials announcing their own support of civic action of the protesters. So, I wrote a silly sweet fanfic of SFO and BART being roommates, having tea together and watching Doctor Who, discussing their political beliefs and their job as civic infrastructure. My feeling was that this would be emotionally supportive for many people, sort of comforting…. and my silly fiction impulse would be a form of activism, like when I pass out zines and stickers to make people feel happy at getting a random gift. (ZINE FAIRY!!!!) Then someone who had read my tweets asked me if I’d write up a description of the protest, for Crimethinc, “Don’t see what happens, be what happens“. Not the most shining example of writing but there it is.

Tonight the ongoing struggles and constant flow of scary news of what Trump and co. are doing is tough but we are all very determined. I have read plenty of history of how dictatorships go down and have been worrying about this coming for a while. I thought during my lifetime I had a chance of not experiencing it super directly, dictatorship oppression and war and I still hope not. As my characters mention in the ridiculous infrastructure fic, obviously, not everyone is experiencing the safety and comfort I have been lucky enough to have so far in life, which makes the safetey and comfort less good to have, we can’t be unaware of injustice and inequality and suffering around us. As I see other very privileged people like myself shaken by fear since the elections and especially in the last week, it is also very clear that people experiencing worse oppression all around us, from racism, police violence and impunity, the experience of prison and poverty, justly feel angry and impatient to see middle class white people wake up… finally….. It is very annoying to know that our particular voices are not heard, believed, felt, to be real experiences worthy of action even if it is fairly natural for people not to act until they feel threatened. We have to look out for each other and please think on who is more vulnerable than you, if you can, around you in your community and find out what they need rather than worrying about your 401K or the dreaded knock on the door that might come from your imprudent tweets, coming back to bite you in the ass in our potential future under dictatorship. If you can’t I do think that’s understandable, but what is your comfort, even your survival, worth, under what conditions? Time to think about things on that level, very soon now if you haven’t yet.

The great injustice of this country has been for many years that we exist in comfort while people are incarcerated with the most ridiculous inequality and over-zealous application of law, law that should protect us all has been used to harm people in poverty and most deadly, harming people of color, black and latino people, black men in particular, and you can see from who gets shot by cops that a high proportion are disabled people of color. We need to support Black Lives Matter and fight against not only police shootings and violence but the extreme…. EXTREME violence of the state in locking people up for years, for their entire lives, for basing entire sections of the economy on exploiting their incarceration, making the prison industrial complex a true horror of our time in the United States. We live with this reality, to me, something just unbelieveable, unspeakable! You will, maybe, look back and wonder how this happpened, how we lived with it, how we were complicit, how we had jobs that others might have had but for the school to prison pipeline, the way it underpins our entire country. It is vile and it doesn’t have to be this way!
Still, I went out tonight to the Internet Archive to “Lost Landscapes of San Francisco,” a collection of film clips from the last century, very beautiful, lovely short introduction by Rick Prelinger speaking on the theater as commons and the ways that art and history that we make and participate in are a way of resistance in dark difficult times. I will keep doing my work, part of which is writing poetry and bits of ridiculousness, broadcasting enthusiasms, caring for people around me lovingly, making my ephemeral zines, and tweeting idealistically into the air.


(originally posted Jan 30 2017 – reconstructing from old backups, pics still to come)

Fun Days in Bernal Heights

Today I’m feeling deep appreciation for our sweet neighborhood in Bernal Heights. I spent the morning writing a book review in Pinhole Coffee, chatting with people sometimes and feeling thankful for JoEllen’s lovely cafe which gives such a good space for local community.

On the way home I ran into Frank from Good Life (we always say hello) and then Mike from Progressive Grounds who was blasting his friend’s band playing a cover of Minor Threat song from his bicycle.

Between the time I left and the time I came back, someone took half the books from our Little Free Bookshelf – leaving one of the guidebooks to Paris and the Penguin copy of Moby Dick. (Glorified name for what is just a wooden wine box on end, under the porch awning. It’s fun when other people leave books there, and I often read them and put them out again.)

I picked up some trash from the sidewalk and put it into the bin under our sidewalk bench made of stumps and a board. Someone sat there last night and had take out food and a cigarette. Someone else often comes and drinks a glass bottle of Squirt there, leaving the bottle… I wonder who it is, and I like them for having a habit, secretly visible to me though I never see them, only their distinctive bottles.

Running into Marc from Unicorn Precinct and having a rambly, jumping, lightning speed conversation about books and poems. He was reading Daniel Borzutzky and I felt like I recognized him (from ALTA conferences?) I told Marc about the neobaroque movement and he talked about his children’s play “Factory Full of Weasels”. Danny critiqued his copy of Jacobin magazine a bit (it has nice layout tho) and we both excitedly tried to explain the weird awfulness of “Politics and Apocalypse”. (Shudder.)

Down the street doing a quick errand I was chatting with El Ahorro owner and family as they are opening a sandwich shop in the back of the store – already a great neighborhood store.

Friends who live close by, coming over this afternoon for end of the year tea and black eyed peas.

The guy a few houses down must still be on vacation, his perpetual barbershop-and-garage-sale still closed for the holidays.

Next week I’ll go to the two free tai chi classes, one at the library, one at the senior center, a new habit in the making which will bring new acquaintances I’ve likely seen around the neighborhood.

It’s nice to live somewhere for years, to see the same people every day, in my usual haunts, feeling just a little connection to others, the opposite of isolated, knowing the usual ways the fog and afternoon wind rolls in and out through the gap in the hills, kind of like how we were aware of the tide when we lived on the houseboat in Pete’s Harbor.

[photo: a tiny zine called Fun Days in Bernal Heights, by the downtown zine kiosk owner]

Bernal zine