Making zines

I made a small zine in December wanting to have a positive and creative response to the horrible elections. This is meant to be a series of zines called THIS IS IMPORTANT with essays, poetry, or whatever strikes my fancy, through Burn This Press.

this is important cover

The first one is Taking Back the Narrative by Andrea Hairston, based on her blog post on the Aqueduct Press blog. It has a beautifully inspiring list of creative precepts which I made sure would fall across the center pages. It is laid out and printed as a single page, landscape, 4 up, double sided. You can download it as a pdf and print your own copy from the Burn This Press site.

While again I am not super super satisfied with the way these came out, I like to get something out there quickly – cheap & fast and reproducible. #2 in the series is called Ida at the March, about the 1913 women’s march in DC and the stories around Ida B. Wells, and black women at the march in general. It is a short story of exploring the (easily) available stories and a suggestion to always look for more depth – or at least extrapolate more depth — in historical snippets than you see at first glance. Again not ideal especially in layout but I may reprint it with a better illustration of Wells & put it on the front cover.

This was originally a tiny, tiny zine with fragments of information which was meant to be a sequel to my minizine from a couple of years ago, Heterodoxy to Marie. But I had more to say on the subject than could fit in that format.

#3 of THIS IS IMPORTANT…. could be by you! Send me your ideas! What would be good as an ephemeral physical object, one that can fit into a pocket? An essay, a rant, poetry, all of it mixed up. Art also very useful and welcome. Let me know if you have something or want to write something for a small or mini zine format.

I want to play with format & size & production a bit rather than doing the small square size (4.25 x 4.25) for the earlier poem books from Burn This Press.

My other goal is to make all the zines downloadable so people can print them, cut, fold, and staple and so the zine backlist will stick around beyond my energy to produce & distribute objects.

The original THIS IS IMPORTANT zine was a series over many years by F.A. Nettelbeck.

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Fun Days in Bernal Heights

Today I’m feeling deep appreciation for our sweet neighborhood in Bernal Heights. I spent the morning writing a book review in Pinhole Coffee, chatting with people sometimes and feeling thankful for JoEllen’s lovely cafe which gives such a good space for local community.

On the way home I ran into Frank from Good Life (we always say hello) and then Mike from Progressive Grounds who was blasting his friend’s band playing a cover of Minor Threat song from his bicycle.

Between the time I left and the time I came back, someone took half the books from our Little Free Bookshelf – leaving one of the guidebooks to Paris and the Penguin copy of Moby Dick. (Glorified name for what is just a wooden wine box on end, under the porch awning. It’s fun when other people leave books there, and I often read them and put them out again.)

I picked up some trash from the sidewalk and put it into the bin under our sidewalk bench made of stumps and a board. Someone sat there last night and had take out food and a cigarette. Someone else often comes and drinks a glass bottle of Squirt there, leaving the bottle… I wonder who it is, and I like them for having a habit, secretly visible to me though I never see them, only their distinctive bottles.

Running into Marc from Unicorn Precinct and having a rambly, jumping, lightning speed conversation about books and poems. He was reading Daniel Borzutzky and I felt like I recognized him (from ALTA conferences?) I told Marc about the neobaroque movement and he talked about his children’s play “Factory Full of Weasels”. Danny critiqued his copy of Jacobin magazine a bit (it has nice layout tho) and we both excitedly tried to explain the weird awfulness of “Politics and Apocalypse”. (Shudder.)

Down the street doing a quick errand I was chatting with El Ahorro owner and family as they are opening a sandwich shop in the back of the store – already a great neighborhood store.

Friends who live close by, coming over this afternoon for end of the year tea and black eyed peas.

The guy a few houses down must still be on vacation, his perpetual barbershop-and-garage-sale still closed for the holidays.

Next week I’ll go to the two free tai chi classes, one at the library, one at the senior center, a new habit in the making which will bring new acquaintances I’ve likely seen around the neighborhood.

It’s nice to live somewhere for years, to see the same people every day, in my usual haunts, feeling just a little connection to others, the opposite of isolated, knowing the usual ways the fog and afternoon wind rolls in and out through the gap in the hills, kind of like how we were aware of the tide when we lived on the houseboat in Pete’s Harbor.

[photo: a tiny zine called Fun Days in Bernal Heights, by the downtown zine kiosk owner]

Bernal zine

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An exciting non-event

An exciting event for me but hardly noticeable to anyone else: I not only went to my sister’s house yesterday and managed all the stairs multiple times, but I bravely walked across the street, across a parking lot, then down half a block to a restaurant. So, this is the first time in years I managed to walk on my feet from a place to a different place. Despite the stairs, this was easier at my sister’s house than at me and Danny’s house, because our place is on a steep hill. My knees and ankles are really feeling it now and I am going to ice them a few times today and do gentle stretches but nothing challenging.

I’m going to try doing this again on Wednesday and Thursday if I’m up to it, since we’ll be there again. I would like to work up to walking a block down the hill to Mission from our house, then across the street to one of the restaurants there. If I can do a block and a half on the flat, it seems possible.

Me in lauras garden in leather vest

As I ambled ginglerly across the uneven parking lot I was overwhelmed with a feeling of excitement and vulnerability. Only Danny really understand this. It’s not something I can expect and I can’t be too disappointed if I work up to it (again… for the millionth time) and then can’t keep it going. It is also very limiting even as it’s freeing. I feel free of the slight encumberment and clumsiness of my lovely cyborg exoskeleton. But since I can only go about 1 block, I am limited in what I can do, there’s no casual going a couple of blocks extra or doing errands, I’d have to painfully walk home, get my scooter, and go out again. So if I venture forth on foot, I lose sponteneity and range as well as it being more painful.

Still it has its own special excitement. How wild it would be to show up at the bakery by my house or the nice cafe, strangely unmarked, and order my pastry, several layers of other people’s fuss, emotional reactions, expectations, pity, panic, dislike, mistrust, or hostility, just removed from my day like MAGIC…. as a special and temporary treat. It is truly like going through a portal into a different universe. Of course with my perspective of living in my own universe for many years I don’t respect the deceptive ease of Unmarked Land. Naturally I will still be leaning on my cane and limping so it is not as unmarked as all that. Miles, universes different though.

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Solidarity picnic

This summer I went to a picnic in support of Bassel Khartabil, an open source software developer and volunteer who was detained in 2012 in Syria. Over the past years people have done all sorts of activism to keep his case public, holding Wikipedia editing parties, tweeting with #FreeBassel hashtag, writing letters, publishing books, and doing slightly weirder things like passing out masks of his face and bringing life size cardboard cutouts of him to tech conferences.

No one knows if he’s alive or dead and of course many other people are not only in prison in Syria but are surviving or dying in a horrifying war. I felt a bit odd about going to a picnic in Bassel’s honor. It comes down on some level to wanting to assert that we are part of the same cultural and political movement; Free/Libre Open Source Software, open culture, hackerspaces, access to technology and the means to speak and publish and share information.

I read Bassel: Behind the Screens of the Syrian Resistance and Waiting by Noura Ghazi Safadi. You can see early on when Bassel was detained, the EFF and the Mozilla Foundation, Creative Commons, and other organizations spoke up strongly calling for his release. Those efforts continued – Read the story of Bassel Khartabil, Syrian prisoner who lives and risks dying for a free Internet but last year in 2015 was the last anyone heard of him as he was transferred from one prison to possibly a military field camp.

Free bassel picnic2

So there we are in Dolores Park, feeling surreal, next to a big cardboard cutout of Bassel. We’re lying in the sun on a picnic blanket and lawn chairs watching people play frisbee and catching Pokémon, sharing delicious fruit and cookies, passing around a copy of The Cost of Freedom, an anthology by people working to help free Bassel. We ended up talking about our own work and our beliefs. I took notes as we all had neat ideas, but can’t find them now as I’m several notebooks past the summer by now. I do remember really enjoying talking with Mahmoud about his HatNote projects, like Weeklypedia and the strangely hypnotic Listen to Wikipedia.

Afterwards Niki sent round a play: A Picnic for Bassel in Three Acts. It gets a little bit of the flavor of that day, the intensity of our conversations, and the cognitive dissonance of being at a lovely picnic with friends while thinking to the horrors of repression, imprisonment, and war. It is really lovely to read and heartens me today.

DAKE: I see what you’re saying, but there is a human side to it too that you seem to be forgetting. Cause besides tweets that are headlines for articles that one might not read, there is also the tweet by itself as a piece of evidence, a storytelling tool, in journalism itself. And of course the author of the tweet, a person, with a life. And when someone becomes the person who is relied on for tweets about a certain topic, or about a current event, it can take quite a toll on them. Sometimes these people are located outside the geographic space in which a story, usually a conflict, is occurring, yet they become central information conduits regarding it. But they are less “on the ground” in it than they are adept in collecting, aggregating, and sharing information that is found online about it. Not only does erode the quality of stories, as journalists look to tweets about something rather than directly investigating the story by talking to the people involved in it, but it can also cause some trauma to the person who is “the conduit,” as people come to rely on them to provide information which they are themselves quite removed from.

ENBE: And then there are the “conduits” like Bassel who were actually on the ground and sharing information about what was actually happening, and who put themselves at great risk to share it. How can we better protect these people, both now and going forward, to help people not be arrested, and help those who, like Bassel, unfortunately have been?

DAKE: That is a tricky question because at least as far as the traditional ethics in journalism go, you only need to protect your sources if they ask you to, if they only agree to disclose what they do on condition of anonymity. But if the source is public there is no need to protect them.

LIRA: But that is based on older systems of sharing information, where the idea of a source being public, the very idea of a public, was very different. Fewer people could be public, in the sense of having access to an audience of strangers.

. . .

SAKI: Not so fast, buddy! A platform like this cannot be too easy to use so that people don’t consider the risks they are taking by using it. Think about situations like Bassel’s, before he was arrested, and in many ways why he was arrested. People who appoint themselves to a story that their country does not want to be told. And not just the story, but the tools to follow and tell a story, any story, and participate in the global, storytelling knowledge machine that shapes much of the Internet.

And that made him a threat to and target for his government. Because it is one thing to have a lot of followers, and be threatening because of your access to an eager audience, in a large scale, whose collective actions could be too easily choreographed in way that the ruling powers do not like. But it is another to also be an advocate for learning and open discussion, and well respected within international organizations dedicated to the same. Cause it is not just about stopping the flow of information that is transmitted through a person, it is about stopping the machinery that they are helping to build, the influence a person has on the way that people think, the infectious freedom of curiosity, debate, and optimistic discussion.

I recommend the entire strategy for activists. Have a picnic, have tea, invite people to discussions on a small scale and then go deep. Please, also enjoy yourselves and celebrate life while doing so. It is important to appreciate these moments of peace and happiness without closing our eyes to harsher realities.

Free bassel picnicsf

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Inciting to protest

It’s hard to know how to describe how this looks to me, but I have read a fair amount of history and I don’t think it will go well here.

The President-Elect’s tweet today: “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

Protesters incited

I’ve been a blogger for over 10 years, and as part of the media, I’d like to incite you all to protest anything you please, since that is a fundamental part of our rights in this country. Protest is an incredibly important way that we can drive political change. I believe in protest, and also in the power of civil disobedience. Not just laws but obviously, the principles behind creating laws are worth defending, and discussing, and protesting.

Maybe a more fair way to do things for the President-Elect would be for him to appoint an oversight board to tell the media what they can publish and also making not only protest but suggesting protest or covering protests as news into a federal crime. I can’t think where we have seen this idea before, maybe in various dictatorships over the years.

Failing that, maybe someone could tip off the President-Elect about the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States including our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. There is a nice explanation of it on some useful government web sites. Have a look!

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the United States Congress from enacting legislation that would abridge the right of the people to assemble peaceably. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes this prohibition applicable to state governments”

So, anyway, sarcasm aside, looks like they gave the President-Elect his Twitter account back.

I am so proud of the protestors and especially of the San Francisco students who walked out of class and marched today in protest.

“More than 1,000 students left campuses across the city and marched toward Civic Center Plaza, according to the San Francisco Unified School District.”

I look forward to more protests, teach-ins and consciousness raising and whatever activism and political action comes from the protests.

I also look forward to reading and writing about the work of excellent journalists who will never be silenced . . .

4th of July parade ACLU

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Loud music can help

Turned to 80s punk rock for comfort this morning. It’s funny I forgot how much I liked The Crucifucks. Not worrying about getting this perfect and it degenerates after the first half.

What I like, at least in this mood, is a fast pace, crisp bass, some rhythmic change or chaos, fuzzy noises, screaming obnoxiousness, either a quick sharp opening or a buildup that is worth it, and for a song to be under 2 minutes since I have a short attention span. Feeling grateful and happy this morning for punk’s existence and the great shows I used to go to in Texas. Enjoy!

The playlist so far:

No Class - Reagan Youth
Earth By Invitation Only - The Crucifucks
Hate - Red Aunts
Bourgeois Fascist Pig - Dicks
You're a Jerk - Wasted Youth
No Fucking War - 7 Year Bitch
Authority - Big Boys
Fuck Authority - Wasted Youth
We Rule and You Don't - Adolescents
We Know You Suck - JFA
World War III - T.S.O.L.
The Ugly American - Big Black
Parade of the Horribles - Circle Jerks
Patriot Asshole - MDC
Nervous Breakdown - Black Flag
World Up My Ass - Circle Jerks
I Can't Believe - Big Black
People Hate Me - Tribe 8
Anti-Klan - Dicks
Washington - The Crucifucks
Right Wing/ White Ring - Dicks
Eve of Destruction - The Dickies
The Leader Is Burning - Pocket FishRmen
John Wayne Was a Nazi - MDC
California Uber Alles - Dead Kennedys (the classics)
Democracy - Adolescents
Another Shot of Whiskey - The Gits

The list goes on from there, but in a disorganized way (the leftovers from constructing the first half).

I really love music and carefully cultivate playlists for various moods and genres. Maybe I’ll write about it more, and that way people will give me fabulous recommendations for more music that I’d like.

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Ridiculously meta fanfiction: Barsetshire and Madame Koska

In the last few weeks in my way of consuming books relentlessly when I can’t sleep and am feeling stressed, I’ve been reading all possible Angela Thirkell books that I could find in e-book format. They’re a ridiculous series written and set after World War I in England in Trollope’s fictional Barsetshire. The class politics are terrible and interesting and they’re a bit like reading a more complex Agatha Christie novel without the mystery solving. It’s always interesting to see how a novelist treats writing about the same group of people over time – these books would be perfect for the long intersecting arcs of a long-running tv series.

I finally hit the book “Peace Breaks Out” and felt surfeited of fancy-ass people with vaguely Trollopean names bemoaning the nastiness of their rationed food and the fact that sometimes they have to clean up after themselves. Definitely found myself muttering and cussing them all out, and hating the obvious arcs of the mawkish love stories past a certain point.

But then in the suggested next books, I noticed some mystery books starring Madame Koska – who was the detective in the books written by a fictional novelist, one of the nicest characters in Thirkell’s series, Laura Morland. Mrs. Morland writes trashy detective novels to support herself and her four sons and their household (ie their servants). It’s a running joke how while she is self-deprecating, everyone she meets gushes about how much they love Madame Koska’s exciting world of fashion design.

Perfect…. completely meta-trashy…. the meta has gone 2 levels deep as Thirkell was more or less writing Trollope fanfiction and then the Koska author is writing fanfic of the fanfic. I have just started Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch – it’s extremely fun and silly.

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From my nephew’s school in Oakland

Here’s a letter my sister got today from my 9 year old nephew’s school. It is very sweet and I’m glad the school is taking this role and giving the kids a safe space to discuss the election results and take some action.

Dear Families,

I wanted to write and let you know how things are going for your children here on campus today. As you might imagine, they have spent some time in their classrooms sharing feelings, writing in journals and discussing what they know about the election and the results. Teachers are acknowledging feelings and discussions are age appropriate. In some classes, children are learning more about the electoral process, about how laws are made and changed, and talking again about issues related to the presidential election and how local issues get on our ballot. Our voices matter, and their voices matter. Children take their cues from us adults, and so our focus is on our shared values in our classrooms and our school, our mission, and on standing up for what we believe in.

Toward that end, students and teachers have decided to organize on the sidewalk in front of the gates on XX street at 1:00. We’ll be away from the street and students will be well supervised in their class groups with their teachers. The idea came from students and teachers alike. We will stand with signs made by students, in their own words about our values as a school and wider Oakland community. A few samples are friendship, love, kindness, staying positive, equality, respect, education, heath care, marriage equality and the MOSAIC values of open-mindedness, community, mutual respect. Kelly will also lead us in a little singing. We expect to be outside for about 15-20 minutes if you want to join us. Students are also having a regular school day, playing outside together, and working on all of their usual projects.

The middle school students organized a march in the community and around campus with their teachers, which was well received and very energizing. Our kids are feeling more empowered, and ready to work even harder for understanding and justice.

Here are my nephew’s signs, reading “Community”, “Love others”, and “Make peace around the U.S.A.”. I’m very proud of him.

handmade signs community love others make peace

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Today’s small political actions

Today I am reaching out to my friends through chat and email, both hackerspaces I’m connected with (Noisebridge and Double Union), our various women in tech organizations, and in person. I woke up this morning (from my grief and disassociation last night) with staunch, fierce determination full of energy and fire and ideas.

I read through the President-Elect’s 100 day plan. Have a look. It’s quite scary. For instance how many people do you know who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, or who have it through their marriages to same sex partners — here we have a direct threat to their family health. Also deeply on my mind – what will happen with Sanctuary cities?

My friend hazelbroom and I met for coffee and discussed our lives, what we do to support others, what support we need, what we can change, what structurally we might be able to affect. A lot of my ideas are around mutual aid networks. How can we create them and make them sustainable? But here is a brief outline: better self care, mutual support for activists, support for others in our communities and beyond, political engagement with whatever politicians represent us. We try to move beyond a charity model and it is often not greatly successful.

For me, I have good mutual support with several friends for example I am around to help out if a friend is down on their luck and needs help with a medical bill, or getting a ride, or groceries during an illness, or wrapping your mind around a complicated legal or bureaucratic situation — and many friends have helped and visited me when I’ve been in difficulties. In those situations, boundaries are hard to negotiate and maintain – hard to even articulate. Learning to have that kind of conversation is likely part of the work we need to do. Hazelbroom pointed out that as queer folks we have more practice than many others with that kind of “chosen family” bond. Those bonds are something more like quasi-cousins, loose partnerships for emotional and economic support. I have many ideas here, and will be writing about them over the coming days and weeks.

Our first practical action was to leave the cafe and go a few blocks down the street to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. We signed up as volunteers and got some information from them and talked to Executive Director Gina Dacus, who super nicely took the time to give us an outline of what the BHNC does. I knew already they provide a lot of the low income housing support of our neighborhood and there is some sort of senior center. I found to my happy surprise that the senior services and classes are “senior and disabled” which means : Free senior/arthritis tai chi classes for me just a few blocks away, JUST what I need and have been wishing for!

We described some of our skills for Gina (Hazelbroom: she is an RN, so can give flu shots and that sort of thing! Me: some thoughts on helping with informational discussions of wheelchairs and scooters.) I am donating to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center right now, online. Our next step is to pull in our local friends and neighbors (including all our energetic, healthy teenage children) to show up to the community engagement meeting, and listen to see if we get any immediate ideas where we might be needed and we can be helpful.

Another next step, I am donating immediately to CARECEN SF, picked a bit randomly out of a list of community organizations in my neighborhood of Bernal Heights-Mission.

colorful mural at 26th and mission

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What we’ll do

One thing that was starting to dawn on me: we would see a wave of women speaking up, more than ever, which would change things in ways we couldn’t predict. The heartfelt stories suddenly popping up on “Pantsuit Nation” felt like early blogging days over again but expanded further out to a new group. Stories of past abuse or injustice, large or small incidents as women thought about their lives, their mothers and grandmothers and daughters. Despite the ways the political status quo supports already privileged white women I started to feel that a little bit more of a cultural shift was about to happen in this country with Clinton’s election. I really love diaries and the history of women’s writing. In this context for me it is touching and sad to see how difficult it is for women even now to participate in public intellectual life. So often the pattern is that women of color blaze the trail and fall hard under attack while a lot of white women professionalize up and get a dribble of token jobs.

My hope is that we will fight harder against that process and women will keep on writing and being outspoken – not in the way it might have unfolded, but as a point of resistance and awakening under whatever is about to happen (which I dread.)

Even the most privileged women don’t manage to tell their stories or truth in public (or mobilize and organize, which is what comes next) maybe in some cases because they have a fair amount to lose and are invested in the status quo. Beyond that personal investment and co-optatation we should also be aware that culture and politics can change quickly. We can’t know what aspects of our life will condemn us in the future (for example, being a landlord in some political climates has meant heavy political oppression for generations.) Early blogging or any frank public writing leaves us even more vulnerable on a political level than we might fear in our personal lives or from being trolled online.

Also I thought that Samantha Bee thing about Clinton’s life clamping down on herself and trying to mold herself into what was required by The Patriarchy was the most depressing thing ever and I felt glad I have at least some remnant of punk rock in my soul. Man that was awful. Nope nope nope. She took a pragmatic road but what a road to hell. Glad I am not a politician right now.

This is just to say that this can be a point of resistance. Maybe that is comforting – kind of like, well, So what. Keep on being out there if that’s a way you want to risk yourself. It can be small and personal but it has a real world effect. Maybe the women who began to open up in that “private” Facebook group will find ways to keep on doing something like that. I respect the ways that people find to keep themselves and their families safe. But it’s also important that we keep speaking up as much as possible. For myself I’m thinking that I stand by my own years of public writing and always will. Everyone please blog harder and poet harder, if that’s what you do.

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