Life: innocent airline ads

An airline (whose initials are BA) is sending me charming promotional messages, suggesting that I book 2021 travel to Europe right away.

But… but…

2021 is just a couple months away, while a compelling treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic is likely a year or more distant, and not at all certain. Also, citizens of my COVID-leading country are not especially welcome anywhere right now; tests are hard to come by in many parts of the US, while many countries require them; and the destinations on sale are not all considered especially safe to visit at the moment, or are only open with strange restrictions that would make for an odd trip.

I LIKE the idea of travel, of course, and a lot can change in a few months to a year. But… but… I just don’t see giving them a thousand dollars or more that I’m unlikely to get back on the assumption that everything will be sorted out that soon. Not until something changes significantly for the better. I mean, even if a vaccine happened to be proven safe by the end of the year, it would take months to even GET it, and it isn’t clear the protection would last very long… So… Travel in the future, if and when I do it, will be… different.

Just a few years ago, I was traveling on business for work very regularly. It was a great experience (though costly to my personal life), and those kinds of trips wouldn’t even be POSSIBLE now. I’m glad I had that opportunity when I did: it may be a very long time before anyone can just get on a plane and go to one or two other countries to work with colleagues in person!

My photo software reminds me of this every so often, showing photos from this day in my life 1 year, 3 years, 5 years ago… I have fond memories of my colleagues and those locations. But… I wouldn’t go right now. It doesn’t make sense. I just wouldn’t.

I don’t even do my own grocery shopping regularly now: getting on a plane is just beyond my imagination at the moment.

I read yesterday that my own city and county currently has a test positivity rate of under 2%. Why leave a place that is getting it right??

Nice try, airline!

Book: Hokusai’s Landscapes, the Complete Series, by Sarah E. Thompson

What a great cover!

Hokusai’s Landscapes, the Complete Series
by Sarah E. Thompson
published by MFA Publications (The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Hokusai was a master of block printing, and he and his collaborators produced prints that extensively influenced the art world both within Japan and throughout Europe. This gorgeously produced hardcover book reproduces his famous collections, including the views of Mt. Fuji, famous bridges, and scenic waterfalls, along with gorgeous details and text that provides context for the locations the images are based on and explanations of the work frequently being performed in the scenes.

There are works dedicated to stops along historic pilgrimage trails, references to mountain-worship, works created to illustrate or allude to famous poems, and lovely blow-ups of details.

YES, he did more than one version of his famous wave!

YES, he did more than one version of Mt. Fuji in red light!

YES, he had a hazy, impractical idea of how large logs were sawn! But he really liked drawing that, and so you have to give him points for enthusiasm. He liked showing people at work generally, not just wealthy people lounging around, but people farming, gathering clams, washing fabric, and other ordinary tasks of daily working life. Even when someone fancy is present, there is always someone behind them, carrying their stuff!

I have multiple layers of interest in Hokusai’s work. I make prints of multiple types; I use Prussian Blue for much of my work (Prussian Blue is the color of cyanotypes!) ; I create some work in a series with grandiose names (I’ve got a set of acrylic ink & paint works in development since 2015 called One Thousand Abstract Thoughts, and the name may partly be Hokusai’s fault); and I am trying to understand how to document or commemorate specific places, or at least have a better grasp of how this was done prior to documentary photography.

I hadn’t seen all of the works in this collection before, and am thrilled to have it. The waterfalls and bridges are worth it – I’d seen so few of these!

Seeing more of his work organized in this way, I also can better distinguish what I like about Hokusai from other famous Japanese printmakers. Hokusai’s work has often appeared in collections / shows with other artists, including Hiroshige, who is similarly excellent but has a different compositional approach. (Hiroshige has more works that focus on specific details up-close, rather than these broad landscape and town scenes….)

This is a lovely book for fans who want to spend more time staring deeply into these well-designed and beautifully executed prints.

Film: Anti-Nazi Music Documentary ‘White Riot’

Far-right racists were coming to power in Britain in the 1970s. When Clapton blurted out racist ideology, and punks seemed like they could go in a bad direction, a bunch of ordinary folks who gave a damn worked up an anti-racist punk zine, organized a network of multi-racial concerts, and functioned as the heart of a broad anti-racist movement.

This is a feel-good documentary, with stressful bits about the UK far right racists. It features performances from X-Ray Spex and the Clash!

Roxie Virtual Cinema: White Riot

Rock Against Racism was formed in 1976, prompted by Eric Clapton. It blends fresh interviews with archive footage to recreate a hostile environment of anti-immigrant hysteria and National Front marches.

There is always fussing within the arts community about artists contributing to mass movements, and whether or not it is effective to make art for a cause, and… it can work very well. Being a part of the solution doesn’t mean you and your group have to solve everything – movements aren’t all-or-nothing. Just being part of the solution moves things in a better direction.

I enjoyed this film, which… is still too topical, really. It is great to see examples of youth organizing of the past against all the usual villains.

Disaster Preparedness: The Loma Prieta Earthquake was 31 Years Ago Today

…as San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Services cheerfully reminded me today via text message. 😀

The Department of Emergency Services texts me more often than my closest friends do by volume, which tells you about the kind of times we are living in.

Yes, I remember EXACTLY where I was when it occurred: near a very large, floor-to-ceiling glass wall just outside of a classroom on the main campus of City College of San Francisco. My reflection VISIBLY distorted as the glass bent. My classmates inside looked up; I made a rolling wave gesture as they started to exit the room; and then there was a POP and the power went out.

As someone who has grown up with benign earthquakes, all I could think was: Now I don’t have to go to calculus class!”

I wasn’t used to people DYING in local earthquakes – fatalities were uncommon in our area in my lifetime. Earthquakes broke old brick walls that hadn’t properly been reinforced, but little else. And while this particular quake was long and rolling where I was standing, it didn’t feel like a big deal at the time. It took a while for the news to come in, and some of it wasn’t plausible…

Anyway: this is a public service announcement to remind you to have an earthquake kit refreshed and ready to use. Admittedly, at this point in time, this kit may also include your wildfire GO BAG, but should also contain 72 hours’ worth of food and water. And some extra masks to protect you from the pandemic and/or PM2.5 wildfire smoke particles. And two tiny women to help you soothe, summon, and manage Mothra.

Supplies | SF72

Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies is easy. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours. You’ll be surprised at how much you already have.

Book: McSweeney’s Issue 54: The End of Trust

The End of Trust at the McSweeney’s Store

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 54: The End of Trust
published by McSweeney’s

McSweeney’s first fully non-fiction issue had the Electronic Frontier Foundation as an advisor, and is so full of great writing that I ran out of sticky tabs.

Are you interested in surveillance capitalism and how we are going to survive it? McSweeney’s Issue 54 is for you! While it was published in 2018, it remains completely topical.

At the time I’m writing this, active dis- and misinformation campaigns from a variety of sources are hoping to influence the public in multiple countries to change their votes or behaviors with “stories” about the elections, the global pandemic, civil rights, race relations, protest voting, and other topics. These campaigns are using technology to inexpensively spread their messages, often through unwitting social media consumers, if not through individuals easily converted to new causes online. Meanwhile, a major social media platform is being criticized for secretly changing its algorithms to favor right-wing figureheads have been chummy with the company’s CEO. The manipulation had measurable, real financial impacts on sidelined news organizations, though the changes were hotly denied at the time. (You can read more here in Clara Jeffries’ Twitter Thread on this topic , which has some great links to other resources on this story.) There is no obvious path in this development to hold this platform accountable for its actions, or to keep it from giving resources to bad actors to spread misinformation.

There are companies using technology you enjoy to change your behavior, and the strange discomfort you feel about what you’ve shared with them (and their business partners, seen and unseen) is based on real concerns.

Issue 54 isn’t a compilation of the single-breach/oversight articles you’ve already read. This thoughtful collection of essays spans the technical AND the philosophical: the embrace of daily life surveillance by both “free” capitalist societies AND repressive regimes; the way data is used to maintain existing power structures, so majority communities tolerate surveillance at the expense of law-abiding minorities whose efforts for social justice are violently repressed; how individuals receiving any social services are forced to give up data about their families that the wealthy can keep to themselves; and what could happen if we reframe privacy from an individual choice to a community-wide asset, whether information is demanded by government authorities or corporate entities selling our data for profit.

This collection is SO THOUGHTFUL. In a world where people are programming their own biases into AI, it’s also quite urgent. I recommend this collection with great enthusiasm – and concern about where we think we’re going, versus where we actually seem to be going.

Life: I VOTED! And I’ve encouraged others to vote!

I am always delighted to get a sticker. ALWAYS.

I completed my four sheet, multi-sided ballot!

I reviewed and/or had enough information to recycle my 340+ pages of official voter guides! (I have now also recycled all of the election propaganda that came in the mail!)

I sent letters to 30 infrequent voters, encouraging them to vote through the auspices of Vote Forward!

Vote Forward

Vote Forward volunteers send heartfelt handwritten letters to unregistered and low-propensity voters encouraging them to participate in our democracy. The letters have been shown to significantly boost voter turnout.

I previously made small donations this year to 15 different candidates running for office (all of whom happen to be pro-choice women!), and bigger donations to excellent organizations like Fair Fight, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, EMILY’s List, and ActBlue’s get out the vote drive. I give monthly to the ACLU, who have been fighting in court for voting rights on multiple fronts and for many groups.

Home | Fair Fight

Fair Fight is a national voting rights organization rooted in Georgia. Join our fight for free and fair elections today!

Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Take Action!

EMILY’s List

EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, has raised over $600 million to elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates. With a grassroots community of over five million members, EMILY’s List helps Democratic women win competitive campaigns – across the country and up and down the ballot – by recruiting and training candidates, supporting strong campaigns, researching the issues that impact women and families, and turning out women voters to the polls.

American Civil Liberties Union

Fighting Racism. Reimagining Policing. When the Constitution was written, “We the People” did not mean all of us. Slavery created a legacy of oppression for Black people that is woven into our institutions today – from education and health care to the criminal legal system.

I’m acting like U.S. democracy depends upon this election, because… it does.

Book: Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianism, Volume One from McSweeney’s Books

Link to SBAET, Volume One at the McSweeney’s Store

Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitariansim, Volume One
from McSweeney’s Books and 22 contributors
published by McSweeney’s Publishing

This compact collection of heartfelt essays was compiled after the first year of DT’s presidency. Each essay concisely (in as few as two pages!) reflects the individual inspiration to vote of a range of writers, poets, and journalists.

Their inspirations and concerns are diversely progressive: calls for kindness, democracy over fascism, the potential of refugees and immigrants to achieve their dreams, the injustice of war, the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ liberation, the reclamation of language, the climate crisis, science, and more.

I used to think of collections like this as merely ‘preaching to the choir,’ but I now appreciate the sense of community and thoughtfulness they provide in a landscape in which perhaps 40% of the country believes in conspiracy theories and white supremacy.

(I was certain I have Volume Two, but it is small enough to be hiding in any number of caches of books around my home… If I can find it, I’m sure I’ll find some solace in it.)

A subtext to the essays, delivered directly or implied : DO YOUR PART TO MOVE US FORWARD. Real change won’t happen without you!

Culture: National Novel Writing Month is nearly here

Someone made the mistake of saying they needed a hobby, and so I zealously promoted NaNoWriMo to them. Because: IT IS GREAT!

Do you want to write a first draft of a novel? In a month? As part of a socially-connected online community, with abundant daily encouragement? OF COURSE YOU DO!


Yaaay, novel-writing!

I have four novellas from successful past NaNoWriMos, and while I’m trying to turn my attention to making photography books now, I’m still a zealot for sharing great experiences. Participating in, and successfully completing, a 50,000 word novel/la in a month is a GREAT experience!

It’s also surprising low pressure. When I was participating, the idea was that your first novel isn’t going to be your best, so let’s just get it done and out of the way without agonizing over it!

Also, 50,000 words divided over a 30 day month is just 1,667 words a day! You probably TEXT that (emoji aside)!

And the bragging rights! DO IT FOR THE BRAGGING RIGHTS!

I heartily recommend NaNoWriMo. Do it!

Words: Handmaid

There is some extremist judge being considered for the U.S. Supreme Court (again), and she’s in a spin-off religious sect that once bestowed the title of handmaid upon her. (AP)

This evoked the famous Margaret Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (, and so there were some awkward news flurries about how HER faith group was NOT the inspiration for THAT story.

There was even a grumpy denial from the U.S. Senate Majority “Leader” ( in which he said, among other things, that the term was being used pejoratively, “because one liberal author put it in the title of an anti-religious novel in the 1980s…”

I’m in a religion, and I did not think the Handmaid’s Tale was anti-religious in any way… because I don’t naturally associate the oppression of women, including treating women as property, forcing women to conceive children with men not of their choosing, or restricting other basic human rights with religious values. You’d have to be part of a religion with a similarly oppressive belief system to see that horrifically dystopian novel as an insult to your— oh. OH.

News: 8 Million US COVID-19 Cases

From, of course

What is concerning is not just the numbers, but the cases that go on and on, where people don’t fully recover for months. We need to look after those people, too – long term. And, as a country without a coherent health system, we would need to do things differently to handle that.

A conventional news story on the topic from the UK:

Long Covid: what we know so far

At the start of the pandemic we were told that Covid-19 was a respiratory illness from which most people would recover within two or three weeks, but it’s increasingly clear that there may be tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands, who have been left experiencing symptoms months after becoming infected.

Sometimes, it is very difficult to live in a country that is opposed to joint solutions to problems… literally difficult to preserve one’s own life, or the lives of others!