I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.
I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. …
But this much I know: nothing will ever be like this again, which is why it has been so precious; and why it will always be a part of me, wherever I go; and why it is so hard to finish this sentence and publish this post.
Today in labor history, January 28, 1917: 17-year old house cleaner Carmelita Torres leads what will become known as the “Bath Riots” at the Juarez/El Paso border, refusing the gasoline and chemical “bath” imposed on Mexican workers crossing the border into the U.S. Torres and 30 other women resisted and several hundred people quickly joined in the demonstration. Troops eventually quelled the riot and Torres was arrested. The practice continued for decades. [Photo: Mexican laborers being fumigated with the pesticide DDT in Hidalgo, Texas, in 1956.]
Carmelita Torres was A 17 year old housekeeper who resisted the humiliating mistreatment faced by migrant workers during one of her crossings. She convinced 30 other women to refuse being stripped and doused with gasoline and by that afternoon hundreds had joined them in protest.
Mexican women were at the forefront of the bath riots. Remember that!
The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University has released its first Arts Vibrancy Index, a report that ranks the cultural vibrancy of communities across the country. The index measures vibrancy in terms of “supply, demand, and government support for arts and culture” per capita, according to the press releaseissued by the NCAR. The number of artists and artistic organizations in a community, the amount of nonprofit funding available for cultural events, and the value of state and federal grants for the arts are all relevant factors. The index is comprehensive, providing a ranked score for each county in the US and an interactive “heat map” depicting the greatest concentrations of art in the country.
A point I am making in my dissertation, informed by the work of Indigenous legal theorists like John Borrows, Kahente Horn-Miller, Tracey Lindberg, and Val Napoleon, is that Indigenous thought is not just about social relations and philosophical anecdotes, as many an ethnography would suggest. These scholars have already shown that Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies represents legal orders, legal orders through which Indigenous peoples throughout the world are fighting for self-determination, sovereignty. The dispossession wrought by centuries of stop-start chaotic colonial invasion and imposition of European laws and languages is ongoing. It did not end with repatriation of constitutions or independence from colonial rule. Europe is still implicated in what it wrought through centuries of colonial exploitation. Whether it likes it or not.
War rugs are now starting to feature Reaper and Predator drones in their motifs.
An eye-popping parable about the benefits of automation: 200 years ago, it took 479 hours worth of labor to make a shirt (spinning, weaving, sewing), or $3,472.75 at $7.25/hour.
It’s one thing to heart that the automatic loom brought about a huge economic boom, it’s another thing to contemplate just how difficult material objects were to produce before industrialisation. As we contemplate a future where all the dividends of automation accrue to investors, rather than being divided with laborers (instead of higher wages for increased productivity, workers are laid off, deskilled and made increasingly interchangeable as the productivity gains are diverted to dividends), it’s worth pondering which of today’s labor-intensive goods will be “too cheap to meter” by technological change, and what will happen to our wealth distribution as a result.
This is also an important part of understanding Cost Disease. When the cost of goods drops sharply due to automation, the cost of services becomes increasingly high. A wage that would buy the labor embodied in a shirt 200 years ago will buy enough labor to make 100 shirts today. However, the number of hours it takes to teach calculus, play a symphony, or palpate a swollen gland has remained largely constant over that period. That means that the cost of health care and education will rise whenever the cost of manufacturing falls — not because health care is getting more expensive, but because everything else is getting cheaper.
I think that we need to reframe the language away from “cost disease” to better speak about the value and dignity of human-to-human interaction.
In this video, Richard Brody discusses François Truffaut’s 1966 film “Fahrenheit 451”:
As a futuristic science-fiction film, the project opens the door to abstractions—visual as well as intellectual—that had been remote from Truffaut’s earlier films. Critics and viewers didn’t forgive him for surprising them; the film remains audaciously surprising even now.