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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Sick Sad World

Eric and I are re-watching Daria evenings, and finding it a highly congenial coronaviral companion. Along with AbFab, Bewitched, Strangers With Candy, Golden Girls, Red Dwarf, Archer, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Monty Python, our usual binge comedy go-tos (I suppose Schitts Creek and At Home with Amy Sedaris will belong on that go-to list in the fullness of time).

A New Politics of Care

Seen via The Appeal:
Global health scholars propose a jobs program to ‘put millions of Americans to work caring for one another’: Gregg Gonsalves and Amy Kapczynski, directors of the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale, write that “the coronavirus pandemic illuminates the need “for a new politics of care, one organized around a commitment to universal provision for human needs; countervailing power for workers, people of color, and the vulnerable; and a rejection of carceral approaches to social problems.” The challenge is “to aim at ‘non-reformist reforms’-- reforms that embody a vision of the different world we want, and that work from a theory of power-building that recognizes that real change requires changing who has a say in our political process.” Gonsalves and Kapczynski argue for the launch of a “massive new jobs program,” a community health corps that “would put millions of Americans to work caring for one another, and with far more sweeping goals than just turning around the sky-rocketing unemployment figures we see today. It would serve our needs for a vast force that can track and trace the virus, but add to it workers who can support those in need, all while securing our health and building real solidarity among us.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks for Me Daily

Friday, April 17, 2020


Working on next week's lecture on Petronius and satire in the shadow of imperial power. One more final review for an MA thesis student. SFAI is shuttering and I am shuddering: nothing like hard work to distract you from the fact that the work is all over...

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Gallup: “As President Trump works to contain the damage from the novel coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., the rally in support he enjoyed as the nation entered a virtual lockdown has faded. His job approval rating, now 43%, has slipped six percentage points since mid-March when he earned 49% approval, which tied his personal best... The six-point decline in the president’s approval rating is the sharpest drop Gallup has recorded for the Trump presidency so far, largely because Trump’s ratings have been highly stable and have yet to reach the historical average for presidents (back to 1945) of 53%.”
It's always mattered before, here's hoping Trump's ongoing unprecedented unpopularity will topple the tyrant and his toadies, whereupon the diversifying, secularizing, socializing, planetizing rising generations will put this country and the world on a more equitable and sustainable path. Of course, it's hard to feel hopeful after the events of the last few years -- especially knowing just how eagerly and brazenly garbage Republicans will lie, cheat, steal, and kill to prevail -- and coming hard on the heels of a life-long generational slide into this stupid ugly evil morass, but with a hard fight we might just beat back the Nazis and clear a breathing space for something better to be born in. It's hard to imagine a more dreary vehicle than Joe Biden to invest with our hopes, but my own choice Elizabeth Warren didn't seem to fire the imagination or earn the trust of the Democratic base, and the Democratic party is the imperfect but available instrument through which we best defeat the worst and enact the better for now, so, here we go, I suppose, here we go.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


I've made and posted podcast recordings for short lectures on Frantz Fanon, Laura Mulvey, Kobena Mercer, Michel Foucault, and Angela Davis. I just finished a podcast recording for short lectures on Seneca's satire the "Pumpkinification" of Claudius and Suetonius' satire-inflected account of Caligula as well. Next up, I still need to craft and record a lecture about Juvenal's satires as well. That's my job for tomorrow. Everybody wants to zoom zoom zoom all the livelong day -- who cares about the shitty privacy politics and shitty security and shitty reduction of academics let alone sociality -- but I'm just plowing ahead with work as best I can. I need only make it through three more weeks of this deranging demoralizing demand and distress... And then we'll really see how bad things might get.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

MundiMuster! Support SFAI

You can sign this petition here if you are faculty, staff, alumni, or otherwise affiliated with the San Francisco Art Institute. Please circulate this statement as widely as possible. Everybody interested is welcome to try to help. Here is the statement:
To the Board of Trustees and Administration of SFAI:

The faculty, students, staff and alumni have been dismayed to hear of the board making critical decisions about the future of the school during closed meetings, without enlisting the community, and apparently without due diligence.

SFAI is eligible to receive millions of dollars in assistance from the federal government’s CARES act, COVID-19 response. Yet decisions about the future of the school -- including layoffs and potential closure -- are set to take place without exhaustive efforts to receive this assistance. Furthermore, even after continued pleas, communication from the board remains inadequate.

In order to establish trust, and ensure an inclusive process, we demand the following:

๐Ÿญ. ๐—ก๐—ผ ๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐˜€. ALL board deliberations must be open and accessible to all school constituents, regardless of attendees’ voting privileges. (NOTE: Section 8.07 of the Trustees bylaws provides language on making necessary amendments).

๐Ÿฎ. ๐—ก๐—ผ ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜†๐—ผ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐˜€ of any staff or faculty, including adjuncts, shall take place until such time as all available federal, state, and local aid has been thoroughly and exhaustively sought, and these efforts have been transparently communicated to the school. 

๐Ÿฏ. ๐—ก๐—ผ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—น shall take place without the full consultation of all stakeholders, and again without fully seeking all available aid. We expect the board to provide full accounting and reporting of efforts to receive federal money to the school community and/or our representatives.

We are here to help SFAI and the community, and we need to prevent the repetition of past mistakes. Should the board fail to agree to these crucial needs for accountability and community inclusion, we will assume the board believes itself fit to continue running the school in much the same manner that got us into this situation.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Another Week

Just submitted podcast recordings for my classics lecture this week and with that this week's absolute deadlines are met. Teaching online remains, as I said before, twice as hard and half as effective as teaching normally does, just one more source of sourness and anxiety among so many others right now. Students are quite understandably grasping for more face-time in their isolation and uncertainty on top of everything else, and so I find the boundaries I have constructed in the past separating the sometimes punishing demands of work from the comparative reparative sanctuary of home have been demolished and there is no respite any longer. One of the ways I overcame my insomnia crisis a couple years back was to strictly demarcate my sleeping space from places where I do other more demanding or distracting things, but now because we are both working from our rather small apartment I am recording lectures (always an incredibly fraught business of trying to get everything just so) and zooming meetings (also stressful and disturbingly alienated) here where I also try to sleep and in consequence I find my thoughts racing away when I try to sleep in here now. With sleeplessness and stress I find myself feeling objectively more stupid, less capable of extended or intensive attention, less sensitive to my surroundings and others' communicative cues and so on, in short, less good at teaching, and all this adds to the worry. On social media I am hearing lots of teachers being criticized for being too demanding or too insensitive in certain circumstances, and inevitably people pile on with criticisms, threats, or demands for firings and heads on platters. Almost always I see where people are coming from in the criticisms and I am trying to be very aware and supportive myself, but I hope people understand that teachers are also human beings who make mistakes, who have a right to be freaked out, who don't know how to discharge responsibilities they probably take very seriously under impossible circumstances, who face the same existential threats we all are in this moment of pandemic, climate catastrophe, economic disaster, and rising right-wing authoritarian danger. Lots of teachers arrive at this moment of extreme demand after years and years of amplifying precarity and institutional dismantlement and a bewildering collapse of norms (which is not to deny many academic norms needed and still need demolition), and this feels less like a temporary setback we can all pull through together with a song in our hearts and more like the last straw that may bring on a longcoming collapse. I can't think of a time when I have been working harder than I am right now. And this is AFTER I have been told my school is closing and I am on the verge of unemployment and so all this heartbreaking effort feels like it is completely for nothing. This is not an easy time for anybody. This is not an easy time.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Barbara Lee Speaks For Me Daily

Friday, April 03, 2020

Prepping (Ugh)

I find that teaching online is twice as hard and half as effective as teaching in the usual way. While others report their lives are shifting onto a weird quasi-vacation footing, the teachers I talk to are finding instead that everything takes forever and everybody wants a piece of the action and we're constantly utterly swamped in demand. I just finished a final MA thesis review, and went right away to recording a couple hours' lectures for next week's podcast, and now I'm corresponding individually with a dozen students working on paper projects and dealing with truly daunting emotional and logistical demands of their own for which all I want is to be of help... But there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do anymore. And, then, after all this effort is expended, my reward is to be... unemployment, as the school is now closing and we're all facing layoffs in May. It's all a bit demoralizing. Ugh.

Thursday, April 02, 2020


Reading a thesis all day in preparation for a beloved student's final review. It annoys me to discover how my ability to concentrate with the intensity and duration I am used to bringing to bear on theoretically complex texts has been diminished, sometimes to the point of wreckage, by the anxieties preying on my mind about the pandemic, about the school closure, about the amplified demands of remote teaching (and my sense that I am failing at it), about Trump marauding, about everything else... Finding it hard to sleep, to concentrate, to work, to read carefully, to do much of anything as well as I'd like. My colleagues seem like towers of strength, but I feel like scattered salt.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020


A new AP-NORC poll finds 44% of Americans support President Trump’s oversight of the coronavirus pandemic, which is exactly in line with his overall 43% approval rating. These numbers are indicators of an historically failed presidency, harbingers of a re-election bid in serious trouble, indeed.

Panicked tales of rising Trump numbers across the left as he flails heartlessly and idiotically about in this crisis as he does every other day in every other way are just a symptom of the ongoing crisis in confidence experienced by every sane and decent person during the ongoing reign of the stupid shit king and his death-cult day after demoralizing day.

Do not give up hope. A disgusted majority can expel Donald Trump from power. A rising generation of activists, artists, scholars, and voters committed to equity, sustainability, and diversity can push the Democratic party into an instrument of reparation, reform, and transformation.

It is possible to meet human needs. It is possible to heal the world from the scars of industry and the greed of plutocrats. Everybody is scared, nothing seems to make sense, but do not lose heart. Do your best. Be brave, and when you fail to be brave try, as they say, at least to be kind, and remember to be kind to yourselves as well. Courage!

SFAI Student Alliance: Student Demands

My understanding is that the Student Alliance wants this to be published widely, especially since there is no updated contact list for our presently pandemic-dispersed student body at this time of simultaneous crises...

We, Student Alliance, in solidarity with SFAI faculty and staff, have compiled a list of demands for the current administration that serve to aid in providing clarity and security for the student body, faculty, and staff. We are students of an institution that, due to persistent systematic errors, has failed us. Now, moving forward we require open communication and clarity on all fronts regarding the school’s closure and the process under which this will be undertaken from here on out. With our education, well being, and community at stake we do not treat this matter lightly. With these demands we seek to rectify some of the past errors and prevent more from occurring in the future.

Student Demands

1. We demand clarity on the Board’s approval of past projects that set SFAI further into an economic deficit. We demand an independent audit.

2. We demand any new vision or proposition of SFAI be shared with the students, faculty, and staff. If SFAI is no longer an institute pertaining to the growth, development, and education of fine arts, we demand that the name be changed. For that institution will no longer be SFAI.

3. We demand that students, faculty, and staff be included in conversations and consequent decisions made on our behalf.

4. We demand to have a student representative(s) present at any future board meetings, with equal opportunity and time to voice the concerns of the student body. That in future meetings, such as the Student Town Hall on April 1st, 2020, the student body representative(s) is able to speak, be seen, and ask student-organized questions throughout the entirety of the meeting.

5. We demand access to our Student Alliance funds and if it cannot be used for the remaining balance to be returned to the students.

6. We demand transparency in the administration's attempts to raise funds for the institute and to know how the funds will be allocated if they do not go to the continuation of the institute or to the students directly.

7. We demand that the administration protects our intellectual property and will not appropriate and/or plagiarize our work without consent, and that when student ideas are used and/or published to be cited as “SFAI Student Lead”.

8. We demand the school aids students in transferring to other AICAD universities, since we were not prepared nor planned to apply to other institutes at this time, with an official letter detailing the situation of the school’s future to be distributed to the student body.

9. We demand to be provided a list of affiliated schools that will take our credits and be notified of our current situation immediately through a resource document.

10.We demand that the administration upholds responsibility for current spring 2020 students’ ability to complete coursework. Faculty alone cannot transition all courses online and locate all of the students.

11.We demand that student workers be properly compensated for the remainder of the semester as promised in their contracts and financial aid, including 60 day pay. To lay off student workers during a pandemic is unconscionable.

12.Studio classes that cannot be translated to online learning must be refunded or students must be given access to studios after the shelter in place is lifted equivalent to time lost, with extensions to allow adequate time for completion of studio based assignments. If an incomplete grade is necessary during spring semester to accommodate adequate completion time, studios must reopen after the shelter in place is lifted for that equivalent lost time. All studio and facilities staff must be compensated for said time.

13.With supplies no longer being delivered to the institute, we demand that the administration works with faculty and staff to allocate a budget for project essentials that will be given to all students for their respective coursework. This can be in the form of a refund check or an online coupon.

14.We demand to be informed on the status and maintenance of the equipment at SFAI. Much of the equipment was donated to be used by and for the student body. If those assets are to be liquidated, we shall be informed on where the funds will be going. Studio managers are essential in both maintenance and liquidation of the equipment and studios.

15.We demand that all student organized exhibitions, planned for the Diego Rivera Gallery or Schafer Gallery, are rescheduled. With consideration of the future use of spaces and taking into account the funding, planning and promises of exhibitions offered to students who submitted proposals, curated shows, only to have them cancelled without consideration for future opportunity. SFAI has the space to honor them and therefore is able to honor the use of said space after the shelter in place has lifted. All facilities staff and studio staff who offer their time for these exhibitions shall be adequately compensated for said time.

16.We demand for those who have pending tuition receive allocated time to pay it off before graduation and the potential closure of the institute.

17.We demand that the $150 BFA show fee be refunded to each undergraduate senior OR that the BFA exhibition be rescheduled according to the needs and timeline presented by graduating BFA students. We demand that the $150 Petition to Graduate be refunded to each undergraduate senior if the BFA show is not rescheduled.

18.We demand that the $300 MFA show fee be refunded to each 2nd year graduate OR that the MFA exhibition be rescheduled according to the needs and timeline presented by graduating MFA students.

19.We demand that when the shelter-in-place mandate is lifted that students, faculty and staff will be able to collect their property that is currently at the Chestnut Street campus, the Fort Mason Campus, and the Abby Hall Dorms in a timely manner. For those students who have left and cannot return they must be accommodated and if desired have their belongings shipped. Furthermore, we demand to have a grace period where we can return to campus to gather our property, and to be appropriately notified as to when that time will be. NOT the day of.

20. We demand that when we are able to collect our items that studio managers be present and compensated for their time and assistance. Without them not only will there be chaos, but their knowledge of student work is paramount in returning property to those unable to collect their items physically.

21. If needed, we demand a meeting with the Student Alliance and administration to discuss the terms of these demands.

22. Above all, we demand respect, honesty, and transparency.

Above all, SFAI is a community of artists striving to offer society an engaged dialog. We believe in ethical, honest and fair community-building through the many generations: past, present and future—all who have been a part of our community.

These demands are the necessary foundation for mutual trust and respect amongst the student body, the board, and the administration. In this time of crisis, it is essential that we are informed and have a voice in the decision-making process, which will impact our futures, as well as the future and legacy of our beloved institution. It is unethical to leave us outside of the discussion.

Please know that we are not your adversaries. We believe that by joining forces and efforts, the community can come up with additional ideas and solutions to resolve this crisis. SFAI lives amongst us, and we refuse to let it’s legacy go. It’s important for this city, and it’s important for culture at large.

SFAI Student Alliance 2019-2020