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A Public Week

I would like to blog more often, but last week I was really booked solid. In addition to several meetings for our upcoming opening at CounterPULSE, I drummed with the Committee for Full Enjoyment at the otherwise impotent and boring anti-war march last Saturday the 19th.

That night I shared a podium with Josh MacPhee of Stencil Pirates and Erick Lyle with a charming and funny slideshow of cement etchings in SF. My role, after the intermission, was to present some clips from the Greenpepper “Precarity” DVD, and to start a discussion on the theme of precariousness, the “Precariat” and the “Cognitariat”, all by way of setting the stage for a future launch of “HeadFirst!” (my planned next foray into magazine publishing, to appear in late 05 or early 06).


On Wednesday the 23rd, I appeared at the SPUR lunch forum, doing my talk “A Bold Look at an Improbable Future” which entertained the dozen or so attendees, or so it seemed. I think they (mostly retirees I presume) were expecting a wonk-ish talk on ‘municipal governance’ but my chat, based on the “Jobs Don’t Work!” article in The Political Edge and then a couple of excerpts from After The Deluge goes quite a bit farther than what usually gets discussed. Based on the brief discussion afterwards about utopia and human nature, I had a good time and I’m glad I did it.

Thursday night I once again appeared with Eric Martin (and his interesting novel Winners!) at Modern Times. Eric was winding up his local tour for the book, and in his tiredness he was more relaxed (also being in front of the home court crowd in the Mission) and he gave a really good reading. I did my bit to contextualize it with some chat about neighborhood history, the Silver boom of the 1870s being like the dotcom boom so well described in his book, and comments we developed together about public space, basketball courts, sports as social lubricant among races and classes, etc.

Friday night was Critical Mass, and it was an exuberant and energetic ride of close to 1000 riders. Spirits were high and we wound through downtown to the Broadway Tunnel (where some shithead on a motorcycle tried to bash through corking bikes, but was stopped by an animated group of cyclists), two ways through the tunnel, then to Fisherman’s Wharf, hailing all the tourists. We rode a long haul up Polk Street all the way to the Civic Center, where I stopped to take in the awesome Quaker/War Resisters League installation of thousands of pairs of shoes, denoting all the dead in Iraq.

The ride went on, but by then I’d had my fill (I’ve been doing CM for 13 years, after all, and I’m finding that the first hour or two is by far the best part).

Saturday was the 10th annual Anarchist Book Fair and we had a CounterPULSE table for our “radical media clubhouse” wing, sold over $500 (more than twice better than any previous Anarchist book fair!), and I was one of the speakers, giving a 20-minute, foam-free rant based on the aforementioned “Jobs Don’t Work” article. Got a lot of nice feedback the rest of the day, and like most Anarchist book fairs, it made me totally hoarse. The Fair seemed to have evolved in a good way, at least from my limited perspective. People were more curious, more open, and less sectarian in the past (this, in spite of the usual incoherent ramblings of John Z and the jesterly appearance of one of the most notorious sociopaths within the so-called north American “anarchist” “community”…). A very large percentage of the attendees seemed to be under 25, the usual preponderance of black clothing and crusty-punk accoutrements, but something still felt lighter, less weighed down by the baggage that has torn apart the sectlets and grouplets on this continent for as long as I can remember.

In my talk I got to digress a bit on the problems of science and technology, and that radicals worthy of the name are going to have to make an effort to co-opt from within the workings of scientists and researchers. A politics that just says ‘no’ to technology (whatever that is?!?) or science (and allying unconsciously with the Christian right) is not going to halt the ecological disasters unfolding. All of us together have to find a way to creatively appropriate the technosphere and find ways to engage people for whom it is an attractive field of endeavor. Calling names and stamping feet are rarely convincing, but regrettably, a great deal of the so-called “critique of civilization” or the neo-primitivist, anti-technological diatribes that are out there, amount to little more than shallow tantrums that make the kids in the sandbox feel radical, but have no effect on the larger dynamics of society.

I didn’t get any direct feedback on those comments, but I was glad to launch them into an audience that I suspect has a great number of people who feel silenced on this topic by the dominance of the “original sin” line of thinking that Zerzan in particular has had a big role in promoting.

Anyway, it was a very public week for me. I met a lot of great people, and had a lot of good conversations, but nothing that left me thrilled. At some point, I don’t feel that the stuff I’m interested in, or the frames of reference I’m busily promoting, are finding many peers… Maybe I’m just nuts, or maybe I just haven’t found my intellectual and political community yet? I do get a lot from my friends, but something is lacking, some kind of intense critical engagement is still eluding me…

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