Weeknotes 2013.3

Went to a show in a deli. By the time we arrived our friend’s band had already played and left, so we bought lotto tickets from a vending machine and sat around for a while listening to random music.

Had brunch with Alex. Did laundry and shuffled around Brooklyn all day. Ate whatever Korean food and watched Battle Royale. That was a day.

Got to school to find art history was cancelled (again). Tried to organize my head and stratify out various projects and it was productive.

Went to the first of a six-part lecture series in the Great Hall by Steward Pickett called Cities in Crisis. Really good boringinteresting environmentalism systems thinking. Incredibly well-researched. Drew a lot of parallels to the thing I was writing forever but waited too long to push out about new forms of administration and now will never finish. Specifically: He views cities not just as the way things are, but as the epitome of a certain period in time and one point along a trajectory or sequence. One piece of evidence to support this is that the UN taxonomies for cities (did you know they do that? I did not.) keep getting outgrown, leading to ever more ridiculous naming schemes: hypercities < megacities < supercities. Another interesting part was the difference between designing new cities (which reminds me of my time in Suurpelto this summer) and retrofitting existing ones. New cities are unburdened but sometimes lack resources. Old cities remind me of what we’re doing with Cooper. Holland Cotter surprised me when he called it a “forceful preservationist gesture”. I hadn’t really realized. I sometimes think it’d be more realistic to start over, but it was interesting to see the two contrasted.

Between having juggled all my potential projects and tasks in my head and sitting through the long boringinteresting lecture my head felt really full. Got drinks with Jo and Alex, then very efficiently went to Student Council, where I showed off lots of website updates AND another meeting about creatively fucking with the administration’s boring Peter Cooper birthday party the next day, before meeting back up with them for burgers in Brooklyn.

Woke up really early without an alarm or anything. Biked to school to get ready. Lots of ideas which seemed unrealistic had been tossed around the previous night but most of the good ones were actually coming into existence. Sprayed a lock-in clock on my shirt, painted a hastily-lettered sign, and headed downstairs with bushels of stenciled heart balloons and a Happy Resignation Jamshed cake hidden beneath a cloth. A couple people hoisted the giant Free Education To All banner up between two trees in the park just as the ceremony began.

Then we all waited, balloons in hand, for their stupid ceremonies to conclude. At which point Pete began to LOUDLY mic-check a Peter Cooper quote about trustees not being allowed to amass debt…back in the day. Our people managed to toss a red wreath on top of the administration’s, then we followed the procession into the colonnade while mic-checking the Art Faculty’s letter. There was a little bit of an intense moment of slowly marching towards administrators eating birthday cake while shouting the faculty letter at the top of our lungs. Joe presented Jamshed with the cake as, finally, the SFAFCU demands were mic-checked, ending with “3) Jamshed Bharucha steps down.”

A long, quiet pause. The air was charged.

Then, singing: “Happy resignation to youuuuuu, happy res-ig-nationnnn to youuuu, happy resig-NA-tion dear Jamshed—”

Which is when Jamshed raised his hand like Britney shielding herself from paparazzi or something and walked out — mid-song! — to the elevator. When the song was over it was dead silent and NOT SO FUN ANYMORE and everybody looked around like DID THAT HAPPEN. The balloon holders went outside for a second before determining that we’d cut the cake in the lobby outside Jamshed’s office and release the balloons there. So, basically, everything went off without a hitch.

Blogged about it later.

I was a few minutes late to projects. I kept falling asleep. It was boring and frustrating. Left early because I thought I was gonna black out…and then I did on the sleeping bag on the floor of my studio. Biked back to Brooklyn, and went to the new Greenpoint X’ian which feels like an inside joke because it’s so small and close to nothing except home.

We had a long weekend, so Wednesday became a Friday. “Friday” the 13th.

Went to Dennis’s class in the morning. Still felt shitty. Couldn’t focus on art.

Slept on the floor of my studio again.

Talked to the advisement office about getting out of my Bio class and Joyce said basically no, I won’t get a diploma. I’m indifferent about that anyway after having assessed the risk of getting my diploma yanked for the lock-in and concluding that it actually is just a piece of paper.

Got to Bio late and it was as insufferable as I expected. Haven’t felt like I’m just sitting in a room watching the clock since high school. It’s slightly better than high school because I can be on my laptop. Emailed Day from inside the class that I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS CLASS. Scheduled to meet her on Tuesday.

Then, up popped an email from Jamshed, explaining that the Executive Committee of the Board has decided to withdraw all early admissions for the School of Art.

What the fuck.

Immediately started pinging back and forth with Free Cooper people.

Having felt shitty for a couple days in a row, I’d planned to head to the suburbs to recuperate. But suddenly was organizing an emergency meeting about responding to this newsbomb.

It was the biggest turnout at any kind of meeting in a long time. But nobody really knew what to do. There was a little bit of getting on the same page and speculating and it kind of devolved into creative action planning which may or may not be realistic or helpful right now. Like DIG PETER COOPER UP FORM HIS GRAVE AND BRING HIM HERE. I think I kept waving my arms around and saying things like “SELF-ORGANIZE”. Which also may or may not be helpful. Anyway, when that was done I fled directly from school to the suburbs.

Spent the next FIVE days at home. Pounded Zicam and Nyquil, slept, had alone time, and hung out with family until I was better-ish.

I was actually so in need of going home that I didn’t even pack a bag, so on Friday Niki drove me to the store and I bought socks and underwear lol.

That night the New York Times article that had been in the works dropped. The headline: damaging. “Free Tuition at Cooper Union May Be Near End”.

The article: fair. I was happy to see Kerry and Buckley quoted. Also, I can now add to my resume that The New York Times has called me, “a terrible but amusing rapper”. OR just “terrible”. Jesus Christ. They weren’t supposed to see that. But they LINKED TO IT. An even bigger victory was that the NYT linked to Student Council’s meeting notes(!) AND fucking called the Attorney General to verify a vague threat Jamshed had made to faculty about the school being closed down for insolvency.

> At a meeting last month with the art faculty, someone asked Dr. Bharucha what might happen if professors refused to go along with the board’s plans. His response, according to minutes of that meeting: “The attorney general would ask us to close.” (Dr. Bharucha said he did not recall making the statement; a spokesman for the attorney general said it has made no such warnings.)

Sorrrrrry bout it, we got it in writing. I had a hunch that meeting notes would eventually blow up if done right, and these proved to, both internally and in the media. Couldn’t be more psyched.

Joe and I collated some recent and missing press in a Google Sheet and I figured out how to use Tabletop to syndicate that out wherever as HTML.

Made a stupid little thing called Cooper Media Showdown contrasting “our” media attention versus “theirs”. Not only do we have more volume, but all their press is fucking depressing, while ours is generally hopeful in spite of confronting tough issues rather than just bowing to them.

Got a kooky idea about doing sentiment analysis on all of our press.

Cooper media is a decent corpus and it’s something to potentially carry into my own writing and reading projects stuff. Texts spun around by the electric brain.

Well, the electric brain is fucking stupid! Figured out how to extract text using Readability, get Alchemy to spit out ranked entities with sentiment scores, and then render that JSON as a d3.js approval matrix. Buggy and really stupid (because computers REALLY REALLY can’t understand things) but fun to have quickly whipped up. I’m at a frustrating place in terms of code fluency where I can generally get things to work in pieces but not know how to glue them all together. Ideally a computer would scrape all the articles into a database, run sentiment analysis, maybe even MTurk it or collect human input as well, feed that into the D3 graph, and there would be some kind of interface for switching between articles or overlaying their results or understanding the data in different ways. Each of those little parts was its own struggle, so tying them together is intimidating. Basically I was deep in a text editor copying and pasting urls and manually writing JSON and stuff, which is doofy.

Went to the mall with Mom and Niki which was fun and so suburban. Tried on stupid hats.

Answered a few emails, finally, carving away at the looming cloud of tasks I will never get to. Spent the rest of Monday doing nothing and wanting to not return to reality.

Decided I couldn’t do more meetings, so missed Student Council. Got back into Brooklyn late.

Overslept the followup to the explosive faculty meeting oops. But secretly glad to miss another meeting and felt good knowing two other notetakers would be there to corroborate. Stayed in Brooklyn and made some graphics to promote a rally for deferred students that Victoria had almost singlehandedly organized over the weekend.

Kevin wrote an awesome blog post about it:

> It’s possible that Cooper Union has reached the end of the line, and can’t bring in students because it can no longer subsidize the education that Peter Cooper worked to provide. But if that’s the case: say so.

> If it’s not the case, say yes or no. “Deferral” is a bureaucrat’s word. These are students, and at 17, they still speak English; they understand yes and no. None of this could possibly make any sense to them, as it certainly doesn’t make sense to a lot of other people.

Projects was less bad than usual but not great. Feeling very out of the requisite headspace for my classes lately. Made some weird drawings and notes.

Met with Day and told her I promised myself I wouldn’t bullshit after high school, and she told me I could definitely drop the Bio class if I wanted to and just take a summer class to make up for it, I just wouldn’t get a diploma at graduation. Which is hilarious because that happened to me in high school over skipping gym. I decided, weirdly enough because she seemed so whutevs about it, that I’d probably tough it out. I definitely don’t want to pay for some shitty summer class in Bio after I graduate. Also talked Cooper stuff and she lent me a book I’d been eyeing, The Fall of the Faculty and the Rise of the All Administrative University. Good to talk to Day, always.

There was a meeting to prep for the rally but I was feeling bad so I went home.

Woke up and one of my legs was freezing cold and wet. The radiator in the apartment above me had given out and was leaking directly onto my bed…again. I’ve only had my sheets back for a month since coming home from break and finding them completely crusty with radiator water. Hope my tetanus shot covers this.

Put a bowl on my bed to catch the drips, made a cup of tea, and read the last chapter of Fall of the Faculty, skimming the rest. Its suggestions were consistent with the stuff I’d been writing on forms of administration: get rid of administrators that don’t appear to have a purpose, put faculty on the board, etc. It was interesting to note somebody else’s observation of apathy or frustration with shared governance. For example, some of this guy’s colleagues opted out of all faculty governance meetings and made a point of writing a book during those times. The book did well and everybody was slightly jealous, but if people don’t suck it up and share the responsibility of unsexy administrative work it will get packaged into somebody else’s job, and then you’ll be sorry. (That’s why I’m super interested in how tools can make meetings less frequent and better. I actually have a high tolerance for sharing those responsibilities, but hate to see others opt-out and hate to see myself burn out a little.) Most of all, I didn’t even realize how bad some places have it, with HUNDREDS of “deanlets”. Cooper is smalllll in comparison and should therefore be pliable. But damn it’s hard.

Worked on revising our Art Student Council response to Jamshed’s letter. It was fun to watch it get written by five different people on Github. (IT’S WORKING.) Then committed and emailed it off at the last minute and rushed to school for the rally.

A recording of the livestream by Stopmotionsolo

It drew a big crowd and the poorly amplified statements read by and on behalf of applicants were totally moving.

I was excited to see Niki and Rina! Despite cold weather, a big success. Especially in terms of generating press:

Went to a Contemporary Art Issues class taught by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, which was amusing (“I am NOT a curator. I don’t know what contemporary is, I don’t know what art is, and I definitely don’t what issues are. I’ve been researching research for 30 years!”) in a way that will probably just turn boring soon.

Then, unfortunately, a PR blast that was sent out 30 minutes into our rally patronizing the community for allegedly, “taking the high road off a cliff” started to show up in press as an official response. Dashed off a quick line-by-line refutation of their garbage and made it to another weirdly just okay — in terms of where my head is at — class, thirty minutes late.

Saskia wanted to meet in the morning to give me a slap on the wrist for being pictured in the media with this sign.

I guess it’s not smart to undermine all the research and reading I’ve actually done with a guesstimation, but I didn’t make the sign and Jamshed’s salary isn’t actually public information, so I’ll probably issue a Photoshop correction when the 990s come out.

Had a boring Seth class where we critted Aaron and Will.

This blog post by Cindy Milstein, Organizing As If Social Relations Matter, made my day. In fact, it retroactively made my past couple of weeks. Or two years even. I almost cried when I read it because in spite of its hippy-ness it touches on the human side of what we’re doing that isn’t just about a goal. This shit takes too much time and feels like a rollercoaster — in the words of the Carolyn, “it’s hard to live when you’re under siege”…tell me about it. — but it means something.

A boring Dennis class. What is with me? A boring bio class…that’s to be expected.

Then something awesome: Cooper Happy Hour. People from a bunch of different parties who haven’t worked together closely before in a meaningful way coming together to clarify and amplify each others messages and get new shit done. Some people want to remain anonymous, some people want to come out of anonymity. It’s an interesting dynamic, a stellar group, and I think we’re gonna do some crazy shit. I’m not used to non-class meetings with badass adults. Brain, shaken.

That was followed by a fun party on the third floor by the architecture school. Of course they played the video which I will never live down oh my god.

Hung around in the East Village ‘til late.

Woke up just in time to scramble out the door into the crappy weather to catch a series of busses to Victoria and Stefan’s house for a three or four session facilitation training that Stefan is offering. I didn’t take notes but learned a lot. It’s pretty crazy how there is such significant overlap between activist/consensus type people and corporate team-building and structures. I was reminded a lot of when I used to work with a project manager, except when I was working there wasn’t the same sense of purpose in the day-to-day. We started by stretching and breathing and stuff — it can get hokey! — and then tried to answer basic questions like: why do groups of humans ever meet at all? What could the word facilitator mean? Could draw parallels, at some point, to this stuff online in terms of moderation. But it also underscores the importance of breath-based eye-to-eye meeting, even as an end in itself. But, of course, the purpose is to help large unwieldy groups trust each other and accomplish goals. It’s especially hard and important for me because I’ve always been overly loud and aggressive, so going through this with some quieter people is really instructive. I might not, in the end, make a good facilitator because I’m usually pretty impassioned, but knowing this stuff will I think even help be a part of meetings. Not that we even need it here, right now or yet, but I could see this eventually being really useful.

After the meeting, set up some infrastructure for Happy Hour with V and bounced ideas off her about publishing that group’s work on Github. It’s hard-ish compared to traditional methods but I’m determined, for many reasons, to make it work.

Headed to Dad’s and we went from there with Niki to dinner. Don’t think I’ve seen him in a month! He’s been traveling. Thank god sometimes for parents nearby who will buy you dinners otherwise out of your reach. Sometimes it’s boring to be around each other because we’re similar in that we’re both very much in our own heads and worlds that don’t overlap all the much, but we started talking about Cooper and he had a ton of interesting advice. In the Happy Hour meeting it was brought up that we not only have to get our messages out there, but see how they land. So it was interesting to hear which parts resonated with him and what he thinks next steps should be. It’s easy to forget that some of the internal politics and bad governance stuff doesn’t really come across. Also, a tag line that we had all gotten psyched about made no sense to him, which was worrying but I’m glad I figured out.

Returned to Brooklyn all excited from a day, or really a few weeks, of charging forward with lots of different Cooper stuff and juggling it all without dropping the ball. It’s easy to feel like it’s some kind of distraction that I need to compress into smaller amounts of time, but when I take it seriously it feels great.

Did laundry. Hung around and tried to blog. It’s HARD to focus and justify spending a ridiculous amount of time on something so vain and trivial but like commitments-to-self and brain-defragmentation or whatever. Kind of a nothing day. Stayed up late with Aaron and Alex. It was a full moon and we guessed it. Aaron finally pointed out to me that when I was away for five days a week ago they had all flipped the entire contents of my bookshelf so the pages face outward and I hadn’t noticed. Psychopaths! Fell asleep while resting my eyes in the middle of blogging.

Overslept art history. Oops, christ. It’s kind of a nothing class anyway. Scared that I’m SLIGHTLY withdrawn from my classes at the moment, but sometimes it happens. Tectonic brain plates shifting. My fear of political art, on top of my fear of regular art. I was talking to Aaron about how I’m PROBABLY going to make a shitload of ART when I get out of school because I won’t have crits and a 10,000 page invisible book of unwritten rules to abide by. Aspirational.

And on the subject of aspirations, had a beer with Alex AT 11 AM because it’s like well, already fucked this day up I love college lol yolooooo. MOM, it was merely symbolic and we all made it to school shortly after where I have been happily/diligently blogging my heart out/the day away ever since.

Tonight, New York is an embarrassment of riches and I will have to choose between: part three of Pickett’s lectures on Cities in Crisis, a guy from NASA talking about the Mars rover, a screening at MoMA of a movie by the Otolith group that I was told I HAVE to see one time when I missed it to infiltrate Cooper’s telemarketing department. Or, you know, doing work. Which is the only thing I actually have to be doing right now. Fuck New York sometimes. I’ll sleep when I’m dead do my work when I live alone in a corn field. OKAY?