the full blackboard

This is a story I think I've told many times, but I can't find any reference to it on this blog, where I've been writing since 2002, so maybe I haven't told the story as often as I thought. It also took place long enough ago that I can't really remember the context, i.e. where and when it took place. But I think it's worth telling, so I've dive in, even with the holes in my memory.

It took place in a classroom. I can't recall if I was a junior college student or if I was a university teacher, which means I can't remember if it was the 1970s or the 1990s or even later. And I can't remember if I had power in the classroom (teacher) or little power (student). And those things matter to the story, but again, not enough for me to shut up. I can say that I do think it happened when I was teaching at Cal, emphasis on "think".

The classroom discussion was about the participation of women in the classroom, or rather, the over-participation of men. This was a hot topic at one time ... sadly, I imagine it's still a topic, but it would be nice to think otherwise. As a teacher in a small, discussion-oriented class, we were taught to be inclusive when calling on students, and to beware of habits we might have that unconsciously tipped the balance of men and women speakers. In this case, at some point I realized that men (me included, of course) were dominating the discussion. So I had an idea (and this is one reason I suspect I was a teacher, because a student doesn't ordinarily get to make the kind of suggestion I'm going to describe). I decided all of the men should leave the classroom ... I forget how long, 10 minutes, 15 ... which would give the women a chance to discuss the topic without the men dominating everything. And so the men went outside for awhile while the women stayed in the room. I recall a couple of the male students were pissed off ... they didn't dominate discussions, the whole notion was ridiculous, and if women didn't want to speak up, you can't force them to do so.

After the allotted time, us guys returned to the classroom. One look at the blackboards (for there were more than one) told us everything we needed to know.

Every blackboard in the room was covered with writing.


just pretend

When you are on vacation, you think about how you will change your life when you return. But when you get home, all you want to do is bask in the normality you had subconsciously missed when you were away. And so, within half an hour of arriving home, I ordered a pizza for delivery, and the next morning, we went to our usual breakfast place like we do every week.

And what do we really come home to? Donald Trump. Puerto Rico. Mass murder in Las Vegas.

And what did we leave? In Spain, a referendum on Catalan independence led to a police riot, leaving almost 900 civilians and 430 police officers injured.

When you are on vacation, you can pretend you are immune. But it's just pretend.


once again: he's always sucked

I google this blog to see if I had ever written anything about John McCain. I only found two examples. Here's the first, from 2004:

Mccain always sucked

In the second, aptly titled "fucking dickheads, john mccain edition", from 2008, I added, "McCain was never one of the good guys; I confess to puzzlement over the positive feelings many progressives seemed to have for him."


what i've been reading

There is no absolute fail safe. ... What you have on the other side of the equation is the undoubted large numbers of lives saved and sickness averted through the prevention of these diseases. ... Vaccines are becoming a victim of their own success. We don’t see these diseases, therefore we don’t fear them. ... Complacency is the big enemy against vaccination.

-- Meredith Wadman

Scientists who are hired to promote industry agendas are shills. Fortunately, they are the exception. One of the key values of science is truthfulness. This makes it possible to create an edifice of reliable data that new discoveries build on. And truthfulness is a way of being, of creating trust with others. Researchers are acutely aware of the possibility of being later proved wrong, and of great unanswered questions. It instills in them a kind of humility. My geologist father embraced evidence of the movement of continental plates in the 1970s, in spite of having written a book on mountain-building based on an earlier theory. New tools permit us to see astonishing images, taking us down to the atomic level, as well as so many light years distant that we approach beginning of this universe. It excites a humbling sense of wonder.

-- Trudy Myrrh Reagan, “Does Science Replace Religion?

[M]y artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the Lemonade album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light.

-- Adele, on winning Album of the Year at the Grammys

My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable. I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.

-- Beyoncé, winner of Best Urban Contemporary Album

If there are Republican elected officials who are worried about any of this, now is the time to speak - and more importantly act. History doesn't only judge harshly the bad leaders, but those who stand by as enablers with their silence and tacit support. I think many American voters are worried, deeply worried about the course this country is now taking. I do not believe that the majority of citizens root for instability, corruption or incompetence. Either the Administration will change and evolve (and if the past is prologue I wouldn't bet the gas money on it) or there will be a reckoning. And the voters could speak their displeasure in very broad terms.

-- Dan Rather

"Pocahontas is now the face of your party."

-- Donald Trump


what i've been reading

2017 is shaping up to be a watershed year for public protest, including many musical expressions of dissent. On the progressive side, the strongest of these messages are coming from within communities of resistance, as they always have. Voices lifted in the moment of protest, sometimes individual but often communal, resonate through history. They may belong to famous individuals, but it's not in the nature of the pop that Lady Gaga has made her métier to cultivate them.

-- Ann Powers, “Should Anyone Expect Pop Stars to Lead the Resistance?

Also discussed at the closed-door conference meeting was how to engage Democratic constituents to ensure they feel they're being heard.

-- Rachael Bade, “Republicans Fear for Their Safety as Obamacare Protests Grow

There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term ... That's how unhealthy the situation is and until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, 'fake news.'

-- Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to Trump

The pure essence of any revelation can be obtained not only in the core of the examination but in the rigorous application of these principles that we do so cherish even though we go our separate ways.

-- Professor Irwin Corey, the World's Foremost Authority


the resistance and its double

So the neoliberal ruling classes are putting on a little revolution, to which you and I are cordially invited. The occasion is the takeover of the United States by Vladimir Putin and his Manchurian President or the official launch of the Trumpian Reich, whichever hysterical scenario you prefer. Dress is casual. Children are welcome, as this is a strictly non-violent uprising, which will take place on the weekends, mostly, so as not to interfere with school or work. Colorful signage and puppets are encouraged, but you can leave your gas mask and welder’s gloves at home, as there won’t be any tear gas canisters or rubber bullets coming your way. Oh, and it will definitely be televised....

The “Resistance” sprang into action again in response to Trump’s “Muslim Ban” this weekend. Following word that he had ordered a blanket entry ban of people from a list of seven so-called “countries of concern” (that the Obama administration had identified in its Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, and stripped of Visa Waiver Program privileges), Michael Moore blew his Twitter horn, summoning thousands of outraged protesters to Terminal 4 of JFK Airport to militantly assemble in a designated area (so as not to impede the normal flow of traffic) and completely shut down an adjacent parking lot....

What is being marketed to us as the “resistance to Trump,” technically, is a counter-insurgency operation … the global neoliberal establishment quashing the neo-nationalist uprising. But that kind of thing doesn’t sell very well. What sells much better is Hitler hysteria, neo-McCarthyite propaganda, and emotionally loaded trigger words that short circuit any kind of critical thinking, words like “love,” “hate,” “racism,” “fascism,” “normal,” and of course “resistance.”...

In any event, the quandary folks on the Left are currently facing is twofold: (1) how to oppose the Trumpians, and other neo-nationalist insurgencies, without serving the interests of Neoliberalism; and (2) how to oppose Neoliberalism without serving the interests of the Neo-nationalists. Which is more or less a classic Zen koan designed to make one’s head explode.

-- CJ Hopkins, “The Resistance and Its Double


what i've been reading

The modular design allows for the actual reactors to be built off-site at a factory, then transported to the power plant site by boat, rail or even truck. Constructing the major components off-site at a central facility saves both time and money, according to NuScale, and makes feasible an entirely new approach to building nuclear power plants. The modular design also eliminates the need for the massive cooling systems required by traditional nuclear power plants.

-- Glenn McDonald, “A Nuclear Energy Company Wants to Build America’s First Small Modular Reactor

Here’s the big worry. Trump is unhinged and ignorant. Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world.... Trump’s and Bannon’s version of “America First” is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad, and risking everything we love about our country. Unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing. Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.

-- Robert Reich, “Trump and Bannon’s 'America First’

Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 mid-westerners will repel bullies, we will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised. And we will do it all with soul, with heat, and with joy.

-- David Harbour, SAG Award acceptance speech

What’s at stake isn’t “fake news.” What’s at stake is the increasing capacity of those committed to a form of isolationist and hate-driven tribalism that has been around for a very long time. They have evolved with the information landscape, becoming sophisticated in leveraging whatever tools are available to achieve power, status, and attention. And those seeking a progressive and inclusive agenda, those seeking to combat tribalism to form a more perfect union — they haven’t kept up.

-- Danah Boyd, “The Information War Has Begun

There are so many big, huge things that we are confronting right now. Institutional oppression, injustice, marginalization, discrimination. At the core of all that, before we can form a resistance, one thing I wanted to talk about is just your own self-care. I’m someone who suffers pretty heavily from depression and despair, and it takes me a long time sometimes to get outside of the bubble of melancholy and despondency. I want you to remember, for those of you that suffer either from depression, just from the election, that’s enough, but also chemically, or just are dealing with whatever you are dealing with: remember what it felt like out there today? To be standing among people, to feel people up against you that have your back, to look people in the eyes, to share a smile. And when we go home, it’s not gonna feel like it did today. And so please take care of yourselves, and remember that there are people like me, and people like many of you, who need someone to call them, who need someone to check in, and who need someone to say “let’s do this”. Because we can not have resistance without existence. Please love yourself, and take care of each other. It’s the only way we can move forward.

-- Carrie Brownstein:


what i've been reading

Women’s March Edition:

Slavery has just been reinterpreted into the prison system. Blacks are still in shackles and graves just for being black, in front of people who see melanin as animal skin.

Nina Mariah Donovan, “Nasty Woman

And to our detractors that insist this march will never add up to anything, fuck you. Fuck you.

-- Madonna at the D.C Women’s March

We’re a long way from home. Our hearts and spirits are with the hundreds of thousands of women and men that marched yesterday in every city in America. And in Melbourne. We rallied against hate and division and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, health care and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.

Bruce Springsteen in Australia

It’s not enough for Democrats to be “against Trump,” and defend the status quo. Democrats have to fight like hell against regressive policies Trump wants to put in place, but Democrats also need to fight for a bold vision of what the nation must achieve – like expanding Social Security, and financing the expansion by raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes; Medicare for all; and world-class free public education for all.

-- Robert Reich, “The Life of the Party: 7 Truths for Democrats

Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man.

-- Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver


music friday: inauguration day

What follows is a slightly-edited blog post from 2003:

The 5th Dimension were a pop R&B ensemble formed in the mid-60s. Three men with different musical backgrounds joined together with two beauty pageant winners, all African-Americans, they were signed to the Soul City label in 1966. Soul City was the brainchild of Johnny Rivers, a white singer who had a series of hits with some excellent covers of Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, and Motown (along with the immortal theme song "Secret Agent Man"). Their first big hit was "Up, Up and Away," which won several Grammies and was written by Jimmy Webb, who also wrote such tunes as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," and "MacArthur Park." Another early hit for the group was "Stoned Soul Picnic," written by Laura Nyro, an eccentric white girl from the Bronx whose songs were also hits for artists like Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Three Dog Night.

Meanwhile, the Summer of Love came and went. Among the "inauthentic" artifacts of that period was a stage musical, Hair, that opened Off Broadway and moved to the real Broadway in 1968. Hair featured such true-to-hippies songs as "Good Morning Starshine" and the title song ("Hair! Flow it, show it, long as God can grow it, my hair!").

The story goes that the 5th Dimension took in the play on Broadway and decided to release a medley of two of the musical's songs, "Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In." It was a good idea: it won Grammies, it hit #1 on the charts, it sold millions. (The subsequent album, Let the Sunshine In, included songs by not only Laura Nyro, but also Neil Sedaka and Cream.)

So ... we've got an African-American vocal group, singing faux-hippie epics from a Broadway show, on a label run by the guy who sang "Secret Agent Man" when he wasn't covering black artists himself. Some things are simply bottomless.

Fast forward to 1981. Ronald Reagan is inaugurated President of the United States. At the Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco's top punk club back in the day, an anti-inauguration party is held. One of the acts is the drag band Sluts a-Go-Go. I described the event on this blog here:

one thing from that night still sticks with me, when the Sluts sang "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" while incense burned. There I was, in a punk club at the dawn of the Reagan Era, listening to men in drag sing a Broadway version of hippiedom, and I'm not much for irony, for that matter ... in any event, I felt one with the band and the crowd, I wasn't alienated from America in that moment, I was as close to Hippie Community as I'd ever been in the actual hippie days, and I started to cry at the ridiculous wonder of it all.

Like I say, some things are simply bottomless, and you can't always predict what those things will be. Like a Broadway version of the Summer of Love, sung by R&B groups and drag queens, making an impression on a hippie wannabee like me.

 

The final onstage performance of Sluts-a-Go-Go:


what i've been reading

Martin Luther King edition:

There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's market place. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?" These are questions that must be asked.

-- Martin Luther King, 1967

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

-- Abraham Lincoln, 1838

Donald Trump ran one of the most divisive and prejudiced campaigns in modern history. He began his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, pledging to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and then spent a year and a half denigrating communities of color and normalizing bigotry. He called women ‘pigs’, stoked Islamophobia, and attacked a Gold Star family. He mocked a disabled reporter and appealed to people’s worst instincts.  I cannot in good conscience attend an inauguration that would celebrate this divisive approach to governance.

-- Barbara Lee, 2017

I was in Russia years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well – Moscow, the Moscow area did very well, very well. And I told many people, “Be careful, because you don’t wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.” ... I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.

-- Donald Trump, 2017