Sunday, October 4, 2020

panels online

The Bay Area Book Festival, which has presented occasional interesting programs in the past, had an online festival called Berkeley Unbound today, with enough intriguing topics that I decided to listen in. The ones I heard consisted of interviews of one or two people. But while it might have been effective to read what they had to say, and it might have been pleasant to actually sit in a room listening to them, I found that taking it in on Zoom, podcast-style, expressing their ideas very slowly, was more tedious than involving. (I didn't watch all of any of them.)

On the other hand, the one of them I've actually tried to read writings by is more comprehensible as a speaker than as a writer. This was Judith Butler, who was supposed to be talking about nonviolence, but instead argued against the philosophical idea of pure individual autonomy (would that this were a straw man, but it isn't), pointing out that other people's actions affect us, and this is no more obvious than in a pandemic, where their actions affect our health and our very lives.

This was eventually succeeded by "Embracing the Other," in which Arlie Hochschild seemed to boil down understanding people to simply listening to them, while a fellow interviewee who wants to be identified as john a. powell pointed out that you can't engage with them if they won't engage with you, citing the uniform hostility of Republicans to any approaches by Obama as an example.

Next, a session on food. Asked what's a current matter of concern regarding this topic, activist Saru Jayaraman unleashed a tirade about restaurant reopenings in the pandemic, making servers risk their lives for derisory wages, and (due to the size of the customer base) getting measly tips; while famed chef Alice Waters tried to tie this in to the demand for inexpensive mass-market food, as vs. her advocacy of local food and farm-to-table (which she'd previously said was actually less expensive due to the absence of distributor costs, but whatever). If they got into the question of how to feed people who have little money, that was after I left.

The dean of Berkeley Law addressed the Supreme Court issue, but he seems to have been recorded before Barrett's nomination, so if these shows aren't live, what's the point of watching them at a particular moment? He favors restoring balance by expanding the Court under Democrats, and 18-year-terms for justices, and I've heard all that before.

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