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Nowtopian

economy, 'technology', public space, San Francisco past and present, class, books

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Wiki World

OK, sorry to have been gone so long… a whole month has passed! Sheesh!… up to my eyeballs in a variety of things, especially booking a lot of upcoming appearances. (next Friday March 21 I’ll be reading from After The Deluge at Inside Story Time) More later.

There’s been a flurry of interesting articles about Wikipedia lately. This is particularly interesting to me since one of the things that’s absorbing me these days is the painfully slow creation of a wiki version of Shaping San Francisco (if you want to help, please contact me)… I’ve been thinking and working for a long time on the notion of an open, living archive of San Francisco history. I’m glad I don’t have to answer to the problems besetting Wikipedia, but as we ramp up to our own mini-wiki on local history, we’ll probably face some similar issues.

On one hand there’s the exciting thought that lots of people will contribute their own recollections, memories, and opinions to our shared history. One idea I’m particularly enthusiastic about is having multiple accounts of events that have happened in our own lifetimes. The best example we’ll have of this right away (when we “go public”) is about 5 different versions of the White Night Riot (that links to my account, but there are several others in the current Shaping SF, and more to come). But you can imagine that the sky’s the limit when it comes to parallel stories, often contradicting each other, just as real history is experienced by multiple people with different points of view.

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In Search of a Public Life

Now that I can get up and down and out and about, pushing and prodding the limits of my prepositional life, I’m SOOO glad it’s our semi-usual February summer. I actually made the walk to the top of Bernal Heights with Adriana a couple of days ago, and have been bicycling around town a lot, though quite slowly as befits an old (recently incapacitated) man… The plum and cherry trees are in spectacular bloom. Here’s the plum tree outside my window, followed by a cherry tree we found on Bernal…

Taking advantage of our city’s beauty, walking around my neighborhood and the nearby hill (more photos of this recent walk at the bottom), but it’s all in a much larger context of a decaying society and its current political life. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how ardently people are embracing the Obama campaign, what it means. I’m obviously unmoved by it, and find myself scratching my head in my quadrennial puzzlement at the urgency of people’s beliefs, their willingness to swallow all this vague rhetoric spooned up by a guy who is bought and paid for by the likes of Goldman Sachs and the Illinois coal industry. A guy who won’t rule out nuclear power! and yet is treated as the embodiment of major change… and to be sure, he is a highly symbolic form of change on the surface at least. If everyone’s secret wishes come true, he’ll actually be a pwogwessive once in office, sweeping aside the neocons in favor of a New Green Deal… it’ll still be capitalism, still dominated by corporations, but maybe, just maybe, a bit more humane, a partially restored social fabric and safety net, a creative approach to intractible problems like climate change, carmeggedon, drug wars, imperialism…

Oh, sorry! I got carried away. I think Goldman Sachs and Zbigniew Brzenzski and the many other major backers and advisers from the ruling class who are rallying around Obama may be the wing of capital who see the need for some real reform, after two terms of brazen looting and a foreign policy that has sent the U.S. plummeting over the cliff. The financial system is unravelling, the world market is in for a period of retrenchment, renewed nationalistic protectionism, and probably some kind of global rules on investment and capital flows… or at least, one might presume that’s what Obama promises the monied interests behind his blandly passionate and vaguely populist words…

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Hill Help for Bikes!

Having resumed bicycling my mood is much improved. The weather has been simply amazing too, plum and cherry trees are bursting into bloom all over the place, including in my back yard. I used to ride to the top of Twin Peaks every couple of weeks, sometimes more often, but now, with my hobbled sciatic nerve, I have to ride really slow, and the more I have to push against gravity, the more it hurts. So I’m not doing any sprints or climbs. By way of the SF Bike Coalition‘s regular email, I was pointed to this lovely video of a very simple cable bike lift in Trondheim, Norway… I had imagined a system of tow ropes and translucent bridges in my novel. But this is a beautiful fix for folks who want to cycle, but cannot deal with climbing steep hills. Check it out!

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