amor mundi

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

No Whammies! Stop Gloating!

Some are too quick to squash the real joy arising from partisan politics with all its compromises, impurities, miscommunications, struggles. Sure, we don't want complacency given the stakes, but why the knee-jerk denigration as "gloating" of Democrats feeling our rising winning strength? Feeling a righteous wind at your back isn't "gloating" -- and it can fuel winning coalitions and compensate inevitable setbacks. If Texas and Georgia Democrats were doing more of what gets criticized as "gloating" it might mean that they were organized and energized enough already to be winning winnable races for the diversifying, secularizing, planetizing emancipatory coalition of the REAL Real America with which President Obama won the White House twice and which grows by the day.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

We Already Have Term Limits: They Are Called Elections

A commonplace slogan, but I think it is a true and important one. I have noticed several people online declaring that fear of the rise of figures like Donald Trump explains or even justifies calls for the institution of term limits in our politics. I must point out that Donald Trump himself calls for term limits. This is because reactionary fraud, looting and no end of amateur-hour nonsense is enabled by the de-professionalization of public service and political representation. Trumpian politics are not threatened but thrive when politics is disorganized and does not provide for pathways in which public servants gain practical experience, build trusted coalitions, overcome their limitations, and are rewarded for their dedication. I was quite happy to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I must say voting for a third term of President Barack Obama would have thrilled me more. Term limits, like the endless tax-cut mantras of our politics, reflect the deep-seated anti-governmental resentment of the spoiled, insulated, irresponsible American infant-citizen in an incomparably rich, comparatively isolated and secure continent forever greedy to get something for nothing, to declare our luck the result of our effort and to retro-actively rationalize whatever abuse got us what we have or where we are. Professionalism -- prone, no question, to its own parochialisms, exclusions and abuses -- is nevertheless one of the few countervailing forces in our personal and public lives that resist the race to the bottom and the utter abandonment of this shared world to the deceptive, hyperbolic, appetitive, robotic norms and forms of advertising lies and promotional flim-flam.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Usual

A long teaching day ahead, a sleepless night behind. Insomnia is the bane of my existence now. This morning in the City I'll be teaching Debord and Naomi Klein, then this afternoon across the Bay in Berkeley I'll be teaching Cicero. The Roman readings are the ones that truly excite me these days, but exhaustion starts to get in the way and scatter my thoughts a bit by three when my second lecture begins. As Trump would say: Sad! A change of topic, but I really do hope recreational cannabis legalization will make it easier for me to access indica-emphasis edibles to deal with this nightmare insomnia issue (sativas are more raucous fun for me personally, but relief from aches and pains and anxiety and insomnia is what I am pining for) -- I could probably go for a medical use license already but it seems such a bother, and I assume many other people will use recreational legalization to make recourse to what might be deemed legitimate therapeutic uses as well. Just one more reason to approve the proposition if you are wavering (I rather doubt regular readers here would). I am thinking post-legalization reasonably priced reliably dosed edibles will be as deliverable here in the Bay Area as pizzas in no time flat. Hope I am right about that. Nine out of ten of my delivery drivers seem high as kites already, I must say. Anyway, time to gather my notes and my wits and begin the long slog. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


When Obama won the Presidency I cried in pure joy. When Hillary wins I will cry again, in pure relief that this nightmare campaign is over.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"The Future" Is Rhetoric

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Women, POC, and Queerfolk Vote For Our Lives

Gross Robocultist Peter Thiel Donates 1.25 Million to Bigot Clown Trump After He Brags About Sexual Assault And Sows Violent Discontent Among Supporters

I'm been warning people about vile Peter Thiel for years, of course, but the latest news was good for a few shits and giggles on twitter.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The left won the culture wars:

And this makes the right feel threatened in ways they aren't and the left feel complacent when we shouldn't.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Tolkien Gay Translator

Elf-Friend = Friend of Dorothy.

Tech Talk Trump Talk

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Long Teaching Day

Long teaching day ahead... Barthes this morning, Aristotle this afternoon. My cold is in retreat, we voted by mail yesterday afternoon, things are looking up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Four More Years

Another extraordinarily polished video from the HRC campaign, distilling one of President Obama's recent barnburners into just over two minutes, driving it with an urgent pulse of chimes and subtly aspirational strings, filling the frame with an accelerating montage of iconic images of the Obama presidency as his approval numbers soar miles higher than her own, framing an implicit rebuke against Trumpism (eg, "accomplishments despite obstruction, discrimination, hatred, fear") as a positive message to counter Trump's own vote-depressing doom and gloom ad strategy, trying to ensure enthusiasm and turnout in the diverse Obama coalition that prefers her over Trump but is not so passionate in its preference this time around. As a rhetorician I think it a masterly ad, as a Democrat I truly hope it gets a lot of play:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's Ask These Undecideds...

People still "undecided" at this point in the election are either incapable of deciding or lying about it. Stop paying attention to them.

Change Election

People who want "change" without any risk or cost to themselves, without any interrogation of their assumptions don't want change.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Fifteen Minutes of One Of My Lectures

Recuperating and feeling a bit better today, still coughing and sore and trying to take it easy before embarking on the rigors of mass transit and public performance looming ahead. The following transcibes the first fifteen minutes or so from my lecture Thursday at Berkeley in my Patriarchal Convention and Conviction in Greek and Roman Antiquity course. Sometimes readers express curiosity about my teacherly practice compared to my bloggity practice. I don't read from notes, but expound from bullet points I usually scribble in the hour before lecture just detailed enough to remind me of my key points and the order I think I should make them. These remarks were spun from nine bullets:

Since we met last I have caught some kind of bug, so you will forgive me if I am not my usual effervescent self. In my lecture in the City earlier today my voice gave out a couple of times, so fingers crossed that doesn't happen today. We have a lot to cover today, in fact I would say today is one of three key turning points in our course. You'll remember from the first lecture that this course is making a semester-long argument or telling a semester-long story, and today we turn a page in that story. 

In any of our Department's four Core classes, whatever else the course is doing, the course will always be interrogating a set of basic questions: What is rhetoric? What is rhetoric good for? In our course, a related question is why exactly are texts from Greek and Roman antiquity especially illuminative of those questions?

We are reading many texts in this course that are best described as philosophy, or history, or literary texts -- and I think it may seem very reassuring to fall back on familiar categories like these, especially when the texts we are reading seem at once so alien and yet so resonant and so freighted with canonical authority. But I have to insist that rhetoric is not philosophy, history, or literature, and reading these texts rhetorically is something rather different as well. In part, in our course we are telling the story of the emergence of this difference and in part, in our course we are modeling and provoking forms of reading that materialize this difference.

This is a course that takes place in a Rhetoric Department. The substance of rhetoric -- what I have called interested, occasional, figurative practices of persuasion -- heck, ever the TERM rhetoric derive in a crucial sense from the Platonic project of philosophy. Forming the backdrop against which Platonic philosophy elaborated its anti-rhetorical project we engaged first with a Homeric agentic imaginary of public words and deeds -- and we went on to observe the way that Homeric agentic field was further elaborated and even subverted by figures like Sappho and Thucydides. That Homeric agency, I have repeatedly reminded you, is indicatively patriarchal, at once assertive and insertive.
Now, for the last few weeks, we have focused on a trilogy of key anti-sophistical dialogues by Plato, each staging a contest between between Socrates and a famous sophist -- Protagoras, Gorgias, Lysias -- and used by Plato to define his own philosophical outlook as well as market his method in competition with rival schools and intellectual movements to his own Academy.

The Socratic or Platonic aspiration to form a community of True Friends, fellow inquirers into Virtue and Truth, affirming a True Politics that doesn't seem very much like actual practices of politics and a True Rhetoric (Philosophy) that doesn't seem very much like actual practices of rhetoric may seem like an inspiring and abstract vision but I have insisted that it served competitive interests in the thriving and contentious world of Athenian intellectual life, and I have also emphasized that it was fueled by specific and ferociously critical position on and within the contemporary Athenian political scene between the Persian Wars and the Alexandrian conquests, the period of the Peloponnesian civil wars and the norms and forms of Periclean Athens.

I have drawn your attention to the recurrence of the figure of Pericles in Plato's philosophical critiques, the foreigners and rhetoricians Pericles welcomed into the city (many of whom are Socrates chief interlocutors), his children, his partner Aspasia (Plato lampooned her, you will remember, quite egregiously in the early dialogue Menexenus which included a clumsy parody of Pericles' famous funeral oration, a portrait that intriguingly seems to have been a dress rehearsal for Socrates tale of Diotima in the Symposium we read for today), and so on: 

Glimpsed in the fragments of surviving sophistical texts and in the speeches of Socrates' opponents in Plato's texts we elaborated a sophistical worldview of openness to outsiders, of celebration of provisional compromise and collaboration, of resignation to the inevitable contingency of human affairs, of recognition of the partial and fragmentary character of truths communicated by the imperfect but still beautiful instruments of public words and deeds.

We are about to turn our attention next week to the ambivalent embrace by Plato's most famous student, Aristotle, of the politics and rhetoric of Periclean public life which sets the stage, in turn, for Cicero's adaptation and glorification of that vision in his failed alternative to Caesar's revolution in the dying days of the Roman Republic. But first, let's talk a bit about one last Platonic dialogue, my personal favorite, The Symposium, and put it in coversation with an extraordinary comedy by Aristophanes called Wasps….  

Saturday, October 08, 2016


Spent yesterday in bed recovering from Thursday's long exhausting teaching day, still quite ill and zonked, and I must say the Trump fiasco felt a bit like the unspooling of a fever dream...

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Back to the Grind

A long teaching day ahead, lectures on both sides of the Bay, Freud in the morning, Plato and Aristophanes in the afternoon, lots of material to cover as I play catch-up a bit on my Berkeleyy syllabus... but what makes all this daunting is that my dreaded insomnia is back again and I'm battling a bug. Sleepless, stress head-ache throbbing, congested and runny, forever afraid I'll have a repeat of the horrific bleeding episode earlier this year at the worst possible time, say, stuffed in a morning rush-hour train stalled beneath the Bay... at least RuPaul and Runway await us at the end of this terrible ordeal...

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Unskew The Yardsigns

It's happening! It's happening!

Veep Debate (UPDATED)

Mike Pence probably won the hour, but Tim Kaine won the week. Pence is a gross homophobic racist theocratic asshole, but he seemed calm while Kaine seemed unduly aggressive, and this contrast didn't play well for Kaine especially in the first half of the debate. But each candidate had a job to do and Kaine did his job in ways that will pay dividends (and already are on social media). Both candidates were speaking to and shoring up their respective bases, and since few undecideds would be watching a vice-presidential debate this makes sense. Both succeeded in that task. Pence was shoring up Christian evangelicals (and making his play for that constituency in 2020 against Ted Cruz) while Kaine played selections from the Democratic coalition hymnal -- somewhat superficially given the rapid pace of the debate format, but I was quite happy to hear his "Trust Women" formulation on choice, which is kinda sorta all I want to hear in a discussion of abortion rights in which straight white men are doing all the talking. Another job the candidates had was to defend their respective Presidential partners and while Kaine did this in spades -- his happy warrior discussion of the Clinton Foundation was textbook veep debate workmanship -- Pence repeatedly failed to defend Trump's outrageous comments and positions, and indeed seemed to deny their abundantly evident recorded reality while implying nobody in their right mind would say these things Trump has been saying. While this might be good for Pence's future ambitions as a national figure (that's why he took the risk of this stinkbomb of a vice-presidential gig from hell in the first place as his Indiana governorship was going down the tubes after all), it amounted to a serial failure to do what he came to the debate to do as a candidate on a ticket and provided material for ads and memes and taunts and late-night comedy that will get deeper and deeper under Donald Trump's skin all week long, right up until Sunday night when he returns for round two with Hillary Clinton who wiped the floor with him last time around. I do think it is pretty clear that Kaine's debate prep included quite a bit of trap setting for Pence along precisely these lines and that the campaign probably calculated that a bit of aggressive needling was just the ticket to get Pence to provide social media content for the next few news cycles. I daresay they remembered that Biden's aggressiveness in the 2012 vice-presidential debate went down quite well and they probably imagined Kaine would play much the same in the hall and on screen… which it did not. In the sound bites, though, these aggressions will have a nice rhythm and concision and Pence's denials and evasions will play to clip after clip of instant refutation. This debate was about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and it seems to me that only one campaign really knew what it was doing there. You know, the usual.

UPDATE: As predicted, this stuff is everywhere today.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Veep Bleep

Hoping I'm back home from lecture in time for the Vice Presidential debate, which is expected to draw an historically small audience after the last Presidential debate which drew an historically large audience -- proving the deep seriousness of a voting population that licks its chops at the prospect of a brainless bigotry circus and rolls its eyes at the prospect of wonks disagreeing about policy. By the way, the narrative of a clash of boring wonks is bad enough, but better by far than the grotesque equally popular framing of the debate to come as a clash of boring sit-com dads in a straight white middle-class suburban weekend backyard in a fantasy 1950s sparring over a grill in floppy chef hats with a laugh track provided via live-tweets.

Of course, Mike Pence passes for a boring wonk (let alone sit-com dad), only because too many of my fellow citizens don't seem to know anything about the terrifying misogynist racist homophobic theocratic authoritarianism of his actual views. I have been shocked at the blase assignment for years and years of the term "wonk" to Paul Ryan, who spews utter arrant nonsense about economics on a regular basis and gets treated as some lovably pedantic details-guy by the pundits -- and don't get me started at those who imply the doll-eyed dolt is a "young gun" sex symbol in even the remotest construal -- but the thought that a rabid extremist like Pence who has actually made something of a public fool of himself as governor of Indiana can be transubstantiated into an easy-going reassuring mainstream professional politician simply by standing next to the reality tee vee hate talk con-man circus freak Donald Trump in the media is actually nearly as terrifying to me as the fact that one of our two major parties no longer has the intellectual and organizational resources to ward off a takeover by Trump in the first place.

Teaching More Plato

Finishing up Plato's Phaedrus and starting up his Symposium today... still a bit behind my syllabus, still feeling teaching this term is a bit of a relentless grind, even though the texts I assigned are texts I adore talking about when it comes to it.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Trek Against Trump

Star Trek has always offered a positive vision of the future, a vision of hope and optimism, and most importantly, a vision of inclusion, where people of all races are accorded equal respect and dignity, where individual beliefs and lifestyles are respected so long as they pose no threat to others. We cannot turn our backs on what is happening in the upcoming election. Never has there been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald Trump. His election would take this country backward, perhaps disastrously. We need to elect a president who will move this country forward into the kind of future we all dream of: where personal differences are understood and accepted, where science overrules superstition, where people work together instead of against each other.
The resolution of conflicts on Star Trek was never easy. Don’t remain aloof –vote! We have heard people say they will vote Green or Libertarian or not at all because the two major candidates are equally flawed. That is both illogical and inaccurate. Either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump will occupy the White House. One is an amateur with a contemptuous ignorance of national laws and international realities, while the other has devoted her life to public service, and has deep and valuable experience with the proven ability to work with Congress to pass desperately needed legislation. If, as some say, the government is broken, a protest vote will not fix it.
Have you just turned 18? Have you moved? Have you never voted before? Some states have early registration (early October) and/or absentee ballots. You can’t vote if you are not registered. So make it so. Go to , a non-profit, non-partisan organization, and fulfill your civic duty. Because, damn it, you are a citizen of the USA, with an obligation to take part in our democracy! Do this not merely for yourself but for all the generations that follow. Vote for a future of enlightenment and inclusion, a future that will someday lead us to the stars.
Endorsed by:
J.J. Abrams
Allan Apone
Richard Arnold
René Auberjonois
Scott Bakula
Ira Steven Behr
Rick Berman
John Billingsley
Christopher Black
Paula Block
Paul Boehmer
André Bormanis
Brannon Braga
Mark Robert Brown
LeVar Burton
Terri Potts-Chattaway
John Cho
Tracee Cocco
George Colucci
Mimi Cozzens
Denise Crosby
Dan Curry
Joseph D'Agosta
Peter David
Nicole de Boer
Keith R.A. DeCandido
John de Lancie
Jonathan Del Arco
John DeMita
Chris Doohan
Paul Eiding
Aron Eisenberg
Terry Erdmann
Terry Farrell
Lolita Fatjo
David C. Fein
Juan Carlos Fernandez
Louise Fletcher
Jonathan Frakes
Bryan Fuller
Dave Galanter
Tim Gaskill
David Gerrold
Robert Greenberger
Bruce Greenwood
Max Grodénchik
Martha Hackett
Glenn Hauman
Manu Intiraymi
Michael Jan Friedman
Dominic Keating
John Knoll
Walter Koenig
Alex Kurtzman
Judith Levitt
Jeff Lewis
Justin Lin
David Mack
Dennis Madalone
Chase Masterson
Dakin Matthews
Gates McFadden
Robert Duncan McNeill
Nicholas Meyer
Anthony Montgomery
Ronald B. Moore
Tom Morga
Kate Mulgrew
Larry Nemecek
Adam Nimoy
Susan Nimoy
Robert O'Reilly
Linda Park
Leslie Parrish
Robb Pearlman
Simon Pegg
Randy Pflug
Ethan Phillips
Robert Picardo
Sandra Piller
Chris Pine
Emmett Plant
Zachary Quinto
Michael Reisz
Andrew Robinson
Eugene & Heidi Roddenberry
Marvin Rush
Tim Russ
Zoe Saldana
Ralph Senensky
Naren Shankar
Armin Shimerman
Gregory Smith
Brent Spiner
Rick Sternbach
Peter Sternlicht
Eric Stillwell
Jay Stobie
Sandy Stone
Carel Struycken
Marina Sirtis
Michael Sussman
Kitty Swink
George Takei
Michael Taylor
Hallie Todd Withrow
Connor Trinneer
Karl Urban
Wil Wheaton
Herman Zimmerman

UPDATE: Joseph Gatt, Melissa Harrison, Jeri Ryan, Susan Shwartz, Tucker Smallwood, and Scott Trimble have endorsed the statement!
Further Endorsements (Received after initial release of statement):
Rhonda Aldrich
Jim Beaver
Christopher L. Bennett
Kirsten Beyer
Molly Brink
Art Codron
Michael Dorn
Doug Drexler
Dorothy Duder
Harlan Ellison
Joseph Gatt
Rich Handley
Melissa Harrison
Hana Hatae
Robert Hewitt-Wolfe
Michael Klastorin
Denise Okuda
Michael Okuda
Robert Pine
Jeri Ryan
Nick Sagan
Robert Sallin
Susan Shwartz
Tucker Smallwood
Kurtwood Smith
Melinda M. Snodgrass
Arne Starr
Scott Trimble
Garrett Wang
Celeste Yarnall

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Fun With Mail-In Voting

Eric and I received our Alameda County, California sample ballots and guides this weekend -- we're gonna Leslie Knoping the shit out of them asap.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Jennifer Granholm's Feisty Trump Slam

Millennials: #ImWithThem AND #ImWithHer

Entirely predictably (for the twitter-medium, not the generation, I mean), the first tweet gets the RTs and its two companions get few to none.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Enthusiasm For Me Not For Thee!

Every time I express enthusiasm for HRC or joy at the prospect of an HRC victory the Purity Cabaret left warns me about smugness, concern-trolls me about complacency and chicken-littles me over "shy" Trump Voters and "legitimate" economic anxieties and I honestly think this is because they're still mad, their souls are sad and their politics are bad.

I warmly wish all the Thought Leaders of Tech an early retirement on Mars.

h/t Alex Knapp

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Future Is An Ad For Crap In The Present

Just saw a Vonage commercial premised on the patently false beliefs that Drexlerian nanotechnology is real and the space shuttle is still operating...


Candidate Gary Johnson reminds us that even though libertarians are just Republican assholes who like to smoke pot, it'll still be up to Democrats actually to manage to legalize its medical and recreational use.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Obama says:
"Don't boo, vote."

Lefty bedwetting and chickenlittling reveals the need for an additional admonition:
"Don't swoon, vote."


Observing actual asshole Trump supporters and reserved Clinton supporters, I must say I think a shy Clinton voter theory makes more sense to me than the shy Trump voter theory I keep hearing about.

Ink Blot Test

So, I'm lecturing on Plato's anti-sophistical trilogy of dialogues, Protagoras, Gorgias, and Phaedrus for a few lectures in a row, and yesterday was the second lecture of a series that should be four lectures long once I cap it off with my discussion of the Symposium -- which reprises the scenario and much of the cast of Protagoras and many of the themes of Phaedrus, and seems to me something like the satyr play appended to the tragic trilogy of the three dialogues (though Gorgias is much funnier than it gets credit for). I'm a bit behind, my lecture notes keep biting off more than I can chew, at SFAI in the City and in summer intensive courses at Berkeley I've gotten used to lecturing for roughly three hours, and I still haven't gotten back into the groove of lecturing for an hour and a half, especially taking in administrative nonsense and student questions and the slow affable windup into the subject matter I like... time keeps getting away from me a bit.

Anyway, yesterday I was finishing up my discussion of the Protagoras and moving on to the Gorgias (the text assigned for yesterday) and I looked down at my Gorgias notes and was surprised to find the page spotted like a cowhide. I should add here that I always write up new lecture notes even when teaching a text I've taught many times before -- re-reading the text, as I do each time I teach it, I usually think about it differently and I find that teaching to what interests me at the moment tends to make the lecture more engaging -- and that I usually scribble up my notes in the few hours right before delivering the lecture, more or less as a way of gathering up my thoughts and sculpting key observations into the trajectory of a dramatic narrative and argumentative form.

Few people could make sense of my notes, they are usually sentence fragments and page numbers and the occasional odd trigger word, in little numbered or lettered lists, sometimes with time stamps indicating how long I can allow myself to elaborate on what might fascinate me for hours at the expense of the actual topic at hand. My lectures probably usually seem like a series of riffs, I hope mostly entertaining and unexpected riffs, swooping into close readings of apparently incidental details onto wider contextualizations into citations of texts and themes I've already assigned with an eye to making these dramatic associations at key moments, all of which collide near the end to make whatever points I hope most to emphasize (this is what most folks who teach literature or philosophy as literature do, I expect). And I tend to just glance down at my notes from time to time as I go because they remind me of good anecdotes and the turns in the reading my overall argument needs and keep me more or less on track.

So, it was a strange thing to turn to my Gorgias notes, scribbled on the bus on the way from my apartment to campus on a folded sheet of paper snatched from the printer tray before I left home, and find them covered with black splotches. Involuntarily, my hand went to the page and I scarcely comprehended why but the page was suddenly more speckled still, ink obliterating many of my gnomic references and bullet points before my eyes. It was just about then that I realized my hand was drenched in ink, and just about then that both of my hands were in fact blackened, and just about then that the pen in my hand was leaking onto my hands, and just about then that I didn't know how long any of this had been going on but I knew I had surely touched my face, my hair, fiddled with my glasses plenty of times over the course of the lecture and for all I knew my face was grotesquely smudged with ink in front of over a hundred staring students and that I could no longer lean on the banister of my lecture outline to guide my discussion of the Gorgias because it had been more or less obliterated.

Mind you, all of these terrific revelations seared into my mind in the lightning flash of a few seconds at the end of which I took a breath at the proper place afforded by the sentence I had been uttering through all of this and sat the pen on the surface before me, moved my ink-wet hands from the page, decided there was nothing I could do if my face was now measled with smudges and, breathless, embarrassed, discombobulated, working without a net, I glanced at the clock to find it declared I had about forty minutes to go and proceeded to ramble on about the Gorgias without much of a game-plan or even the memory of one, delivered while my actual mind was mostly given over to volcanic insecurity and paranoia that I suddenly, conspicuously, and as if by magic, had the blackened face and hands of a nineteenth century coal miner crawling through some dim dusty shaft and was coming off at best as a caricature of the disheveled absent-minded professor and at worst veering in derangement out of some clown car.

For the life of me, I can't really even remember what I said in those last forty minutes. I'm pretty sure the first part of the lecture went well, but the second part I fear was a scattered and careening thing. Turns out, I managed not to get ink on my face or clothes after all, and the mess mostly came out in the sink before I commuted back home. I spent a lot of time last night castigating myself for delivering a shitty lecture, which is something I do rather a lot anyway to be honest. I'm now unhealthily obsessed with ensuring tomorrow's lecture compensates with crystalline clarity the debacle in my mind of Tuesday's lecture.

I say "in my mind" only because I have discovered that students often don't have an inkling that a lecture has gone wrong from my perspective -- encountering the material for the first time, many of them not even caught up with the reading, what seem to me throwaway observations incidental to the provocations and illuminations of my closer reading are more than enough for them to feel they are getting their money's worth. I have also noticed that brain freezes and losing my place and getting snagged in some detail that momentarily obsesses me at the expense of some more general and generally more important point and digressions into television or politics or jokes that sometimes get me off track, while these all too commonplace interruptions and befuddlements often lead me into retroactive shame spirals my students seem usually not to have noticed that they happened at all or that they represented anything gone amiss.

When these little disasters occur, I do seem to find myself calling upon long hammered habits of work discipline from my days as a child star doing musical turns in the dinner theater circuit across Kentuckiana: When I realized that ink had destroyed my notes and drenched my hands and for all I knew given me panda eyes and a comic ink mustache I nearly said the words aloud as I steeled myself for the long forty minutes still ahead... "The show must go on."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Relieved Reflections on the State of the Campaign in the Aftermath of the First Debate

Generations of conventional campaign wisdom have insisted that endorsements matter, fundraising and advertising matters, organizing on the ground for GOTV matters and by all these measures the Clinton campaign is performing professionally and consistently well while the Trump campaign looks like a cross between an amateur clown college and a right-wing morning zoo radio program. That conventional wisdom also says the key inflection points in the general campaign are the Vice-Presidential pick, the Conventions, and the debates. The vice presidential picks were a wash -- though Pence holds a number of extremely unpopular socially conservative views that may be exposed in the upcoming vice-presidential debate and hasn't generally performed well in situations of public pressure in ways that have not yet really been tested on the scale of the Presidential campaign trail, so we shall see -- the Party conventions (and Trump's attacks on the Kahn family in their aftermath) were such a devastating contrast for Trump that they briefly threatened electoral apocalypse for the GOP before it regained its footing, and now the first and probably most widely viewed of the debates is behind us.

The expectations for Trump were set in the basement. The mainstream media dutifully reported Trump team spin that they were worried about Trump fidgeting: Would there be a "Fidgetgate" or would Trump triumph by managing simply to stand still for an hour and a half? (As it happens, he couldn't scale even that low bar.) For Clinton, the usual minefield had been prepared: would she smile wrong? would she frown? would she cough? would she be too loud? would she be strong enough? would she be too bossy? would she seem folksy? would she seem like a know-it-all? would she be authentically inauthentically authentic? On and on and on and on and on.

And then... the debate. Not only did Hillary Clinton not lose the debate, or lose despite winning it on the substance (as long experience has taught me to fear), she won and won so conspicuously and by so many separate measures that she is even seen to have won. The reason Trump's defeat may have longstanding impact on the race is that it played out in ways that accord well with the Clinton campaign's preferred narratives -- he was and is unprepared, she was and will be prepared to be President, she was solid and informed and he seemed erratic and ignorant and unfit to be President. She even managed to get in a few words about her larger vision -- supporting working and struggling families by raising the minimum wage, ending student debt, providing paid family leave, investing in new and renewable energy, transportation, communication, water treatment infrastructure providing millions more jobs, recognizing and battling systemic racism in policing, housing, education, making rich one-percenters pay their fair share in taxes and regulating business to stop its abuses (themes nicely illustrated by her opponent as a bonus).

I hope but do not expect the polls to shift to reflect this event [added, a few days later, they have indeed shifted--d], as I trust at least some of the conventional wisdom about organization and substance still matters even in the aftermath of the Great Sort (party polarization and regionalization baking in Party ID and making straight ticket voting the norm) and social networks scrambling assumptions about fundraising and narrative management. The Culture Wars have been won by the left in ways that seem too often to make the left complacent and divisive (there's still too much Purity Cabaret getting performed by people who, like me, have political convictions to the left of the Democratic Party which must nonetheless be a primary vehicle for our aspirations and must be supported to win to do so even as it inevitably disappoints us) as it makes the right more disciplined and defensive (just turning on the television is enough to make them think every election is the last battle before they are compelled to live in the laid back tolerant multicultural secular progressive world that will fill them with existential panic right up to the second it prevails and they start enjoying the life it affords).

Again, American voters are sorted into their parties: and this is a base mobilization election. I think the Clinton campaign has always known all this -- watch Clinton's announcement video and speech, the themes were already clear -- but their strategy of making a spectacle of the support of Republican moderates and eminences grises to attack Trump's fitness without going personally negative and also to build a governing mandate in the face of likely unprecedented obstruction seems to have softened some base support. I think narratives foregrounding this softening are overblown, I think it is not only wrong but insulting to pretend young people and people of color don't know or won't vote in their obvious interest, but the polls aren't where I would like them to be and facts are facts.

The so-called "values voters" are consolidating behind the man who debauches their every value because he is a Republican. This is not only their usual hypocrisy (I'm a gay man who has faced their hateful love first hand growing up and then as an activist in the South, so I know what I am talking about when I glibly declare so many of them hypocritical) since the Supreme Court really is their last hope to survive the existential threat of demographic diversification and secularization. If Trump loses Clinton appointments to the Court will indeed bring this branch in line with the diverse, secular, equitable, sustainable assumptions and aspirations of the REAL real America of the coalition of the ascendant that already elected Obama twice and grows by the day, and this may break the back of politicized Christian fundamentalism and invite separatist retreats and re-connection to community service priorities that prevailed prior to the organization of the moral majority (never a real majority, any more than Nixon's silent majority was one, but that is another story for another day), which may come to seem a doomed and demoralizing detour from evangelical principles orchestrated by cynical opportunistic businessmen looking for dupes to vote against their interests in order to swell the treasure piles of the rich with precious tax cuts.

Obama repeatedly pined for "the fever to break" in a Republican Party appealing to its paranoid-aggressive war-mongering gun-loving white-supremacist patriarchal science-denialist base in the face of electoral defeats by the Obama coalition (the famous Republican Autopsy report provided a wan and premature glimpse of that future). Though Donald Trump makes a ridiculous spectacle of himself when he makes his ugly and impossible promise to "build a great and beautiful wall" it is true that the Great Sort is the geopolitical firewall (gerrymandered House districts and Red State disenfranchisement schemes and refusals to accept Medicaid support for their own citizens are concrete symptoms of this demographically and geographically partisanized ideological firewall) that has made a nearly unprecedentedly awful candidate a plausible one for the Presidency. There is good reason to think that breaching the wall would be a tipping point taking it down once and for all in the face of overwhelming demographic and economic realities. Obama's second victory didn't manage the trick and Clinton's first victory might not either (especially if Democrats can't manage to win back the Senate or chisel into the GOP's House majority). But the tide is turning (and has been since 2006), the breaking of the fever is before us, the crumbling firewall will fall, and then possibilities for unprecedented changes for the better become possible where before they were impossible. The stakes are high, we stand on a knife-edge, things can go badly wrong, despair is well-warranted but it is not an option.

Monday, September 26, 2016

In the interest of fairness...

...Hillary Clinton's debate contributions will be musically accompanied by yakety sax.


More and more, unless I am painstaking in my movements my movements are painsgiving.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Way We Live Now

The artist is Pierre Brignaud.

Siren Songs of Fauxvolutionary Futurism

Added: Just to pour salt on an old wound, to no good purpose: You know, I still haven't completely gotten over the experience of the primary campaign, in which a rather amazing number of people who have long and loudly appreciated my critiques of tech culture then castigated and unfollowed and even blocked me for supporting Hillary Clinton, though I did and do so on the basis of exactly the same assumptions, concerns, and arguments they presumably affirmed in my arguments about tech. The same trivialization of radical and revolutionary politics via the entertaining distractions of consumer fandom and marketing deceptions are in evidence in tech discourse and Sanders for President discourse -- no party primary contest is revolutionary and "look, a birdie!" is indistinguishable from Mountain Dew is the revolution, sorry not sorry. The same choice of detailed policy (even policies with which I disagree on the details) over sloganeering distinguished the campaigns in their communication emphases and strategies. My preference for the best actual but of course non-ideal candidate on offer to give my support as well is compelled by the same criteria as my preference for accounts of technoscience progress focused on historical struggles over distribution of costs, risks, and benefits of change rather than narratives in which progress is a destiny, a growing toypile, or the gift of elite benefactors. My general understanding of political progress as the result of mostly exhausting, if occasionally exhilarating, historical stakeholder struggles with both partisan dimensions mucked in frustrating real-time problem solving and compromise and pressure in the direction of reform and stage-setting for further reform inter-implicated in deeper transformational education, agitation, and organization work to shift the terrain of the possible and the important is very much the same when it recognizes the superiority of the Democratic over the Republican, Libertarian, or Green Parties in the United States, the superiority of Clinton over Sanders before and Trump now, or rejects the reactionary moonshine of corporate-military and New Age bourgeois-boutique futurisms that suffuse public technoscience discourse (including, quite dangerously, too many liberal circles in which prevailing reactionary marketing discourse for feudal and fraudulent tech practices have gotten muddled up with well-meaning but under-informed Democratic desires to support scientific research and public infrastructure and fact-based policy making). I find it hard to shake the rather demoralizing suspicion that many who have supported my critique of feudal tech-talk simply didn't take much care to understand the actual substance of the arguments I have been making but happened to agree with me about the villains in the narrative -- mostly ridiculous robot cultists and heinous venture capitalists and uselessly idiotic "Thought Leaders" -- and enjoyed the baroque gargoyle sentences with which I excoriated them... but happened to think of Hillary Clinton as a similar villain and simply didn't much care to find me supporting the Cthillary Monster in her quest to bathe the world in blood from atop a mountain of cash where she dines on babies with a cabal of neoliberal billionaires. Beset by balloon animals to my left and to my right, forgive me if I retreat to the Hufflepuff common room. I've got goddamn lectures to craft and papers to grade and the stoopid, it burns us.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Oculus CEO Luckey: "Let them eat Oculus!"

And, er, no, I am not surprised in the least by this morning's Daily Beast bombshell that "Palmer Luckey -- founder of Oculus -- is funding a Trump group that circulates dirty memes about Hillary Clinton" any more than I am surprised that tech-darling Elon Musk wants to privatize education and use environmental crisis as an occasion to sell Musk-boondoggles and turn the nobility of civic-spirited space exploration into space Vegas amusement parks or that brave intolerance-advocate and misogynist Peter Thiel wants to live in a lawless Randroid sooper-pirate island right off the coast of socialist San Francisco (to make sure he's a helicopter hop from working hospitals photogenic sexslaves and restaurants kept hygenic by nannystate regulators) and expects to live forever in a robot body in a nano-treasure cave when he gets home from celebrating Donald Trump at his authoritarian bigotpalooza Republican Convention. I've been watching transhumanoid and singularitarian Big Thinking luminaries and publicity hounds flog Machinery of Friedman market fundamentalist pieties and anti-democracy from Robin Hanson to Max More to Eliezer Yudkowsky to a host of assorted tech-talkin' gun-nuts and robocalyptic climate-complacent geo-engineers and on and on and on and on for years and years and years and years by now. No. I'm not surprised. Nor should any of you be: I warned you.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Another long teaching day ahead -- out the door just after seven am, back just before seven pm, lectures on both sides of the Bay -- another long sleepless night behind me. Marx in the morning, Plato in the afternoon. What poison eggs will Trump lay while I am away this time? The term from hell grinds on.