amor mundi

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Walk And Upcoming Teaching

Halfway through teaching my second summer intensive at Berkeley, now just three weeks to go. Reading for discussions on environmental justice Tuesday, permaculture versus agriculture Wednesday, and eating practices (vegetarian, organic, local, and so much more) Thursday, with a potluck scheduled for our Green Eats discussion for good measure. Lots to cover as always, but actually environmental justice is the framework that I find most compelling, the permaculture discussions tend to be rather more optimistic than environmental lectures feel otherwise, chock full of ideas and alternatives as they are, and then the Green Eats day always feels rather festive, too, arriving at the end of week four, finals not yet underway and yet the home stretch palpably in view. All that said, I guess I'm rather looking forward to teaching this week, there should be lots of fun mixed in with the usual desolation and provocation. Eric and I had our usual Sunday brunch at the Piedmont Bakery and Diner and then took a nice long stroll to our Morcom Rose Garden. It felt quite like summer in the early afternoon heat, green leaves, buzzing nits, and streaming sunlight baking everything into torpor. The Rose Garden was nearly empty, just countless thousands of blooming rose bushes cascading among the fountains and pathways and little stone steps, unspeakably precious and lovely and scarcely anybody anywhere to take it all in but us, propping up our feet near our favorite bench and feeling the breeze stirring the bushes like nodding upturned faces. Seems strange to say it, what with the Trumpmerican horror show unfolding daily still, but things are seeming gently better for now, weeks have passed since insomnia was more than an occasional occurrence, yoga and walks are keeping Eric and I unprecedentedly thin and fit, teaching is going reasonably well, our kitten Penny is growing into her sweet silly full catdom quite adorably, Red Dwarf and Dr. Who are keeping us entertained when there is any kind of down time on offer, what's not to like?

Today's Random Wilde

To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Trumpproval

electoral-vote.com's lips to a goddess' ears...
It's been just less than a week since Donald Trump's controversial performance in Helsinki, which is enough time for some polling. CBS News has taken the lead; they asked respondents whether or not they approved of the President's performance. He did dismally among Democrats, of course (8% approve, 83% disapprove). He did poorly with independents (29% approve, 53% disapprove). And he did well with Republicans (68% approve, 21% disapprove). Since the President's performance seemed so clearly to be a disaster (even to right-leaning politicians and media outlets), that 68% approval among Republicans is getting all the headlines, and is generally being presented as good news for Trump... but these headlines might be missing the point. First of all, those numbers among independents are pretty ghastly, especially for a president who has very little margin of error to work with if he wants to be reelected. More precisely, he got between 48% and 52% of the independent vote in the three states that he won by a combined 77,000 votes. The evidence is mounting that he won't do nearly as well the second time around. Second, and more importantly, the big news in the two weeks (or so) before Trump's European trip was that he was at 90% approval among Republicans... Just about a quarter of those 90% are now unhappy enough with what they saw that they were willing to tell a pollster about it. Perhaps every one of them will fall back in line behind the Donald, but the smart money says some do not. And again, this is a president with very little margin for error -- he can't afford to bleed 2 or 3 percent of his support. Put another way, we wondered on Monday whether or not Donald Trump had reached his tipping point. That is a question that cannot be answered right now, but what we can say is that this is exactly what it looks like when such a moment arrives.
Notwithstanding the fact that bigot TrumpBase deplorables are still gonna deplorable, that gerrymandering and disenfranchisement and the anti-urban bias in our election-system are all gonna do their damage, that Russia and other assorted foreign powers have every reason and capability to be up to shenanigans, and that one can never underestimate the ability of the US left to divide and squabble and indulge in purity cabaret rather than actually vote on the left wing of the possible, still events and energy seems on track for November to deal a blow to the present TrumpGOP control of every level of government and hence put a check on the worst of the abuses in this moment of Trumpmerican danger and demoralization till the next Presidential election offers the opportunity of a more absolute repudiation (one hopes and prays and works like hell for) and a turning of the tide against the unsustainable white racist cishet corporate-militarist patriarchy at long last...

Also, Janelle Monae and Michelle Obama are asking us nicely.

Today's Random Wilde

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, July 20, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today's Teaching

We'll be picking up where we left off yesterday, with Bookchin's critique of Deep Ecology (which my students this time around are digging much more than in earlier iterations of the course for whatever reasons) then moving into eco-feminism and queer eco-feminism. There is a lot of righteous provocation but also loose-talking silliness in the early canon of eco-feminism (lots of what Bookchin would deride as "eco-la-la") and the queer eco-feminist work takes us right into current debates. I fear today will be a bit of a slog, despite my love of the material, because last night I woke just after four and couldn't get back to sleep, my head full of thoughts about school readings and the usual endless self-recriminations, a reminder of last winter's long desolating season of insomnia, now fortunately mostly behind me. Sleeplessness dulls my perceptions and shortens my temper, neither of which is conducive to facilitating class discussion, so I'll have to really be on my toes for the few hours of my intensive this afternoon. Feeling tired already. This is a long week, and getting longer.

Today's Random Wilde

The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Always Coming Home

I have much less time for personal reading while I am teaching summer intensives -- it took me nine weeks to read Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home. As always, it was a stunning and impressive achievement of a book, but like her other ambivalent utopia (The Dispossessed) this one left me a little cold... The pleasures are intellectual and aesthetic, very real, but I was moved to neither laughter nor tears (as I usually am with her work), tho' the provocations and insights were abundant. I've set out to re-read all her body of work in this year of her departure, but I may not manage the feat after all. I am now beginning the complete Orsinia stories and novel. Introducing my students to Deep Ecology this afternoon, on a comparatively full night's sleep for a change. It's sunny out and I would rather be staring at trees. Last week as I was coming onto campus a student was practicing her violin, and I recognized my favorite melodies from Totoro. Even in the time of Trump, occasionally there is magic.

Today's Random Wilde

More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, July 16, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Always forgive your enemies -- nothing annoys them so much.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday Walk and Upcoming Teaching

Walked through sunny neighborhoods broiling with trees shaking their leaves and new blooms in purple and yellow craning their necks in the light. Delicious brunch at our diner and then a quiet stroll through Mountain View Cemetery. All my grading is done for the weekend and I am turning now to reading canonical texts in Deep Ecology and Eco-Feminism and Eco-Socialism for the three lectures and discussions upcoming this week in Green Rhetoric. Lots of radical connections get made in this week's texts, coming off of a week of Transcendentalists and racist Conservationists and preparing the way for Environmental Justice, Permaculture, and Green Eats next week, this week always feels something like the intellectual and emotional core of this environmental rhetoric course. This course moves so fast! A couple of weeks ago I was grading finals for Summer Session A, this time next week I'll be ready to scoop up midterm precises for Summer Session D, with just a few weeks left of the whole summer and the return to Fall teaching in the City looming.

Today's Random Wilde

To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tradeoff

I've gotten into the habit of listening to Sibelius symphonies while I'm grading -- so soothing, yet weirdly ruminative. Anyway, now I think of grading whenever I hear Sibelius and cannot enjoy his music for the queasy aggravated associations it gives me -- and yet I find I can almost enjoy grading so long as Sibelius is rumbling away softly in the background while I am doing it. An odd and unexpected tradeoff...

Still Grading

Still a bit buried under a grading pile and lecture prep for next week's intensives. This is what comes of taking a comparatively relaxed day yesterday, I suppose.

Today's Random Wilde

One's real life is so often the life that one does not lead.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily (Happy Birthday Edition)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Grading Greating Grating

Today is given over to grading, errands, and a haircut. Tonight, we're watching episodes of Red Dwarf and I, Claudius, presumably high as kites. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing through the curtains, the cat is purring like mad, and things aren't too damned bad -- ongoing climate catastrophe, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the slide into TrumpGOPian know-nothing authoritarianism unbearably notwithstanding.

Today's Random Wilde

Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

My own business always bores me to death. I prefer other people's.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Monday, July 09, 2018

Today's Random Wilde

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Sunday Walk and Teaching This Week

Swift sunlight and a sweet breeze this Sunday for our walk to brunch at the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery then on to the Morcom Rose Garden, a bit faded from the delirious madness of its spring profusion but still stuffed with thousands upon thousands of blooming bushes. Beautiful tho' the day is we didn't have to wait for a seat for brunch and had the rose garden much to ourselves. It was all simply lovely and relaxing and Eric and I were both in silly moods, cracking each other up the whole way. Penny was waiting for us when we returned, yawning from her nap and dragging a plastic straw in her mouth to interest us in a game of catch. I plan to spend the rest of the day reading Transcendenalists and environmental writers like Mary Austen and Aldo Leopold and promoters of national parks and racist heteronormative fantasies of wilderness for upcoming class discussions. Tuesday we'll be reading Bill McKibben on math and the rhetoric of environmental concern, Naomi Klein on climate debt and reparations, Brentin Mock on racism in environmental organizations and activism, Rob Nixon on slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor and Tim Morton on hyperobjects and the end of the idea of the world (tho' Morton's take is the fashionable one I must say I strongly prefer Nixon's myself). Wednesday we'll be touching on the classics, Emerson's Nature, Thoreau's Walden,and less well known work by Mary Austin, and a couple of pieces by Aldo Leopold. Thursday we'll be talking about Muir and the redwoods, then the promotion of Ken Burns' "America's Greatest Idea" documentary about the national park system and resistance to that promotion, as well as Lisa Campbell on the racism of conservation thinking, and William Cronon on "The Trouble With Wilderness." I find most of this work richly rewarding and so I am hoping my students are inspired to really talk about it with critical energy and creativity. This has been a lovely day and I would like to think it begins a lovely week of good work.

Today's Random Wilde

By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily