Springing Forward

Nowtopia is back from the printer! You can now order copies here, and you can visit the website I put together for it here. I have an ambitious calendar of appearances scheduled already too, so I hope to see everyone out there somewhere! Big opening party at CounterPULSE April 9, 7:30 p.m.

Obviously I’m behind on blogging these days. My birthday passed last week, and I had the pleasure of discovering that I share a birthday with John Ross. John threw a septugenarian poetry slam at Cafe La Boheme at 24th and Mission a week ago. Here he is early in the proceedings:

He writes semi-regularly for the SF Bay Guardian and Counterpunch, and has a manuscript looking for a publisher about Iraq, where he went at the start of the current war to act as a human shield in Mosul. He just sent out a short piece about that, so if you want to get on his email list write him. I interviewed John a year ago about his late 1960s/early 1970s experience with the Mission Tenants Union and the Mission Coalition Organization, incredibly important episodes in San Francisco history that are largely forgotten… hope to get the clips up on the Shaping SF archive collection soon.

History jumps out at me from my rides and walks around the city. Here’s a piece of public art gracing the MUNI “barn” at Presidio and Post, a nice 30s aesthetic:

Up on Potrero Hill where I was strolling last weekend, spring has sprung, but I was also surprised to find this memorial stencil on 19th near Vermont Street, a most unlikely place for such a thing:

Some folks I know put a lot of hope into Bhutto’s return to the fray in Pakistani democracy, but as usual, I didn’t think it was such a big deal. Her martyrdom is sad–she was apparently an interesting person who had once had quite a joie de vivre, but she must have known her odds of surviving were pretty darn low. Tariq Ali, who was both her friend and a fierce critic, wrote several good pieces about her, here’s one.

Here’s a couple of spring flower shots for all you far-away friends and family yearning for San Francisco at its best:

The ceanothus go crazy at the beginning of spring. Here’s one on the slope below McKinley Square on Potrero Hill with such an intense blue-purple color, I don’t think the photo can quite capture it.

Continuing a bit with photos of beautiful San Francisco, here’s a shot from Liberty Hill, 21st and Sanchez, looking north/northeast…

Some friends got together for a typically odd San Franciscan Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, staging a “Librarian Rampage”… ‘naughty librarians’ invaded a succession of bars before placing strangely notated index cards in books by Freud and staging an erotic reading at the Gay and Lesbian room in the Main Library… here’s a couple of shots of them in the Tenderloin before they made it to their destination:

Of course the Obama story continues, as it will for months and maybe years more. I think I said in an earlier post that I’d prefer him over the rest of the field, mostly just because he represents a stylistic and oratorical leap from what we’ve been stuck with for all these years. There’s been some good work done on the phenomenon, firstly by Matt Gonzalez who took the time to carefully analyze Obama’s voting record and political behavior over the past few years. Darryl Pinckney in the NY Review of Books had a really interesting piece looking back at Obama’s political life, situating him in his historic period very intelligently. It is detailed look at Obama’s various writings, episodes in his life that were politically formative, something of an argument with Shelby Steele’s “thin and unhappy meditation” on how Obama can’t win, and finally sees Obama as an American successor to Nelson Mandela insofar as he is pitching his candidacy to the deep yearning for sincerity, truth, justice, and real progress on overcoming a racist society.

Many people I know are caught up to varying degrees in this yearning, and it’s understandable, but sadly familiar. Every four years some version of this untethered fantasy arises, perhaps not “just like” the ones people are having now about Obama, but similar in that a politician brings forth submerged desires for engagement, for meaning, for finally moving forward to address real issues facing our lives.

I’m always mystified as to why this works. Why do people still imagine that a bought-and-paid-for politician who can ONLY be where he or she is thanks to the largesse and backing of the real ruling class beneficiaries of this deeply unjust society, will on election turn out to be a socialist, or even just an honest person who tries to meet other needs than that of the accumulators of capital? I can allow myself a glimmer of optimism that someone like Obama may take advantage of a collapsing global economic order to instigate a series of reforms that begin to throttle untrammeled, savage capitalism. But he’ll be in no position to do anything of the sort without a general failure of the existing ruling class consensus (we can hope that this is well underway!), and a real fear of general uprisings against their power. All in all, kind of far-fetched, eh?

A local artist took the time to satirize the GIANT brand with this Obama poster… but considering the apolitical nature of the original GIANT, perhaps it’s an actual comment on the emptiness of the Obama juggernaut?… I’d like to think so!

Well, outside of the U.S. a different kind of politics, a wholly different order of philosophical depth and political awareness, manages to carry on… I’m going to Italy at the end of May again, and am excited to be presenting my book to several forums in Milan and Rome, including the folks promoting the Euromayday festivities in Aachen when French president Sarkozy and German chancellor Merkel get together to give each other an empty award…

I’d go, but I’ll be in DC on May 1, and travelling around the U.S. east coast until May 21 when I fly over…

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