A very busy week is wrapping up here. A very busy week is starting tomorrow. Today is a missing empty day between them.

Last week I went to Providence to give a talk that I briefly mention on It was about agitprop which is a topic that I always assume people know about, but apparently they don’t. It’s just a shortening of agitation/propoganda, the trick being that you need to both explain your good ideas but then urge people towards them. It was of some use during the Communist Era and activists often use it as a tactic. So, this talk that I gave to a bunch of librarians and information scientists talked about my activist background and the idea of getting people to do the things that you think are a good idea. In this case, I meant using new technologies (where “new” still means stuff like email, lord help us all) as well as changing things in a traditional culture generally. I even got to talk about William James and his “genuine option” idea which is one of my favorite hobby horses. It was one of the most heartfelt talks I’ve given in a while because I didn’t have to pretend that I wasn’t some sort of anarchist, or that I don’t really have an issue with the corporatization of librarianship. I got to talk about the danger of palliative technologies that stultify us and make us soft in the face of decreasing social liberties and increasing government nonsense. I was happy with it.

Then I drove home on Thursday in a rainstorm to greet the skiiers that were staying at my place. I belong to a few “hey come stay at my place” websites, most notably and People rarely take me up on it, but I feel that regular deposits into the Cosmic Karma Bank keep my good luck flowing. So, I got home and was unpacking when my incoming guest called and said he’d be in around 2 am, not 11 pm as he had earlier hoped. I was exhausted and barely awake as it was so I left some lights on, left a note taped on the door with information on where the guestrooms were, and went to sleep. I woke up briefly in the middle of the night hearing footsteps and then woke up in the morning to young men in snowpants wandering around cooking and packing on their way to Killington. They were nice guests who mostly did their own thing and I did mine. They were gone this morning before I fully got out of bed.

I only mention this in detail because I feel like I get inundated with oogy boogy talk concerning just how much risk there is in the world nowadays. My bank tries to make me afraid of identity theft, my insurance company tries to make me afraid of fires and floods. My students’ computers try to make them afraid of their computers being “at risk” when what they are really dealing with is more of a Norton Protection Racket than anything else. There is risk in taking a shower, risk in eating seafood, risk in leaving your car unlocked, and risk in talking to strangers. We hear about these risks all the time, seemingly constantly. But there are also rewards too: being clean, eating tasty food, ease of access and the fact that real people are more interesting than abstract free-floating anxieties. I just figure every so often someone should tell the good stories.

What do you think?


  1. James’ notion of genuine options is a “favorite hobby horse” of yours? Me, too!

  2. Your post has me torn. On the one hand, I agree that fear is used to keep us cowed and consuming. But on the other hand, I have lived in some cities. I have been jumped by teens on the street for no reason. My apartment was robbed. I have had some serious health issues to deal with. My mother grew up in the projects in Brooklyn.She doesn’t talk about it much, but has occasionally let slip the odd story about heroin addicts lying in the hallways. I think it all adds up to make me feel more fragile – I know I can be harmed. There is NO WAY I am opening my house up to strangers arriving at 2:00 in the morning. I guess that’s the consequence of the choices I have made in my life. But hey, I just want to say, be careful out there. Things can and do go amok, amuck, whatever – SNAFUs happen. Please, please, watch your back.