Hello 2018

It didn’t start with a party. It didn’t start with thinking about grabbing a friend, thinking about kissing them, thinking about how to turn a room full of strangers into something fun. 

It started with family. With one sister transformed into an owl, the other casting spells left and right. A fiance, a muggle, tackling the evil witch to the ground as she summoned a dread portal. My cousin, asleep, muttering “burn them all”, while his boo throw force field after force field around to shield them all from harm. 

That’s right, I rang in the new year playing impromptu stripped-down Dungeons and Dragons (in the Harry Potter Universe) with my family for the first time. 

We had awkward flirting. Wizard speakeasies. A cigar chomping, bigoted boss who was possibly working for the wrong side of the law. A werewolf (but maybe not?) auror. Magic bakeries. Street urchins with guns. 

Loved it. 

What else did we find in 2018? 

Dad learning to selfie. Hot showers in an airbnb. Five layers of clothing. Discovering a gem of a coffeeshop in the frozen plains of astoria. So many words with friends. Romance in the air. A row of family members, all on their laptops. 

We are going to make it through this year, if it kills us. 


The Howard Zinn Book Fair

Yesterday I spend a few hours at the Howard Zinn Book Fair. It was a fascinating experience.

The first thing you notice is that the book fair is Right There. The tables are set up in a big room right next to the entrance to the college.  

The second thing you notice is your own bright-eyed, slightly glassy response to all the stimulation around you. See a friend. Talk to him? Yes, but also while browsing a table full of 1$ books on sale.

Have you heard of Bolerium Books? (Their motto: “Fighting commodity fetishism with commodity fetishism since 1981″) It’s a rare and antique book store run by a couple of communists. Mostly left wing historical pamphlets, posters, books, periodicals, etc.

I remember visiting the physical bookstore about a year ago. It felt … still. A memorial to a world gone by, a portal to understanding the stories behind the stories they teach you in history class. Rooted, as it were, in the past. The two high priests who run it a dying breed.

One might find a very different scene at the book fair. Chatting with Alexander Akin, a proprietor (and friend), I got his help rooting through his 1$ book pile. Argued about Eurocommunism with a former volunteer with the PKK, who was browsing for books on Lenin. Found a compilation of key articles from the jewish wing of the communist party of the 1950s. Exclaimed as I found another copy of Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs, perhaps the best and most exciting account of labor organizing in America I have ever found.

Then, whisked away to the Jacobin Magazine booth, I talked shop about the business of magazine publishing with Bhaskar Sukara, the founder. Spent some time learning about the history of the founding of Itsgoingdown Magazine. Picked up some more posters from the justseeds artists collective.

Not to mention all the juicy conversations I must have missed between different groups. For example: Indivisible SF had a booth across from the Democratic Socialists of America.  

I started the day with strict orders to myself that I didn’t need any new books. After all, I have a library full of ones I have yet to read, including from this very event last year.

So I only left with 10 or so.

What conclusions or observations can we take from the whole experience?

  1. The big left wing upsurge of November 2016 might be receding. Or at least isn’t compounding. There weren’t noticeably more tables this year, maybe less.
  2. The DSA presence, year of year, has vastly improved (last year, five of us on the organizing committee wandered around the book fair, this year, DSA members were running and speaking on panels).
  3. Things feel less… fringey. There were fewer tiny ultra-revolutionary sects than last year. But there was a booth from Rainbow Grocery Cooperative.

Maybe that old time religion of american radicalism isn’t dead after all. Maybe those priests keeping the flame alive will have a new generation to light a new torch off from it, after all.


How I chose my Orthodontist.

As many of you know, I have friendship cards that I like to hand out. As you might remember, on one side, they say “Let’s be friends. Every day is an adventure.”

Often, when I meet someone and give them that token of friendship, they might say “Oh, that’s so cute!”

Yes. Cute is exactly what I was going for. :-/

Adventures really do happen, folks. Let me give you two examples.

On Wednesday, I hopped on the Caltrain and went to the orthodontists in Burlingame. (It’s one of those cities south of San Francisco but still far away from Palo Alto). The dentist looked at my teeth, solemnly told me that I was indeed a candidate for Invisalign, and plopped me not a very nice room with the receptionist to talk logistics.

“Hey,” I said. “This place is kind of in the middle of nowhere for me. And I don’t have a car. What’s a way of getting enough work done here to be polite and say thank you, but get the bulk of my visits and treatment from a dentist who lives near my new pad?”

Cathy (that was her name) then launched into a quiet and impassioned speech about how great Dr. Lee is, how he really cares for his patients, how their practice charges sliding scale fees for those that can afford them, and how the old orthodontist waited years for someone worth to take over his practice.

“Okay! On the strength of your recommendation, I’m convinced!”

Cathy walks away. Comes back. “Okay, you have to go to the lab. Bad news is they’re closing in 30 minutes, and they say they’ll only take you if you show up in the next 10 minutes. I know you don’t want to make an extra trip some other day, and it’ll take too long for you to get a taxi. So here are keys to my car. Drive to the lab, get x-rays, then drive back and we’ll take molds of your teeth. It’s fully insured, so don’t worry, just go!” :-)

Story 2: I’m moving soon, and worried about how I might move all my stuff, etc. (Thanks Derek Friend, Alexander Micklewright, and Sam Peters for volunteering to help!)

There’s a team at my work who help with this sort of thing. So I asked their advice. Izzy says: “well, here’s a nonprofit that will get you movers from people who need the work.”


“But you need a truck. You can rent a uhaul here for $X. Or just borrow my pickup, man. I’ll charge a nominal fee.”

What a world. People just trust me with their cars, I suppose. I wonder why.



As I’m walking down the street in San Francisco, expertly using a different phone in each hand (one for maps, one for texting), I suddenly realize.

Oh my God. I’ve become that guy. Silicon Valley, what have you done to me!?!?!?


Sahar has Thoughts on music

Band of Horses was never my favorite band, but they are consistently great for many an occasion
Great Lake Swimmers is folky and sweet, but NOT sad. Rare combo. Their first album is great to fall asleep to.
Sufjan Stevens is the best
Cloud cult is pretty fun, but repetitive. Not amazing
Death cab for cutie is a great band if you are 16 and sad about girls
LCD Soundsystem is the best thing that libertarian capitalists ever gave the world. Two huge thumbs up
Bob Dylan songs often have great melodies. Tangled up in blue is a particular favorite. And then it so happens they they have nice lyrics too
Leonard Cohen is the thinking man’s Bob Dylan.
Of Montreal are great for walking down busy urban streets and giving yourself a spring in your step
The Velvet Undergrounds first album is phenomenal for sitting on a train going through the countryside looking out the window
The violent femmes are underrated
Gnarls Barkelry is great and every knows it, but they’re often overlooked for some reason
Robyn is the killingest pop star
Sigur Røs is great music to convince a date to kiss you for the first time
I’ve been getting into fugal I. Half their stuff is great and half is pretentious crap
The Mountaon Goats have way too much crap in their catalogue. But the good stuff is golden. Get Lonely is the best breakup album I’ve ever heard
Radiohead whatever
Daft punk yes we get it they’re amazing. Did you know they have an album length music video which is awesome? (Look up interstella 5555)
Arcade fires first two albums are the purest expression of the rage and terror of living in the early bush years
Strokes are overrated
Janelle Monae is so fun
The Decemberists stopped being interesting 8 years ago
Jeans Lekman will never be the center of anyone’s musical universe, but he’s always welcome as a nice addition
Alt-J’s breezeblocks is just catchy as hell
I can and have listened to CAKE on repeat for days.
Billy Bragg has some good stuff, and a lot of misses. His Red Flag and Internationale are killer, though
Wilco’s live album will blow the mind of moody freshmen minoring in philosophy
Hercules and Love affair had one really good song (Hercules theme) and milked that into two mediocrely albums
Justice is good for dance music if you’ve got less than five minutes to prepare before drunk people knock on your door demanding a party
Bikini Kill is great for when you’re an angry feminist and unbearable screaming the other 95% of your life
Frank orange has one great album. Get it.
Animal collective is music that won’t distract you from more important things, ht then when you decide to finally pay it attention you’ll be well rewarded.
The xx is for being generally sad about the world but not sad enough to go play games or eat ice cream about it
Iron and Wine is like the god fare of sad folky music. Put him in Pandora and you’ll get a selection of a ton of good stuff by other people
I hear Grimes is great. Honestly I don’t get it
Björk is terrible. Burn her albums in a fire
The freelance whales are fun and poppy and you should. Check out their first album
DJ /rupture is awesome and interesting
Nettle is obscure and fun and exotic!
Explosions in the sky is like better classical music. Play it whenever you want great background music to whatever you’re doing. (Boring Skype calls?)
Ratatat fills the seem need as explosions in the sky but it’s much faster and more aggressive
Fleet Foxes are solid
Cat power deserves our money and attention
Beck is a genius, but not as much as he thinks he is
Neutral Milk Hotel is the Pixies of new folk music. In a good way
Pete Seeger is an American treasure. <3 <3 <3
Johnny Cash is the best and only country music you need to hear
Remember Kings of Leon? Me neither. Same for Hot Chip.
Sleigh Bells does one thing, and they do it well!
The Whitest Boy Alive is great background music as you stroll across a campus, or stroll anywhere actually. Someone needs to use it in a film soundtrack asap.
Purity Ring is actually pretty nice. Just getting into them. I like Shrines
Simon and Garfunkel had a good thing going. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls” – be still my heart!
Did I mention that sufjan is the very bae of bae’s?


Letter to a conversation on white privilege

A friend of mine has a typewriter in her apartment. When another
friend and I visited, they ended up having a conversation about
whiteness. And how around the mid century “white” became a boring
signifier, and how people in their position have this need to fill the
holes in their lives with other identities to find community and
purpose. And how hard it was to do that without cultural appropriation,

It was bleak, dear reader. A conversation of two madly
well-intentioned friends, both groping at a way to be a flowering human
being while adhering to this strange ethical code.

So I
thought about Robert Moses. And capitalism. And how some old men
dreamers decided to set up the suburbs, make Christmas a consumerist
idolatry, and tore asunder the old affirming bonds of community.

So I wrote this in one take while listening to their conversation:

(text edited a bit for clarity):

your bones are bleached  white.
the calcium leaches out into the warm bath
– of driving to work
– of living in a studio
– of a high holiday dedicated to worshiping the god of veils around objects (Christmas!)
you can purchase some colour at the cost of your marrow.

coca-cola dissolves teeth.
we’ve all done that same experiment in school.

you think you are a canvass waiting to be painted.
I think you are a princess,
ill. the leeches draw away your blood,
balancing your humours.
the old wizards built delicate castles
in their minds. of leechcraft,
their imaginary constitutions will destroy yours.

there is inside you a dancing star.
kill the wizards. salt the leeches.
never apologize for being.

throw a prism on your light and become


A critical read of H&M’s clothing line

H&M has a feminism t-shirt.

Okay, great. Let’s look at the other articles of women’s clothing they have with words. What sort of feminist ideology does H&M hold?

1. “Can’t Touch This” in camouflage.

The modern woman needs to hide from the male aggressor and his unconsensual ways.

2. “Youth Tribe”, colors and patterns on gray.

The modern feminist, while intersectional, doesn’t hold with the excesses of online feminist word policing. See “tribe”. The modern feminist’s generation might be an even bigger hold on her self conception than her gender.

(Note to self – did H&M predict the Iowa caucus months in advance?)

3. “Unavailable” – white band on black dress

The modern young lady knows she’s hot, knows she’s wanted, and wants you to know that she knows it. Perhaps not.

4. “Unavailable” – white text engulfing black shirt

The modern feminist knows that callow youth see her as an an object of desire. To combat this, she sets up a test for all would-be suitors. Do these men (and yes, they’re almost always men) still talk to her when they perceive sex is off the table? Either way, she wins.

5. “don’t steal my wifi” [sic]

One might see this as a bold declaration of extreme selfish libertarianism. Rather than allow neighbors to access even humble radio waves, the straw man feminist encloses a bountiful common resource and sets up a sign. “No trespassing on my land” the shirt says.

But a sophisticated observer knows that the modern feminist is a very different animal. Following in the footsteps of Shulamith Firestone and her opus “The Dialectic of Sex”, the modern feminist is down with all struggles for liberation. This shirt is a not-so-veiled critique of the modern surveillance state. “Don’t ruin my internet”, she declares. “No NSA allowed”. The government is literally trying to steal away her WiFi experience, and she’s taking to wearing even garishly ugly shirts as constant messaging of her democratic discontent.

6. “Ain’t got time for that”, caps on white shirt

The modern intersectional feminist knows that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. But she has no time for your turgid marxist pontification. No, she has a class war to win. If you’re here to organize, welcome. But if you’re here to quote whatever mangled interpretation of the latest issue of Jacobin you managed to remember – back off! Ain’t nobody got time for that.

7. “Dance, sleep, repeat”. booty shorts.

This item is a wry satire on the limits of the famous cry of “8 hours for work, 8 hours for living, 8 hours for rest” of the early 1920′s. The modern feminist appreciates the struggle for a 40-hour work week and the freedom it posed. Though she is aware of the erosion of those gains, she also undermines the materialist unpinning of the whole enterprise.

“If I can’t dance”, this modern Rosa Luxembourg says, “then I want no part of your revolution.”

8. “Wake Up, Bring it, Work it” shirt

This is a more straightforward version of the allusion to the historic fight for a 40-hour work week already discussed in our section covering the booty shorts.

9. “I Love” heart sweater

The modern feminist loves. But what does she love? There’s no object to her verb, no target of her emotion. And yet, she loves holistically. As Ernesto Guevara put it, “at the risk of sounding ridiculous, the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love”. And so the modern feminist is stockpiling ak-47s and forming cells of comrades, ready to lead a trotskyist revolution to overturn bourgeois and patriarchal society. Just as soon as she gets something cute and leather.


Questions about tech and society

As you might know, I have the honor of serving as the Tech Editor for Current Affairs

Today, I took some time with Jessica McKenzie. We thought about what the editorial stance of the tech criticism wing of Current Affairs should look like, and what sample pitches might look like.

That really got me thinking. What are the questions about tech and society that I’d dearly love answered?

Here’s a partial list:

  • Is Gabriella Coleman awesome, or is she too trusting / too manipulative?
  • What happened to the Free Software movement? Is it dead? Why did Richard Stallman have no real heirs? Why is the Free Software Foundation so marginal?
  • “Activism” in tech was done by writing software in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Specifically, free software. Now it might be done by making specific web apps. How else do people in tech do activism by creation?
  • Cryptography is an extremely important part of liberatory technology. Yet understanding cryptography is a really rare skill. Are our freedoms bounded by the energy of just 10-20 pro-social cryptographers?
  • Americans presumably would not stand for policemen following them everywhere, recording everything they do in a notepad. Yet they seem surprisingly sanguine to even more surveillance when done over the internet. Why is that? What does that analysis miss?
  • Say you’re a talented developer in your early 20s. What exactly should you be doing with yourself to be most useful to society?
  • Is big data inherently oppressive? Does that make Data Science as a profession suspect? What about organizations like Data Kind?
  • Can we disentangle the effect that facebook the app has on society vs Facebook the company? Is that even wise?
  • Open source efforts are governed in many different styles. What does the success or failure of different open source initiatives say about the viability of the benevolent dictatorship, democracy, etc, in our modern lives?
  • Is open source software development an example of libertarian organization or socialist organization? Is there a difference?
  • Is it possible for a consumer tech review site to be both popular and trustworthy?
  • Is “liberation technology” a real thing?
  • Platform Cooperativism seems awesome. Is it really?
  • What happened to Anonymous?
  • Why do people forgive the Obama administration for its “war on hackers”?
  • If programmers are so difficult to hire, so hard to replace, and directly control the means of production – why aren’t they unionizing in droves?
  • Software developers – are they workers? Where do they stand in the class struggle?
  • Why did the glorious mashable internet of Web 2.0 – the one with RSS feeds, interoperable APIs, and mashups – die?

Why I now have an acting reel

About a week ago, I went and did a shoot for a commercial. It was my first time doing so for pay. After everything I did, I’m not sure I’ll be asked to do it again.

Here’s how it went:

I show up. There are a variety of people sitting around the lobby of one of those corporate offices that makes a token nod to startup culture, but just barely. An office that has the same faint whiff of despair that you’d expect from a white-collar workplace, but with maybe a bowl of warheads by the reception desk and one or two slightly more colorful chairs. 

There are two young white women who already have their makeup ready. A distinguished-looking older man. A latina, a notably mild-mannered black man, and me.

The makeup artist gets me ready. We chat about her child, and skiing. We have very little of substance to say to each other.

All six of us actors are arrayed in a board room. We get laptops. I make sure to switch for one that actually works, and start googling furiously and surreptitiously. The director explains that we’ll be acting out a meeting between a marketing team and a PR agency. They’ll dub out any words we use, so feel free to say whatever we want. This will be mostly b-roll footage, no worries. Okay, the cameras are rolling. Go!

One of the women starts timidly talking about the cactus on the desk, and how it should be included in the meeting. Aha. A joke. I nod along, and still surreptitiously Google.

Okay, I’m ready. I clear my throat, prepare my hands for natural gesturing, and say, conversationally:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord
and serf, guild-master and
journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition
to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight,
a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution
of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal
society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established
new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place
of the old ones.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct
feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more
and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes
directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. 

Stunned silence. 

Then – the floodgates! We talk about class struggle. We talk about why americans have yet to take to revolution.

One person ventures that the working classes are content. I remark that, rather, they’ve given up.

We talk about a job my girlfriend had once, and how all the managers at a golf course were white, all the staff were black, and almost none of the staff hoped for a better life than calling snotty 14-year old brats “sir”.

The older man (a conservative, I suspect) detours to a talk about golf. And how those jobs might actually be the best jobs around in that rural area.

We go back to joking about the cactus.

When it comes time for me to speak again, I try and redirect the conversation by paraphrasing Anatole France:

How wonderful the law is! In its majestic equality, both the rich and poor alike are equally
prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and
stealing bread!

The older (conservative?) man quickly rejoinders that peeing in the streets should be allowed. But should breastfeeding?

We consider the matter. All the while gesturing and nodding as if an important business meeting is going on. The cameras roll.

I point out that we have free public restrooms in America because of an activist campaign by a teenager in the 1970s.

No one seems as impressed as I am. They talk about sports. They talk about work. Someone mentions their union. I am excited. They don’t like their union. I am disappointed.

Finally, the shoot is almost done. The director asks each of us to speak uninterrupted for a minute or two in case that’s needed for B-Roll footage later. I go last.

This is my chance. My last, best chance. It’s time to bust out Mario Savio:

There comes a time when the operation
of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that
you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve
got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the
levers, upon all the apparatus – and you’ve got to make it stop!
And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people
who own it – that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented
from working at all!!

(All this while gesturing and pointing as if I was presenting a proposal for increasing CTR through better targeting google ads or somesuch nonsense.)

The shoot ends. Each of us will be getting a check. Each of us is eligible to get our acting reel.

Did I end up radicalizing a whole room full of actors, cameramen, and crew? Probably not.

Did we have a good conversation based on socialist frames? Yes.

Did I help garner sympathy with a labor/radical agenda? I hope so.

But I tell you this – I had a hell of a time.


Habits, Task Diaries, and APIs

Habitica is awesome. The service, which until recently went by HabitRPG, is one of those gamified “as you do good things in life, you gain level up” sort of lifehackery services. Here’s why I like it so much:

  • It’s smart enough to sort different tasks into 3 different buckets: habits (which you can do/not do at will), dailies (which you must do every day) and todos (which you do once)
  • It doesn’t take itself too seriously
  • It has a team aspect that really does help, but doesn’t overwhelm you with features.

Here’s the problem – I have two other todo list type things I already use.

iDoneThis, which is a delightful early Web2.0 holdover, emails me every day and asks, simply, what I’ve accomplished. I’ve got 3 years worth of diaries on that thing – it’s the most consistent diary-style service or habit I’ve ever used.

EngMatchingLogs, a newer service by Hakka Labs, does something similar, then uses machine learning to match me up with a new friend every week. It’s quite delightful!

There are also small apps on my mac that interface with iDoneThis for easy todo list integration.

Wouldn’t it be nice to create a tool that syncs between all those services? Checking off something on Habitica could add an entry in my iDoneThis as well write to my EngMatchingLog.

Someone should make that.


Idea — Communist Loren Ipsum Generator

There should be a webapp where one specifies the amount of text they want. And instead of Loren Ipsum text, it should return a selection of particularly noteworthy or well-regarded socialist, communist, or radical text, speeches, etc.

Example use case:

I have to be an actor for stock footage. They want me to speak lines (but the audio will be cut in editing) so that it looks like a real meeting is happening in the background. Ahead of time, I know that I’ll have about 30 seconds worth of speaking, so I look up 30 seconds on the Communist Loren Ipsum app. During the shoot, I recite the killer graph from Mario Savio’s speech about throwing oneself upon the gears.

Another example use case:

I am creating a web app and need some sample fake tweets. I use Communist Loren Ipsum generator’s API to dynamically fetch tiny socialist slogans for use in those sample tweets on an as-needed basis.


Letter to a friend struggling with mental health

Have you read Ella Enchanted?

The sad fact is that you were born with a curse like Ella.
This is not your fault.

unlike Ella we don’t live in a narrative world of freedom and light and
there may never be a sort of “love conquers all” thing that frees you completely.

But also luckily for you we live in a world of freedom and magic and sunshine in other ways.

You are stronger than you think.

And when you are visited with this curse over and over again
It’s just that darn witch making your life harder.
Because you passed the last trial
With flying colors.

And the key to passing the test is the same key you’ve always had.
Like Dorothy in Oz.

It’s love!

Accepting love from your friends
who support you even especially when you’re in a trial.
Instead of less.

love for yourself.
because like Samwise Gamgee
we can’t carry the ring for you
but we can carry you


My memoirs in 5 minutes

Once, we lived in a world on fire. A world of slaughter and war and
fear. Out of that world, two special people were able to flee, to bulid,
to thrive.

This is not their story.

Once, there was a little boy. And his middle name was Moses. He was a stranger in a strange land. He did not collect baseball cards. He did not pray in Shul. He would never wear a black hat.

This little boy, let’s call him Moses, may have believed in god. He definitely did not believe in himself. His namesake could speak seven languages. Moses could only master two. Moses was mediocre at kickball. Moses did not know Torah.

Moses staged elaborate plays with his stuffed animals at night. When no
one watched.

One day, Moses’ best friend called him his “seventh best friend”. He was crushed.

Moses did not like to read. But his parents forced him. Moses did not know Torah, but he did know to honor his father and mother. And so he did.

One day, he found an artifact which would change his life. Tucked in the corner of his teacher’s shelves – his tyrannical, harsh (overworked, underpaid) teacher – was the first chapter book he ever read.

It was about adventure.

It was about children living on their own, as a family. Building a home in the woods. Scavenging. Thriving. Nothing would ever be the same.

Moses grew. He escaped the citadel of black hats and stern words and small thoughts. He found a new school with a sunrise painted on the side. He grew glasses from all his reading. His adversaries were not black hats but small hearts, all the same.

He was handed the poisoned chalice of praise, and drank deeply. From now on, he would be known as “smart”. He’d never be able to tear himself from that wretched goblet again.

Moses grew, and grew strange. He chased Pokemon in his
dreams. His days were the tormented mix of boredom, frustrated
exuberance, and the casual cruelty of children. He started keeping a book constantly at his side, ready to whip it out and escape every time
the teacher turned her back.

The isolation of being a foreigner ripened into the isolation of being strange. And so Moses drifted towards the other strangers. They were weak, but most had drunk from the chalice as well. They were brothers trapped by the addiction to smart.

And so they built themselves a small shtetl in the concrete walls of the middle school. Some would be able to leave through sports. Most would only be forced out with the triumph of age.

The triumph of age. The triumph of making friends, joining clubs, of having youth take you seriously. The triumph of death inexorably approaching, of being torn from the breast of friendship and scattered to the four winds.

And so our hero found himself a stranger again in a new home, surrounded by new strangers still. He found himself able to make a fresh start. And so he did.

He found love mixed with tragedy, and to this day confuses one for the other.

He found a new village in the campus. A bulwark against the cruel world outside. A community that contained its own diseases: cruelty, status, and posturing. But one that also contained power, solidarity, and action.

In that village Moses started taking up arms against a
sea of troubles, and by opposing, moderate them. As you know, the people united will sometimes win and sometimes lose. Moses couldn’t save the world, or even america. So he painted demon faces on the petty tyrants at hand and rallied the villagers to cast out the dracula. Sometimes he even succeeded.

And then – the triumph of age. The casting out. The peering through a glass window at the place that once was home. Ever the rootless jew, Moses left his last village and wandered through the desert.

He wandered through the desolate cities of Oakland and Springfield and New Haven and Rochester. He wandered through the gardens of eden in Oakland and Springfield and New Haven and Rochester. He was a itinerant knight, a Robin Hood, and a little boy with a pot helmet and a wooden stick for a sword.

And now he doesn’t know what to do next. There’s no village. All the old certainties – in his coding ability, in his affiliation with the professional left, in the abundance the world had to offer – all are gone.

What’s left? Just a little boy with a stick for a sword and a world full of dragons to explore. 


Dante <3 Beatrice

Beatrice, this is a letter from Hell.

I’m visiting the sepulchre of agony, and the dust, the dust is cloying. I’m here to grow towards God, but all I know is when I see your face my body walks freshly scrubbed through the eternity of circles. Not even Virgil protects like you do.


Growing towards you is not an option. You’ve bounded yourself with brambles in your lonely castle. You’ve got all the growth you can handle.


Not one not two not three times I’ve knocked on your door to hear you were a sleeping beauty. You said you were too busy waiting for your prince to open the door to let me in so I walked straight downwards because hey, at least its warm down here.


Not once not twice but three times you’ve knocked on my church door but you never laid down your 99 theses. You just dashed down a line and hoped it’d be enough to snare me. But one idea isn’t a theology. But one attraction shouldn’t break bonds of monogamy. But one night doesn’t build a real relationship with me so hell no down I go to grow towards god and away from your brambles.


What am I to you? A chore after Virgil’s shift is done, a temporary traveler to the truth, a mortal that needs handholding to reach Paradiso? Because I love hands and I love holding and hey, with you I’m nowhere short of paradise. But if that’s true, rip the scales from my eyes. If that’s true, tell me no more words fine because hey, I may wander but I’m not a wanderer. I may observe but I’m not just an observer. I may be a stranger but I don’t want to be strange to you so


Set a torch to your brambles. Set a brush to your tangles. Wipe the dust out your eyes and write me a letter of theological revolution to nail on my door.

Do that and I will rocket past Charon. Do that and I will thumb my nose to Mammon. Do that and I’ll grin at Lucifer as I bound away because evil will have no hold on me.

Until then I’ll be here growing towards God.

Part 3 in a series


Red River

You are delight and downturn.

You are the rush of dove feathers, startled, every time I see you near.

When I write you a letter you give me a papercut. A papercut that bleeds just a drop every hour you don’t write back. There’s a red river by my writingdesk.

You are desire and distance.

You’ve awoken a lion in me. It has been asleep lazying about on the savannah because no lionness could rouse him from slumber. Now suddenly even chasing antelope doesn’t seem so pointless.

You are distance and desire.

There are two chasms between us that one of us must cross. I can lay down the planks, urge you to swiftly take those two steps across the canyon. I can turn them into mighty bridges decked with roses. But still you must cross.

For you, I am tranquil in a new way. With you, I can see the stars flame out. Next to you, a month seems like a day. Thinking of you, I am wisdom and peace bound up in certainty and justice because lady, you’re worth dreaming about.

But there’s a red river by my writingdesk.

I also wrote this. Read it as if it was a spoken word piece. Part 2 in a series