Day: February 27, 2017

Future Utopias

We’re nearing the end of 2017’s black history month, so why not simultaneously look backwards AND forward by reading a marvelous essay by SF author Phenderson Djèlí Clark about early African-American utopian speculative fiction and the ways it tried to help readers and authors process and move forward from historic racial trauma?

I am particularly intrigued by Clark’s description of a serial which Pauline Hopkins wrote and published in 1902-03, Of One Blood; Or, The Hidden Self:

“Raised on the racism so pervasive in America, Briggs has come to believe in his own inferiority and has little concern of the black past. This changes when he travels to Ethiopia and finds the lost 6000 year old ancient city of Telessar, which uses futurist technology based on crystals, suspended animation and a means of telepathy.”

Sounds pretty great.


Haircut Threat Level

More ambiguous than defcon levels, and simultaneously not: Today I got mad enough at work that I cut off my hair during lunch break.

It was not a full Empire Records shaved head, so there is clearly cause for optimism.

It’s more Vidal Sassoon, official hairstyle for fighting fascists.

But also kind of Jed in The Night Manager, because my hair is my hair and therefore swoopy on its own agenda. That’s less semiotically ideal, but anyway it looks good. I’d take a picture, but it’s dark in here. Use your imagination.

Caroline says: I’m really interested in what a hairstyle for fighting fascists may look like.

Romie: Vidal Sassoon, the hairdresser who did those shiny angular bobs that were popular with mods in the 60s, was also a member of 43 Group, a secret society started by British Jewish ex-servicemen who battled fascist political orgs that tried to mobilize in England after WWII, by direct conflict and by infiltration. In my favorite story, Sassoon showed up at the salon with a black eye after a street battle and claimed he had gotten it by tripping over a hairpin.

Joseph: Didn’t Rosemary go to Vidal Sassoon?

Romie: Yes indeed. Although Mia claims that she didn’t, just the character. Which makes sense. That pixie’s not so Sassoony.

Carol Anne says: Whenever a female character cuts off her hair in a book, play, or movie, she’s about to kill herself or somebody else.

Romie: Mostly true, but occasionally she’s about to run away and form a secret identity.

Lectures are Best

The type of labor demanded in the lecture hall — and the type of community it builds — still matters. Under an economic system that works to accelerate and divide us, institutions that carve out time and space to facilitate collectivity and reflection are needed more than ever.

– “In Defense of the Lecture” by Miya Tokumitsu in Jacobin

I love lectures. I have always loved lectures.

With the exception of labs and rehearsals, I can’t think of anything terribly useful I’ve ever learned in a non-lecture class. (Yeah, I’ve learned stuff reading books or doing projects, but that’s essentially independent study with occasional consultations and evaluations – not a class, per se.) Even with the labs, I’m stretching it, because I really just confirmed what I already knew from lectures. They were more like quizzes than classes.

Critically, I would always prefer a lecture by an expert to a small-group discussion with my peers. I mean good lord I can do that on my own time with the peers whose opinions I actually care about. And I really, really don’t want to co-homework. Really don’t.

If there isn’t somebody more knowledgeable than me telling me smart stuff, what am I doing there? What am I paying for?

There is a lot I don’t understand about current university trends. Possibly I am a stick in the mud. Hopefully somewhere nearby in the mud is a lecturer.