Updates (Monterey Poetry Fest, social media, exponential tech and the Consilience Project); new drawings, Tang, Valmidiano, Igloria, Ozeki, bats, and white rabbits.
I’ll be participating in a poetry reading on October 1st, 7 pm at Old Capitol Books, for the Monterey Poetry Festival. Also reading that night: Chris Siders, Aideed Medina, Nelson G Nelson, and Alex Ramirez. This is a fundraiser for No Mas Muertes/No More Deaths. Stay for the 10 pm Back-lot Poetry open mic, hosted by Brian Sheffield. More readings on Oct. 2nd., followed on Oct. 3rd by a poetry writing workshop and a zine party for Saltwater, Virgo Mag, and Low Pass. Alas (or yay!), the 10/1 and 10/2 readings are already sold out! But don’t let that stop you from donating to the fundraiser. I’m hoping that the events will be recorded.
People who have followed me on various social media may know that I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with these platforms—maybe ad nauseum—although the sites connect me to relatives and friends, fellow artists and writers. When I dropped out of the artists’ site, Ello, I blogged about it. Later, I closed my personal account on Twitter after feeling weighed down by the bad news I habitually scrolled through.
After listening to Maria Ressa’s discussion about how Facebook facilitates large-scale harm in the Philippines and other vulnerable countries (and the U.S. can now be counted in that group), I closed down my personal account on Facebook, only to return later in support of the small nonprofit I work for.
I took a short break from Instagram, but missed it. Upon returning to the site, I learned that Facebook had acquired it—and indeed, Instagram now seems to be the worse for it. Before Facebook took over, when I paused my art-scrolling, the site would “conveniently” deliver up interesting art and artist sites to peruse. Now, whenever I pause or run a search, my screen fills with ham-fisted, emotive visual content (photos of skin diseases, anyone? Epic fails?). I thought AI was supposed to tap into my personal interests? No—it’s aiming for the old lizard brain.
Has Instagram had some positives for my art practice? Yes. Is it the best use of my time? I’m not sure. But if I should leave again—I’ll be right here on Substack, and on my website, JeanVengua.com. And of course, at home on the alternately rocky/sandy edge of Monterey Bay, checking the skies for wildfire smoke and starry nights.
From my attitude towards FB, et. al, I might sound like a techno-pessimist, a complainer, or something along those lines. But recently, I listened to a conversation that has given me—if not optimism, maybe hope. Actually, it kind of blew my mind (to use a throwback term from my psychedelic teens and 20s; even as I write this, I hear the hypnotic tones of Grace Slick singing “White Rabbit” in my head).
This was prompted by Daniel Schmactenberger (the Consilience Project) and Tristan Harris (Center for Humane Technology) in a talk about what they see as the real drivers (including the power wielded by exponential AI) of our global problems today.
They consider, at length, the dangers and limitations of our usual technological, economic, and political approaches to problem solving, and offer some possible actions. These actions are going to be difficult to implement, maybe even impossible—but I think worth considering. And no, this isn’t the usual “naïve techno-optimism.”
The discussion took place a couple months before the recent multi-part exposé, “The Facebook Files,” by the Wall Street Journal. The conversation is also two hours long, so if you are thinking of listening—you might want to get comfortable, grab a snack and a beer. Alternatively, you can visit the Consilence Project website and learn more.
“What’s Really Driving Global Problems Today?” A discussion on “Your Undivided Attention” podcast, from the Center for Humane Technology:
While listening to Schmachtenberger and Harris talk, I did a bedtime anti-scrolling doodle, as usual, and this odd collection of images emerged:
Two more drawings (not bedtime drawings):
The first seems to have tapped into a couple characters from my childhood watching Saturday-morning cartoons while my parents, lingering in bed, were doing who-knows-what.
What’s going on in this image? I’d say a very serious discussion. Maybe about climate change; they both look a little anxious. Or—maybe the “human” is saying “Yikes! Don’t Eat Me!” And the lion (tiger? bear?) is saying “Dude, I’m just sitting here minding my own business—Get lost…”
The second is a bit of retro (mid-century style) blooming-red whatchamacallit:
“Audrey Tang on her ‘conservative-anarchist’ vision for Taiwan’s Future.” As Taiwan’s “Digital Minister,” Tang’s innovative approach is unprecedented (RestofWorld.org).
James Diaz (Anti-Heroin Chic) interviews Elsa Valmidiano about her book, We Are No Longer Babaylan. Similarly to Diaz I found her writing to be unflinchingly direct, and yes, brave, especially in its exploration of how the body and emotions absorb trauma, and in her witnessing of the Babaylan spirit among Pinays as “matriarchal presence” (Valmidiano), although that presence is sometimes accompanied by a sense of disjuncture or loss. In my own life, I experienced “disjuncture” while sitting off to the side during meetings of my mother’s Filipino women’s club meetings, where pinays wielded an unexpected power that also influenced the male-dominated organizations. At the time, this seemed jarring, and even scary, to my teen sensibility in the context of my everyday mid-20th century life in a mostly white, “Beach Blanket Bingo” town, where women wore dresses and pink bathing suits, and stayed home to mind the kids and cook meals. But those middle-aged pinays taught me that there was another way to be.
From Via Negativa, Luisa Igloria’s moving poem, “Host,” about a day in the Planned Parenthood Clinic—but it’s also much more than that.
And a recent facebook post by Igloria also reminded me that Ruth Ozeki has a new novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness. Check out this article in Lithub: “The Writer You Are is Enough: Ruth Ozeki on Process and Acceptance.”
Bats are good, bats are cool. We wouldn’t have tequila, durian, or bananas without them, and they eat pests that attack our crops. But they are also threatened. From the @BatBnB Bat Education (for humans) site: The Truth About Bats.
As mentioned above: “Beach-Blanket-Bingo” town (for me, that was Santa Cruz, then called “Surf City” in the mid-60s):
But later in the 60s, there was this disorienting development:
“White Rabbit,” sung by Grace Slick with Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock, Aug. 1969:
And more recently: “White Rabbit” emerges again! On the soundtrack (which seems timely) for the new Matrix Resurrections:
Ingat, as they say in some parts of the Philippines. Take care until next week, and watch out for the Red Queen...