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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

V e e e e e e r r y y F a a a a a a a g g y y

So, listening to the recordings of my lectures I'm sending off to my students one thing is very clear -- I sound like a cross between David Sedaris and David Rose.

Monday, March 30, 2020


Sent a short recorded lecture with some context and provocations for thinking through John Carpenter's film They Live, which my grad seminar would have been screening together this week if it weren't for the Rona. Working on notes now for an undergraduate lecture of Terence's Eunuchus and Suetonius' satirical portrait of a satirical emperor, Caligula. Given the stereophonic catastrophes of plague-time under an shitty murderous con-man tyrant and also the fraught completion of term under quarantine in a school that has already announced its imminent eclipse, it may come as no surprise to hear that tho' the demands of the day are really quite high I am finding it personally quite difficult to muster let alone sustain the levels of concentration I usually marshal to craft lecture notes or read through a thesis draft or keep up with student correspondence. My mind is mushed. It's hard to push through apathy and distraction at a time like this. Just got Sylvester McCoy's third season as the Doctor on blu ray and also NK Jemisin's latest novel The City We Became in the mail yesterday and I would much rather devote attention to them than scribble about rape culture in Roman Republican situation comedies right about now thank you very much. But there it is.

Christopher Coppola's Campaign To Help 300 Art Students

Have a look and donate if you can.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Support the Community of SFAI, And Maybe... Save SFAI

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Won't Cease, Won't Desist

Prepping... And Not

Spending lots of time staring saucer-eyed into the abyss... Eric and I are bingeing Dark Shadows and Golden Girls at home evenings. I'm reading Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's beautiful book The Mushroom At the End of the World (if that seems odd, perhaps the subtitle will help: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins). Otherwise, I'm squinting with pained incomprehension at tutorials on how to use Zoom for MA reviews and how to upload recordings onto Googledrive. The level of concentrated attention I usually devote to the construction of lectures is, shall we say, rather had to work up and maintain in the present chaotic state of things. My school has just thrown in the towel and is closing its doors after a hundred fifty years, and suddenly I'm facing worst fears, another pandemic, another great recession, another season of precarity. Good times!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, March 20, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, March 19, 2020


To be an adjunct right now is to be exhorted to expend ever greater efforts while one’s efforts are treated as ever more expendable.

Reading Is Fundamental

My spring "break" continues apace amidst Miss Rona's ongoing rampage. Reading and editing a thesis draft from one of my MA students today. Also trying to figure out how to host recordings of my lectures for students once classes "resume" remotely week after next. Even so, I've had more time on my hands and I've spent lots of it soaking in a hot bathtub with a book much as I did as a kid back in Indiana hiding out from the brutalizing bullyboy world reading Dune, Amber, Mary Stewart's Arthur books, LOTR over and over again in the tub. After I finished Odell's lovely How To Do Nothing, I read Judith Butler's latest, The Force of Nonviolence, which wasn't exactly provocative but was quite wise and rather moving to read. I felt proud of Butler's effort in the book, and reading her I always feel happy and heartened and so lucky to have known her so well and learned from her so long. After that, I pretty much swallowed up Atwood's Penelopiad in a single gulp. Now I'm enjoying very much Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees, which makes an especially nice complement to Powers' The Overstory which I read over the holiday break a few months back.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Appeal: "Will the coronavirus push us from cruelty to a ‘politics of care’?"

via The Appeal:
What does the growing coronavirus pandemic teach us about the United States? About our vulnerabilities and priorities? In the Boston Review, Yale Law School professors Amy Kapczynski and Gregg Gonsalves assess that, here, the virus “is a crisis of social solidarity and social investment,” one that “shine[s] a light on the cruelty of American life as it has been constructed for much of our lifetimes.” That cruelty is reflected in how we divide, blame, punish, and exploit the vulnerable, pushing people down while at the same time screaming at them to get up. Our healthcare system is “rapaciously profit-driven” and excludes huge segments of people. We are, Kapczynski and Gonsalves write, “austerity-ravaged,” without an adequate social safety net or investments in public health programs. And we use a racist system of mass incarceration to deal with widespread health problems like mental illness and addiction. On the whole, it’s a system that leaves people to fend for themselves and then punishes those who falter. That’s a terrible state of affairs when a public health crisis exposes our shared vulnerability. Successfully fighting or preparing for an epidemic disease requires understanding “that we’re all in this together, that what affects one person anywhere affects everyone everywhere,” Snowden told the New Yorker. “We need to think in that way rather than about divisions of race and ethnicity [and] economic status.” The good news is that, according to new polling, American voters are thinking that way now. A new report from The Justice Collaborative and Data for Progress (I co-authored the report) shows broad bipartisan support for responding to the pandemic with aggressive government intervention to protect the most vulnerable and at-risk. That includes paid sick and family leave for all workers, along with free testing, vaccines, and comprehensive care. Some of these policies are included in the federal relief bill that cleared the House of Representatives over the weekend, though the polling supports relief that goes further—for example, by providing no-cost vaccines in addition to testing, and extending paid leave protections to freelance workers and employees at large corporations, two groups currently excluded from the relief legislationThis broad demand for care in response to crisis echoes what Rebecca Solnit described in her book “A Paradise Built in Hell,” about how disasters—whether fires or earthquakes or epidemics—can unearth a spirit of collective good buried beneath a prevailing politics of individualism and unbridled capitalism. Ordinarily, she writes, we give in to the economic presumption that “we seek personal gain for rational reasons,” and we “refrain from looking at the ways a system skewed to that end damages much else we need for our survival and desire for our well-being.” But when disaster strikes, and “all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up—not all, but the great preponderance—to become their brothers’ keepers.” In the process, “our sense of what is possible” can change. “If paradise now arises in hell,” she writes, “it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”     
Kyle C. Barry is senior legal counsel for the Justice Collaborative. The Daily Appeal and The Appeal are editorially independent projects of the Justice Collaborative.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


It's Spring Break, but like teachers across the country I am not so much breaking as scrambling to figure out how to adapt my pedagogy to "remote teaching" as our campus has closed till further notice. It is very hard to imagine what this is going to look like when we emerge on the other end of this ordeal, especially inasmuch as pandemics and other climate catastrophes will only multiply from here on out... Either we end capitalism or capitalism ends us.

Sunday Walk and Brunch

We didn't go to brunch. You shouldn't either.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


So far, no classes canceled. Off I go, into the City, into the street, into the train, into the bus, into the classroom... Debord and (Naomi) Klein tomorrow, Aristophanes the next day. Here we go!

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Car People

I know I'm a grumpy old man now, but I cannot resist the anecdotal report that drivers seem to me to be getting altogether more reckless lately, at least around here. I am seeing near collisions with pedestrians almost daily now, and my own vigilance is ramping up considerably lately... Is it that people are relying on all this faux-smart vaporware "navigation" software now? Is it that everybody's on their phones now and letting things slide? Is it that general norms about waiting for lights, watching for pedestrians, and so on are evaporating or just changing in ways I haven't picked up on yet? There is a quality of reckless impatience I am discerning in drivers lately. I could easily be wrong, I cannot entirely trust my impressions because I have disdained car culture all my life and am always happy to assume the worst of people (after half a century of knowing them), but it's starting to feel sometimes like the ones with the cars sometimes act like getting where they want in their big cars matters more than the lives of the little people without cars, it's starting to feel sometimes like people without cars aren't quite as real to people in cars as we should...

Sunday Brunch and Walk

Time flies when you're flying to the grave hole. A week already since the last trip around the neighborhood? Yesterday we had our usual stroll to the Rose Garden after brunch. Our diner was packed and the Garden was too -- there were three separate dogs being walked (two without leashes among the delicate plantings) in a park that forbids dogs and for which a dog walking park was constructed literally one-half block away, but, you know, asking anybody to do literally anything ever is obviously too much, so. Last week's teaching was arduous and I am hoping this week's will be less so -- Debord and Naomi Klein are always fun to lecture about, that's coming up Wednesday, and then Aristophanes' play Wasps for Thursday and some general notes on writing argumentative papers based on close reading. So far, no canceled classes, and I'm hoping we make it through Spring Break still intact as a community. Teaching remotely feels like it will be a real challenge and I'm already trying to find time to read up on strategies for effective teaching mediated by online assignments and interactions. It's hard to predict what will happen, but observing the way the pandemic is playing out in other places it seems we might face a real shift very soon, and to be honest, I wonder if the academy will ever be the same once neoliberal administration gets it in its head it can use the emergency to just replace instruction with chatrooms and podcasts and surveillance tech as they've been itching to do for over a decade by now.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Monday, March 02, 2020

Sunday Walk and Brunch

Sunny but blustery and colder yesterday, we huddled in our flannel shirts in the wind, while everywhere around us everything is blooming like mad professing Spring in pink and purple in spite of it all. The Rose Garden has been pruned back to sticks but every few bushes sports a spot of colored bud declaring the profusions so soon to come. At brunch Eric got dirty looks for his annual allergic sniffles and coughs -- perhaps folks worried he's coronaviral. There was a decent gathering of strollers and lovers and kids there at the Rose Garden, considering it was a fairly cold afternoon, I thought. So far I haven't noticed much diminishment on buses or streets -- and I commute to school through Chinatown, which I have heard is feeling a steep decline in foot traffic. Nothing conspicuous as far as I can see yet, tho' I can't help but wonder if we'll be seeing cancellations and retreats in a few weeks' time, once students are meant to be returning from Spring Break at the mid-term. It's been a busier weekend than I like, edited a thesis draft, looked at a proposal, read articles for one independent study, read a response paper for another one, crafted the second half of Wednesday's Barthes lecture, and another remains to be crafted today and tomorrow. No rest for the weary this week, but next week may be a slightly lighter load...

Talk About A Boxed Set

For eight years by now I've had my eye on the deluxe set of the 1960s-1970s supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows, over 1,200 episodes on over 130 dvds in a coffin shaped box that opens on a stack of cases collectively decked out as a sleepy Barnabas Collins. Even on sale it cost an arm and a leg, but current events demanded a Treat Yourself moment.

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily