I got nominated for a Streetsie! That’s so cool!

I’m not sure I deserve to be listed with real journalists like Peter Flax and Steve Scauzillo, but I am awfully flattered for the nomination. Go get yourself familiar with their work, and you can vote here via this link.

There are other categories for the Streetsies and please do vote there if you have opinions.

Another year, everybody. I have some cool things coming up on the blog. I’m hoping to get a few guest posts up from my students on their research, and Grace Peng reached out to tell me that I’m misguided worrying about water in Southern California if we build right.

Here’s to all of us!

Still doing my station-area sketching (badly, but hey)

I’m still pretending I can do urban sketching. Regular readers of this blog have heard this a dozen times: I think it’s important for teachers to devote themselves to lifelong learning, including–especially–acquiring new skills as one advances through life. Otherwise, it’s too easy to lose to touch of how much of a struggle the initial stages of learning can be, and I personally just do not want to lose that empathy with my students.

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We are all in process.

I hope all y’all had a nice Christmas, and lovely Hanukkah, and for those celebrating, I hope you have a super Kwanzaa.

As a full proffessor, I have become a lazy slug part of the establishment, and I am displeased

Why did none of you warn me about this?

Some of you will know that I have recently been promoted to full professor. I am not really whining about that. I am whining instead about my apparent inability to be normal about anything.

Academic promotions are weird in that even once you get them, you pretty much have the same job you had the day before the promotion, only you have a different title. This is true until you have some administrative duties, which I don’t have, thank God. However, subtle things shift when you move from assistant to associate and from associate to full. The first move is a the big one; getting tenure is a big deal. The move to full professor, for me, was less fraught, and I tried to make things easy on the people around me by not focussing on it, treating it like it was no big deal, etc. I would have been sad to finish out my career as an associate, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world as long as I was doing work that I like and believe in.

And yet.

I can feel that things have shifted around me in some way, but I don’t really understand how. It took me awhile to understand that getting tenure changed a lot about my relationships between me and my group of fellow assistant professors; we had all been working together, supporting each other, and now suddenly they had changed toward me, and one of them was kind enough to clue me in: I now how the power to vote on their tenure, and they felt like they had to tread lightly. It was devastating in a way; didn’t they know me well enough to know that I was supportive? Didn’t they know me well enough to know that I would never use a tenure vote to indulge a personal grievance? No, they didn’t, and it’s because you can never really know those things.

So I had to grow up and start to wear my new status in a way that reassured them.

I also, after tenure, had such a major physical and emotional breakdown that I couldn’t function for the month of June that year. It took me about a year to sort myself. Get started on this long book project helped save my sanity. I just felt despair at having achieved a goal. I was tired and burned out.

Now, however, after this promotion, I’ve noted two things:

1) People seem to be less nice to me than they were before; there’s been even more coming at me with “This lady says shit and I’m going to try to start an argument with her and get others to pile on” and “Your academic junk doesn’t mean shit” flung at me on social media this week than before, which is hard to believe given how much of that garbage I’ve had to put up with before.

2) I have no f***** motivation at all. I’m useless, useless, useless, useless, useless. I’ve been blogging ok. Lots of ideas there. But I owe two reviews on papers I really like. Can I get myself to write ’em? Nope. I have a book chapter due at the end of the month with a wonderful co-author. Can I get myself to even look at it? No. And I’m not skylarking or meditating upon it. I am just a lump. I watch tv. I read a fun book. I sketch a bit. I play with the dogs. I try to sit down and work and I just feel revulsion.

What is happening here?

I *hate* being late with reviews, and I *hate* being late on deadlines for other people (and the book chapter is for two very, very sweet people I admire madly–Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Tridib Banerjee) and WHY CAN’T I GET MYSELF TO DO ANYTHING??? The old horse won’t budge, not even for me.

Part of the problem, I think, is that USC is super-duper secretive about the case, so I guess I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished all that much. There hasn’t been a big reckoning with myself on what I’ve really done to deserve to move up the ranks. It feels more like I’ve randomly pleased some random Illuminati somewhere and they have granted me their favor.

I would prefer it if people weren’t mean to me, but I have spent enough of my career rubbing authority figures and higher-ups the wrong way on purpose (because I have a butt where my head should be) that I should be ready enough for the young turks to come at me. But the “can’t get myself to work thing” has only really happened to me twice before in my career: a) after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and b) right after tenure. It’s scaring me, badly.

In my head, I don’t feel any different from the graduate student walking up and down the stacks at UCLA, finding books at random and reading Xenophon during the summer break when I was supposed to be reading Herbert Mohring.

But I am. That person had one responsibility; to write a dissertation. I have students, a lot of them. This new standing should enable me to help students and more junior colleagues more than I have before. That’s good, right? It has to be. There isn’t any other point to it if not.

What’s next?

Maybe I’ll watch a Lifetime movie. Sigh.

Can we mock Elon Musk but maybe stay real about transit at the same time?

So by now everybody has watched the feud between Elon Musk after his dumb comments about public transit, and transit consultant/writer Jarrett Walker, who noted (politely) that Musk was speaking from an elite perspective, and then Musk turned around and called him an idiot. Walker has made good PR out of this, as he should: consultants and writers, like academics, require building up your reputation/brand/platform in this rotten world, and being St. Michael defending transit from Musk-the-dragon is pretty good grist for that.

Between the Coates-West and Walker-Musk spats, I feel a little like we’ve been watching dude feuds all week.

I want to tread lightly because Walker doesn’t deserve the feud moniker because he’s always been pretty polite as far as I can see. But as much as I appreciate it when transit experts like Walker caution us against “elite projection,” I kind of think all of us and our love for transit itself constitutes an elite projection–not just the where and whens and hows of transit, but the idea that transit itself is all that wonderful.

Story time!

One of my favorite students of all time was an African American lady who was returning to school to finish her degree after decades of raising kids and working. I loved her; she sat allllllllll the way up front, she had tons of opinions, readily contradicted me, and never ever hesitated to make me repeat something if she missed it. (Good-o, please do that! If your professor doesn’t like it, who cares? Education is about you, not them.)

In my 245 class, which is called “The Urban Context”, I go through a bunch of standard topics and the rhythm is usually something like “Tuesday, the topic” and “Thursday, the counterpoint, details, the critique.” So one Tuesday I was going over transit, the various vocabulary that students need to start participating in discussions about transit, what urbanists hope transit can do in cities, etc.

She and I were chatting after that first class, and she gave me a tentative look. “Are we going to talk more about transit on Thursday?” She asked.

“Sure” I responded. “Transit has problems, we have a whole bunch of things that are hard to do with it, and we’ve got financial problems, service problems, a whole bunch of things yet.”

“Good. Because all you professors, you seem to love transit so much, and it makes me feel so bad to say anything because I’ve ridden transit my whole life…and” she hesitated, then went ahead, “and my brother gave me his old car when I was about 30 or so, and it was the best. The first time I was able to just drive to the laundromat instead of begging somebody for a ride, after all those years…it just felt like I’d won the lottery with that crappy car.”

We had a discussion after that: among the the things she listed about car ownership was “not having a bunch of old goats leering at my baby girl” and “getting to work in 15 minutes instead of an hour and a half.”

Musk’s serial killer comments are silly–super-elite silly. But urbanists’ devotion to transit is kind of an elite projection, to use Walker’s phrasing, too. Don’t get me wrong: I love transit, I’ve studied it, and patronized it, for decades now. But I’ve always had choices about it. Most of us in the field do, and transit is a lot different when you have the money to take a taxi when you are having a bad day or when you can afford to send your laundry out instead of dragging it to a laundromat (with your children acting up because they are both bored and tired.)

After Musk made those comments, Brent Toderian started a Twitter hashtag called #GreatThingsThatHappenOnTransit. The link is to a story about it, but please don’t stop there if you are on Twitter–go read the stories that have appeared under it. The stories are both charming and informative, and they will make you smile.

The thing is…transit is all those things, from the things my student related to the great things appearing under Toderian’s hashtag. The Hillside Stranglers did target young women who were waiting for the bus in Los Angeles.

Transit is everything human beings in cities are, good and bad, because transit itself is public. And it has its problems as a mobility service that are taking us a very, very long time to resolve. (As I pointed out earlier, we hardly need Musk to inform us of them.) I think we have to be ready to embrace that reality even as we join Walker to clap back at Musk.

Walker is a successful man who has a good Twitter following (and a very nice book; pick it up if you haven’t) in field that many, many people never think about. Musk, by contrast, can throw hundreds of people out of work with a single decision and meets with heads of state.

The dangers that men like Musk pose are so much greater than a disdain for public transit. His remarks reveal a fundamental contempt for public life, rather than private consumption, and that contempt for public life portends terrible consequences when held among political elites like Musk. That should both chasten us and motivate us.

By the LA Times’ resilience logic, we probably shouldn’t be building in Southern California at all

Ok, ok, ok before you scream at me, hear me out. Usual caveats: more housing units are important to California, etc, I don’t need you to explain Moar Supply to me.

I got kind of excited about the LA Times editorial posted up this morning because I thought the Times editorial board had finally begun to see some of the problems with basic “moar supply” line they always push. “California needs more homes, but in the right places.” Horray, I thought! They are going to point out that we should be emphasizing locations with good job access to existing transit! They are going to point out that we should be careful about how we go about changing places throughout south LA. They are…

Nah.

It’s a discussion, worthy enough, of how we shouldn’t build sprawl, fires are bad, and we really shouldn’t be building in those locations prone to flood inland (like the high desert) and, well, climate change means the coast is off-limits (whee! Our smart growth machine now has thought of an excuse to avoid putting infill near rich coastal homeowners, yay us, so that we can go gobble up neighborhoods that aren’t those in the name of good planning; rich liberals can feel better in their NIMBYism). In order to build a resilient California, the only places to build are our cities, that’s all. It’s infill, my friends. Such a surprise from the Times.

They aren’t wrong, per se, and it’s good to see planning for resilience move into the mainstream thinking about urbanism so much that it makes a big daily op-ed page.

Of course, Los Angeles has always been a sin city among urbanists for a) not being New York and b) the cars and single family housing. Changing that last bit by adding more density is a good idea, but it doesn’t solve a really fundamental issue with resilience in my favorite city:

We haven’t got any water.

We never have had any water. The indigenous people throughout the US southwest knew how to live there without much water. Our answer has been to live here like we have water when we really don’t. Putting 17 million souls in a desert (the whole region) wasn’t a good idea, and while infill makes that better per capita, good-o, I’m not sure what we get from adding more people, even with less impact per person than if we continue our sprawly ways, leads to resilience when the entire urban system sits on a very, very serious environmental vulnerability.

This is not an excuse or a rationale for us to keep building on the outskirts. It’s a practical and theoretical question about trying to build solid superstructure of resilience atop a shaky house of cards. What do you do to plan for resilience in a place that was always dry and habitable turning into a place that is even dryer and where killing heatwaves have become multi-yearly events?

So California does need more housing; should it be going in the south at all, cities or otherwise? Granted the long-term changes of Southern California which now seem inevitable and immediate, we could argue that we don’t need housing in our cities in the south at all; we need housing in the northern part of the state (which we do) and that we should put more development focus on the places in the state nearer to Oregon than Mexico. Unfortunately, they hate us about as much as Oregonians do.

I honestly don’t know. There is a dour part of me that thinks we should be trying to guide people out of and away from LA before climate turns us all into refugees. Americans may be much closer than they think to finding out what it means to be in desperate need and to see people turn away.

All this sucks.

Happy Hanukkah.

An ersatz not all white women discussion about Jones-Moore with questions about feminist Baptist theologians thrown in

I’ve been reading the material on black women and white women voters coming out the Alabama Senate race, with some drubbing thrown in for white women along with some very good writing. My problem here is that it’s not enough to think about whiteness as the dividing line–if we do that, we miss how whiteness is working in the 21st century politics and religion in ways that appear to be getting much, much worse.

Screenshot 2017 12 19 08 05 25

So that tells a pretty big story, and I’m down with that being the title as long as we get around to some particulars as those particulars are important. This nice piece from Karen Holter in Bustle explains why:

Women can’t make meaningful strides toward equality while the demographic that holds the most societal power plays for the other team. It’s time white women got their houses in order.

And this supportive tweet from Amber Tamblyn:

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Nice op-ed, good stories so far, except when I really dig into the “what will reach you part.” I don’t think economic anxiety has much to with anything related to Trump or his cronies. Maybe I’m not wise enough to know what’s really going on, but I do have to repeat what I’ve agreed with earlier: people of color everywhere are poor, and they don’t turn into Nazis into over it. Populism, maybe, but this swastika-revival bullshit is a whites-only club.

The issue I have with stopping there on the verdict with white women is, simply, that I have trouble framing this in a typical white feminist frame–white women only care about freedom for white women, etc. Because these women don’t look like women who are listening to feminists of any ilk:

Thanks for Nothing White Voters

Um, no; they look like a bunch of Sarah Palins, tho the lady in the red pants suit with her hair set giving the camera a dirty look strikes me as being awesome fun down at the beauty salon dishing on what Marla Sue and Bobby Jim got up to behind the stadium in a pickup at the last football night. They are most likely holding up “why I don’t need feminism” signs on social media.

As many of my friends and students know, I feel like part of my job as a white, feminist educator who studies and teaches on issues of injustice is to do this work of trying to educate other white people about white supremacy. I’m not perfect by a long shot and I have plenty to learn for myself, but it is my goal that absolutely none of my students, no matter what their education level, ever leave a class saying things like “race has nothing to do with cities” and “I just don’t get why Damien Goodmon is always making things about race .” (Damien is a south LA community organizer.)

But this whole “White women have to get these women on board” thing, yeah, I get ya, I just have no freaking clue how to do it, and it’s not because I’m afraid to have the conversation or that I don’t want to. I don’t have any ideas, and the one idea I do have does not seem promising. This is from the WashPo’s exit poll:

So how did believers vote in Alabama Only white evangelicals were tagged in exit polls GetReligion

I am absolutely ready to believe that there are college-educated, non-evangelical, white women who voted for Moore who might find a way to listen to why Roy Moore and his brand of violent misogyny is bad for everybody, especially black women and men, and even his unfortunate horse, Sassy. (Free Sassy!)

BUT they aren’t a big group here, not given the likely overlap between whiteness and evangelicalism and frankly that has me stumped! Hi, there, ladies of the Southern Baptist Church, my name is Lisa and I have lived most of my life in California and I’m an intersectional feminist atheist who…

Do you think I’d get that far? I don’t. I might as well start with “NaNooo, NaNoo, I am from the Planet Ork.”

This isn’t a “Lookitdem ignnerent Southern women” comment or a “We need to understaaaaand them” comment; all of us formulate our ideas, values, and identities based on our context, families, and relationships, at least in part, in addition to the cultures we consume and media, etc etc. (It’s very hard sorting how much influence any one of these factors has…). I’m just saying that if we could formulate somebody further from their social context than me, I’d have trouble imagining it.

So I guess what I am wondering is: are there feminist Baptist theologians and leaders whom the rest of us could support as a bridge? It’s so far from my field of study that I have no clue, but ideas and suggestions are welcome.

A special report for the Trump Administration’s CDC from your Auntie Lisa

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