Helping Mark Allan Ohm translate Garcia's magnum opus was probably the second hardest thing (after caring for a newborn) I've yet done, and it's tremendously validating to get a pat on the shoulder as well as to see that other people agree with me that it was not time wasted.
To be clear, if you had to translate a one hundred seventy thousand plus word metaphysics tome from its original French, you could not do better than to translate one by as preternaturally gifted a writer as Tristan Garcia. But it's still a lot of moving pieces you have to juggle for sustained periods.
In this post I hypothesized about why so many urban fantasy series written by women start out wonderful and end up unreadable, with reference to Jacqueline Carey, Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Anne Rice. In that post I mistakenly identified Harrison's tick as starting bits of dialogue with "Uh," when in fact it is "Ah." This happened so many times in the penultimate few Hollows novels that I couldn't finish them. But today I gamely made my way through the finale, The Witch With No Name. And I must say that it was much better in the ah department than the previous few. But I still can't understand why HarperCollins cannot do a better editing job for a series that has produced multiple New York Times best sellers. Consider the following sixty-five examples from the book.
"Ah, Ellasbeth?" Landon said, as if not liking the hope in her voice any more than I did (p. 81).
"Ahh. . . . ," Trent hedged, shifting sideways until he could touch the small of my back. Ellasbeth, too, had a minor panic moment--for a completely different reason (p. 84).
"Good." He leaned over the counter and tapped his pencil on the instructions. I knoew the moment he caught my scent when he froze, then pulled back. "The, ah, spell calls for removing the original soul from a healthy body. I skipped that part (p. 92)."
"Ahh, I would think an aspen rod," he said, and I took the pen out of his hand and added it to the list. "Im destroying that before I leave,," he said, meaning the paper (p. 92).
"Hey, ah, Rache?" Jenks said, dropping down in a colun of gray dust, "We've got company (p. 107)."
"Ah, it's working," I said as more eyes showed, rising up from the grass like lions (p. 111).
"Right," I said, smile gone, and Cormel nodded for me to get on with it. "Ah, he needs to be prone, " I said, glancing at Felix, the undead vampire glaring malevolently at me, apparently not appreciating hte kindness to stray dogs (p. 133).
Blood, I thought, fear slicing through the drum-borne lethargy. I needed a drop of undead blood. My head snapped up and Jenks darted back, shocked at my worried expression. "Ah, I need a drop of his blood," I said, flicking a look at Felix (p. 139).
"Ah, no."Trent rose, his hands up in protest. "I can't take care of a dog (p. 152)."
"Ah, Rache (p. 164)?"
Trent made an embarrassed sound. Glancing behind me to the cowed vampire, he winced. "Ah, not exactly. I made you Lucy's legal guardian if I died or was missing for more than six months. If we both go, Al gets her. Ellasbeth probably doesn't know about that clause (p. 169)."
Oh God, she was going to do the eulogy. "Ah, Mom (p. 177)?"
"Ah, I need to do some spelling," I said, giving Trent a thankful glance when he gave my fingers a supportive squeeze under the bar (p. 181).
"Just the expensive stuff." My mom's eyes were on Takata as he came back in, this time wearing something a little more subdued but still clearly "retired rock star" with metallic socks and red shoes. "Thank you, dear," she said as she adjusted his wide collar, then turned to me. "Ah, ignore what's under the sink, okay? I've been meaning to take care of it (p. 181)."
"Ah, not all of it," Trent said from the door (p. p. 225).
"Ah, Rache?" Jenks whispered as Trent paled (p. 226).
Trent jerked, clearly surprised, as Jenks hovered backward, mouth curling up in a laugh. "Ah, I would be honored . . . ," Trent said, and Dali chuckled as well, seeming to gather himself to leave. Seeing it, Trent paled even more (p. 231).
Licking his lips, Trent stood, all professional polish gone. "Ahhhh (p. 231)."
"Ah, as much as I'd like . . . ," Trent was saying but it was too late, and Newt pressed her cheek against his as well, her lips smacking to make a kiss sound (p. 231).
A hint of red about his ears, Trent adjusted his collar. "It came with the, ah, circumcision curse. Kind of an all-encompassing trim-and-neat . . . spell (p. 234)."
Cormel cleared his throat, and my focus shifted to him. "Oh, sorry," I said and Trent hid a smile behind a cough. "Ah, no. No, I'm not (p. 235)."
"Ah, Rache?" Trent said feet scuffing as his eyes flicked form me to the FIB guys outside. "The intent is to avoid conflict. Not incite it (p. 236)."
Trent's presence was a whisper beside me. "Ah, Rachel? You're making some rather large policy statements (p. 238)."
Edden'ts feet scuffed on the painted floor. "Ah, yes. About that (p. 242)."
"Ah, Rachel . . ." Edden pulled me to walk beside him, and I winced as Ivy strode out the door, her head high and jaw clenched. "Rachel, you talked to the demons," Edden prompted (p. 243."
"I'm working on it," I said as I hesitated before going out. "You should be okay tonight unless someone gets a wild hair up their, ah, yeah." My voice faltered as Trent breezed past. "It won't get bad until they know if the sun is going to force them back," I finished, voice softer.
She hesitated at her mom's car, the door already open. Nina grimaced form teh other side, and paced forward, head down as I rummaged in my bag. "here," I said, feeling unsure and nervous as I stopped before her. "I, ah, made this for you (p. 244)."
His fingers fumbled, and alarm brought me still. "Ah, why do you ask (p. 248)?"
Lump in my throat, I turned. I didn't want him to know I'd seen, and if I stayed, I'd start to cry. "Ah, I'm sorry," I said, looking around as if my purse and coat were out here. "I have to go take a shower. Al, thank you for the information (p. 260)."
"You, ah, think I could come with you?" I said, and Ellasbeth jerked, her attention on Lucy momentarily eclipsed. "I need to persuade them to leave the surface demons in the ever-after and the real demons in reality," I added, wincing. I wasn't going to be the demons' liaison, but someone had to say something, and I did have a reputation for saving large demographics--even if the collateral damage was high (p. 261)."
They were almost lining the streets now, and everyone was being turned away. "Ah, I'm trying to reach someone," I said, thinking if Nina was in there, so was Ivy. "I mean, I was called in to work," I said, flashing my old I.S. badge with my spell-burned hair and dopey look. "Who do I talk to (p. 266)?"
"Long enough." Jenks's wings were shading blue formt eh cold, and he vibrated them for warmth. "She's, ah, rallying the living vampires to protect the undead. Not everyone is happy about it. I don't know what's going to happen if the elves bring their souls back (p. 267).
Jenks's dust was a beacon as he hovered over me, looking for the easiest path to the curb. "Ah, Rache? Is that your mom?"
"Ah, Rache?" Jenks said form my shoulder, too cold to fly well, but I stood there and fumed. Had they forgotten the chaos of when the masters were sleeping just three months ago? Their fear of the night (p. 272)?"
Oh God, he was pointing at me. Sure, I could do some magic and blast everyone, but that'd only get me in jail, if I was lucky. "Ah, Trent. I gotta go," I muttered, then closed the phone in the middle of his outcry (p. 262).
"No, for taking the zip strip off." Trent hesitated, and a cold feeling slipped into me. "Ah, didn't you just snap it?" I hadn't felt anything, but if he'd been quick about it, I wouldn't, seeing as the strip blocked you from all line contact (p. 280).
"Ah, can you make a light?" Trent asked, his voice eerie coming out of the dark (p. 303).
"Ah, Rachel . . ." Trent was wincing, and I stiffened.
"Ah . . . ," the demon said, clearly surprised as well (p. 307).
"Well, ah . . . ," Al stammered (p. 307).
"If we knew that, he wouldn't have to follow." Quen winced as he got his legs stright and tried to get up. "Ahhhhh, that's going to hurt tomorrow (p. 308)."
The demon's face twitched. "It was an accident," he said flatly. "If you get the paperwork that returns Lucy to you, ah, just summon me (p. 318)."
"Ahh," I hedged, not wanting to call it a night quite yet. "Can I use your phone to call my mom before she storms the I.S. (p. 320)?"
Or turn really, really bad. I clicked off the table lamp, wanting the muffling gray of shadow. "I, ah, don't have my phone anymore either," I said, reluctant to hang up but having nothieng more to say. "Just call Trent to get hold of me." Unnoticed until now, the faint glow fo the downstairs bounced against the ceiling to light everything in a soothing haze (p. 323).
Trent laughte, the sound of it seeming to ease some of the ugly uncertainty away. "I'd really lke you to be there, not necessarily as a demon represenatitive, but as, ah . . ." He winced (pp. 326-7).
"Ah, David," I said to distrat the demon. "Al brought up an interesting point; if Landon manages to destroy the undead souls, then int might negatively impact the undead, as their souls and consciousnesses might be forever divided. Is Cormel still buying into Landon's lies, or is he just stringing Landon along hoping I'll come bail him out when it doesn't work (p. 341)?"
Vivian's whistle made me flush. "Ah, that can't be healthy," the woman said, and Jenks went to sit on David's shoulder and fill him in (p. 342).
"So what do we do?" I said, keeping a tight watch on Ivy. "We can't allow an end to the ever-after, even to prevent the undead souls from killing their, ah, own. I can't live in a world with no magic (p. 344)."
David started from his thoughts. "Ah, I'm not really a representative. I was there because they couldn't find anyone else on short notice (p. 347)."
"I'm staying downtown at the Cincinnatian," Vivian said, tucking her notes away in a tiny purse that had to be bigger on the inside than the out. "Give me until noon." She hesitated as she stood. "Ah, make that three. They migh tnot be up yet. I'll have a better idea of what the coven will do (p. 349)."
"Ah, just the local distribution of the packs to minimize disruption to services," Trent lied, and Ivy sent Jenks to get a croissant. We might be here awhile. "The same thing the packs did the last time the vampires panicked (p. 349)."
"The thing about a collective curse is that it can be broken if the prson orchestrating it is, ah . . ." Trent's voice trailed off as he searched for a word (p. 350)."
"You haven't for a long time," he said, hands clasped between his knees, making him look worried and scared. "We, ah, hate to admit it, but demons are still tied to elven magic (p. 359)."
My hope flooded back, and I came to him, sitting so our knees almost touched, begging him to listen. "Al, I know wwe can do this. You ma be only four hundred, but you have the gargoyles as anchors now. There's support among the elves, hidden in the dewar. Vivian is trying to sway the witches' coven. Professor Anders . . ." I hesitated. "Ah, she's okay, right (p. 359)?"
"Ah, Landon is probably in the adjoining room," Jenks suggested, but his soulful, almost pitying expression told me he was just saying that to try to give Trent something to pin his worry to. We could not start a firefight in a room where Lucy was (p. 366).
"I know how you feel," I said, glancing at Trent. "Ah, I appreciate this, but-- (p. 389)."
Chasing down Landon." Edden almost swaggered, so pleased was he. "He's the one who called us in. We got here before the I.S. Ah, if it's any consolation, Cormel agrees that the elves were trtying to kill the undead (p. 390)."
Jenks sifted a thin, frustrated dust and Trent fidgeted, his expression wary as we watched three more Weres run down the street. "Ah . . . I'll be right back," he said when Jenks began making a weird whine, Trent jiggling on his feet before lurching into motion and striding to Edden. The floor was clearing out--and it made me even more nervous than the crowded one (p. 392).
Ellasbeth looked at me, her words hesitant as she took in the bandages and blood. Not all of it was mine. Most of it wasnt' mine, atually, and that somehow made it worse. "Ah, no one believes," she said. "But you need to do something, Trent. He's blaming you, too (p. 403)."
"Boys and girls," Newt soothed, her pleasant expression faltering when she noticed a bruise in the shape of a handprint on her arm. "We, ah, have all suffered, and though we clearly cannot forget, can we at least strive to forgive each other such that we can . . . survive (p. 408)?"
"Ah, Newt?" I hazarded, but Dali had stood, his face red and frustrated as the already insecure demon came to grips with the fact that he was helpless before a world that wanted to see him dead (p. 409).
"It's Nina's soul, free of her consciousness," Al said. "Unlike that ill-fated attempt when you, ah, tried to bind with that soul, Ivy likely won't notice a thing. But there will be far-reaching repercussions from this (p. 428)."
"Ah, no, but the longer you can make it glow the better (p. 431)."
"Ah, guys?" Jenks squeaked in distress as he hovered, spilling a hot dust. "I don't think that's a good thing. I think I'm going to explode here (p. 434)!"
"Ahh, I'll wear yours, thanks (p. 450)."
Maybe I would not have noticed these had the previous five or so books in the series not sensitized me to occurrences of the execrable word. But still, why dear Jesus? Why?
In bright counterpoint to generic holiday/travel agonies that at least for a neurotic like me make work impossible (just how did Woody Allen make all those films?), I've begun working on an interview with Graham Harman, to come out on the occasion of the publication the new edition of his Quentin Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making, which I'm also reading proofs of. I'll be done with it by early next week and be back to regular public conceptual eructations/bloviations at that point.
The interview should be out in early February and I think that Harman's answers will be really interesting.
My God this is a good book, and the new stuff is gravy is as well. If I can get ever myself to write half so well I'll feel like the study of philosophy has been to some purpose.
A couple of years on, I'm still a little bummed that Meillassoux hasn't caught on in analytic philosophy and that he's so misunderstood by so many continental philosophers. There's really no excuse after Harman's book. He's clear about Meillassoux's interesting modal arguments (catnip to analytics like me; the backs of my printout of the second edition are now filled up with boxes, diamonds, quantifiers, and whatnot) and the common misunderstandings about Meillassoux that you hear sometimes at SPEP are addressed by him head-on in a number of intersting discussions.
Oh well. Life is finite and we all have to make our choices about what to spend our time reading and thinking about. If you feel lucky to be working on what you are working on then gratitude is the appropriate response.
After half a morning of listening to K-LBJ's Uncle Joe's Rockin' Christmas Show (full playlist here) I've come to the conclusion that there are no good Christmas songs. And I can't figure out why this is the case.
What is it about Christmas that provokes such treacly insincerity by so many people capable of writing good music about non-Christmas related things? If you haven't already, take a look at Uncle Joe's playlist. Nearly everyone on it is a decorated footsoldier in the army of rock. But Christmas has utterly defeated them all.
Maybe the bad music reflects the way that no reality could possibly live up to the cultural narrative, which in itself doesn't make much sense. We're ostensibly celebrating the birth of someone who encouraged all of us to abjure judging others, yet there's this whole business of Santa Claus/Krampus/Burl Ives/etc. separating the sheep from the goats. . . No, that doesn't seem that plausible to me. Contradictions such as those are no barrier to good art.
Maybe it's because the holiday is aimed at children, and for some reasons our cultural has become progressively less capable of producing good art aimed solely at children. Dreamworks is the exception that proves the rule here, an exception because all of the movies are aimed at adults as well. If you've ever been exposed to the submental fare on the Disney channel or (sorry Roy Cook) the places where George Lucas gets it wrong by aiming things at kids (Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, the young Darth Vader, etc.) you'll see the truth of this. So maybe Christmas music is uniquely bad because of the inability of all of the artists to represent a true kids' utopia?
Are there any other holidays that uniquely produce bad art? I think 9/11 is about as bad, and for homologous reasons (nationalist idolatry requires treating everyone as children). The only good 9/11 songs were written before 9/11 and misappropriated after the fact (such as the Natalie Merchant song above) or written to protest then dominate cultural narratives (Green Day's American Idiot album). Halloween and Valentine's Day have produced some good tunes. I can't think of anything about Thanksgiving one way or the other.
Last night at the sushi restaurant Emily said that she thought there were three basic strategies to navigating one's forties: (1) try to shape oneself according to the cultural and aesthetic norms appropriate to people in their twenties, (2) become matronly (this applies to men and women), and (3) embrace punk rock.
I objected that this didn't really say anything since our generation has made "punk rock" an anodyne term of approbation. Or rather it just says that you can deny aging, become a matron, or do something worthwhile. So all that's being expressed is criticism of people who don't grow up or who grow up according to the accepted program (which seems a little unfair to the accepted program; one of my greatest hopes is to accompany a bunch of grandkids to church someday) .
Emily responded that "punk rock" very clearly denotes willingness to maniacally follow a do-it-yourself work ethic with respect to the things you find meaningful no matter what the rest of the world thinks. I responded that people might find reliving their twenties (with older bodies and fatter paychecks) or becoming matronly meaningful and hence qualify as punk rock. Emily just responded that in her lexicon disjunction is always inclusive and any Gricean implicatures to the contrary a priori cancelled.
So it's OK if the list isn't exclusive. But I don't think it's exhaustive either. The best country music song in history is called "Waiting Around To Die," and I've sadly known a few people whose post-tenure existence approximated that. People who get successful in fields under all of the external pressure facing anyone working in those fields often can't deal with the point when that pressure lifts. Retirement can do this too. It's a kind of psychic bends that sometimes kills people. Another depressing and widespread one might be "addictions less harmful than those of your thirties," e.g. twelve stepism, t.v. parties, dianetics, some forms of religious and/or political activism, etc., etc., etc.
There have to be some that are less depressing than either waiting around to die or less-harmful-addictions, but maybe they all fall under the penumbra of "punk rock" as Emily defines it. If that's true, the existentialists (at least of the Victor Fraenkl variety) were right after all. That seems O.K. to me.
On this 'moving to Facebook' thing: I can see some of the motivation, but I think we have reason to be uncomfortable with the suggestion.
One of the great things the blogs opened up, for all their defects, is an end to some of the elitist insularity that came with being not only a professional philosopher but the sort of philosopher other philosophers ever listened to. Yes, I know there have been bad aspects to the blogs as well, but they did at least offer a sort of democratization of professional philosophy discussions that in some ways has been desirable.
As Jon Haidt likes to discuss, the evidence is that increasing diversity along the lines of sex and race are perfectly laudable sociopolitical goals, but they really have been shown to do far less than we tend to think to increase the diversity of opinions we share in our discussions. Despite what some of you may suspect, I probably share with most of the readers here a broad agreement on most ethical and political matters (though notably not on some). It's a quirk of the social circumstances of our profession that we are pretty well insulated from large groups of people in our own country and in other countries who think very differently from how we do. The blogs, especially the freer ones, are at least bringing out a little of that amid the noise. Jon, I know that your reaction to it is to recoil in horror. Fine, that's the first reaction many of us have to suddenly being presented with a bunch of voices we don't agree with, don't like, and don't want around. But in the end, when we choose between working with those voices or shutting them out of the discussion entirely, we're bound to shut out some of the good with the bad.
Now consider Facebook. The whole basis of Facebook is 'friendship'. If I want to know what many of the philosophers are thinking, if I want to get all of it, and the only avenue is Facebook, I have to become their 'friends'. A philosopher from a relatively unknown program, or from a more respected program who has fallen out of touch with old schoolmates, won't have the right kinds of connections to make that work. I doubt very much that they will be 'friended' automatically by in-group Facebook philosophers who don't know them, particularly since Facebook also plays various social roles.
Have you ever (as I hope) ever taken a good look at the social dynamics that take place at an APA conference, say? Old friends on the A-list meet up with each other, compare notes, introduce each other to the new up-and-coming philosophical stars... and they don't generally tend to be that welcoming to outsiders at all. So the B-list and C-list philosophers are left wandering around the book table or sitting alone in the corridor trying to look absorbed in something.
I see pretty well that same thing happening on Facebook. There's preening, exciting status updates, the presentation of claims not so much because they're important to say as because it will earn one status points to say them when others say, "Great, he/she thinks that's unacceptable too! What a cool person!"
And Jon, you've also mentioned before the importance in some contexts nowadays of anonymity. True pathbreakers like Descartes, Spinoza, D'Holbach and Hume have at times needed to avail themselves of these masks in order to say things that someone needed to say but would be personally injurious at the time if one said them under one's one name. That is a welcome feature of many blogs. But on Facebook, it will be gone.
For all these reasons, you will not hear anything from me on Facebook, and as a result I will only hear a limited amount from anyone else there. Quite possibly you will be happier hearing one fewer voice you don't agree with. Regardless, I think these things should be counted as a cost if things do to that way. I'm therefore against it.
As I noted in the post to which Pallas is responding, I think that part or the reason that there is so much less interesting philosophical conversation now in the philosophical blogosphere is that the algorithms are in overdrive. Once someone rejects one of your comments on a typepad blog, your comments are automatically rejected on lots of other blogs. Since one of my comments at newapps was rejected, my comments only show up on blogspot blogs. From reading PMB and PMMB I think this has happened to a lot of people.
Unfortunately, I also find what Pallas says about facebook to be non-trivial and plausible.
During the recent Leiter imbroglio it was clear to me that a lot of the stuff that used to happen on blogs is happening on facebook. So after a relevant comment by Mark Silcox in reaction to this post, I'm giving it another go.
I'm going to keep this place going and not going to do any stand-alone posts at facebook, but it will be nice to follow what other people are doing in facebook-world. I'd be really happy to get friend requests from any of the people who post comments here or who used to post comments at newapps.
Wendy's chili convinced me to give up on a certain kind of traditional Platonism.
Backstory. There weren't that many fine dining establishments in the Montgomery Alabama of my youth. There was the Elite (pronounced "ee-light"), the place at the country club (racial minorities, Jews, and members of the U.S. military and dependents not allowed even as guests), and chain restaurants. On the rare times there was enough disposable income to go to eat a fancy meal, we would go to the Steak and Ale, or Pasquale's Pizza, both of which had cloth table cloths (and the former no windows) and so were hence fancy. A couple of times while going through Birmingham, we went to Bennington's, which we didn't know was owned by the same chain that owned Steak and Ale. I don't even know if we knew they were chains.
My older brother's first real job was at the first Wendy's to come to Montgomery. Everyone bought into all the hype about the owner naming it after his daughter, just like we bought into the hype about what a great guy Sam Walton was just as he was systematically shutting down all of the little towns in the state. Anyhow, for some reason there was all this buzz about Wendy's chili. This was weird, because lots of Alabamans are capable of cooking vastly better chili. But I think in those days we messed up with the comparison classes. Just because the chili was significantly less disgusting than the oily fair you would get at church potlucks and because it seemed more like real food than the stuff you got at other fast-food restaurants, it was therefore something to be excited about.
So I was excited about it. Every time we had enough money to eat out I would order the Wendy's chili. I don't know exactly what it represented to me. . . maybe sophistication? An enlarged set of possibilities (again, relative to church potluck nausea)? The ultimate justness of a world that would contain something so great, yet sometimes affordable? All these things and more. I believed the hype. It was a big deal to get it.
But over the years of my childhood, as books, music, movies and whatnot further extended my sense of the possible it slowly dawned on me that Wendy's chili was not in fact that great. There were at least three years of cognitive dissonance where I kind of knew this, yet couldn't give up on the Idea of Wendy's chili, which I still loved. But finally, in a way that I think only Hegel has really ever understood, the particular defeated the universal, the Idea itself shifting.
And this has become a theme of my life. Here are some other things where my love of the Idea of the thing blinded me to the sucky nature of the thing:
Instrumental solos- Angus Young once said he didn't know why people considered him a heavy metal guitarist, because heavy metal guitarists get up on stage and play scales really fast up and down the fretboard. Young noted that he could play scales up and down the fretboard really fast, but that was called practicing. For all these years I played in bands where at some point in the show each musician would do a solo. I'm so far beyond that that I don't even have a clear concept of what the Idea used to be where I think that would be remotely worthwhile.
95% of Post-Bop jazz music- See 1 above. For decades I'd go to these boppish jazz concerts and for the first ten minutes convince myself that I was in a Jack Kerouac novel. It was great, but then the eleventh or so minute would come around and I'm stuck for two hours as these jokers on stage just played scales really fast. The final two hours were the revenge of the particular on the universal.
Chain restaurants that claim to make good hamburgers (Burgersmith, Five Guys, Fat Cow, etc.)- This is the latest iteration of Wendy's chili. Don't fall for the hype. A rare hamburger with high quality fatty meat is a thing that inspires religious awe. You won't get that at any of these places. Just because their fare is slightly more foodlike than McDonalds doesn't mean it's actually good.
I also have a lot of friends who are victims of the same pre-Hegelian mindset, abstracting the Idea of something from the particular so much as a way to deal with the cognitive dissonance of pretending to actually like the particulars.
Humanity versus actual human beings- It's been my sad experience that the more someone takes it upon themselves to save the human race, the nastier they are capable of being to actual humans. This is a vice of both the left and the right, but in academic philosophy the leftists are much, much worse about this. Just read our blogs or facebook pages!
The Idea of New York City-I know a handful of people who are miserable that they live in flyover land (or, as we call the American South sometimes, "flee from land"). Here the Idea of New York City is used to explain their unhappiness at living elsehwere. In an effort to cheer them up, I try to get them to google "New York City is a shitty place to live," (try it!) but it never seems to help.
Academia versus actual academies- The percentage of academics who make themselves miserable because they didn't achieve their Idea of academia is at least as large as the New York City contingent. Instead of changing the Idea once exposed to the reality, they think they would be happy if they were just in a higher ranked department. The weird thing is, I know people who have this kind of unhappiness at all levels of the hierarchy (non-Leiter ranked depts with 4-4 loads, to top ranked school). I also know people who don't have it at all levels of the hierarchy. The people who don't have it somehow manage to keep that original love of philosophy alive, when you're seventeen and reading Marcuse in the tub after a day of working at KMart, and you feel like you are doing what you are meant to be doing. This too is Hegel. You reading in the tub night after night is matter becoming spirit, the universe becoming self-conscious. If you are in the biz for any other reason than this Hegelian one, it's going to let you down. I mean, if that Idea can be sustained in light of the reality of working package-pickup in a big retail store then it can stand up to unfavorable teaching loads, administrative nonsense, and whatnot.
Honestly, if I wanted to further put on the obnoxious Vonnegut martian anthropolitist hat I could include just about anything under the sun, e.g.: outdoor festivals, sports, countries, pets, Trader Joe's, automobiles, politicians, children. . .
This being said, I still think it's true that any strategy for avoiding self-inflicted misery requires: (1) reconciling your affective stances towards a univeral and instances of it, and (2) recognizing the dialectical interaction between particular and universal (at least insofar as "universal" names something graspable to humans like us). I'm sure there's all sorts of other things that I think I like but don't really like. Hopefully I'll gain greater wisdom in this regard.
Missed a post about kids (one of ours actually) from Emily's Pretty Cool Blog here. The picture is of a liger. Thomas and I had just watched Napoleon Dynamite (surely not for the last time). It was cool that he understand it well enough to root for the good guys and also to see how much of the film he retained via comics.
The most recent post here is about women writing about men and vice versa.
I think it's in the beginning of the Gay Science where Nietzsche likens philosophy to recovering from a sickness. It's a powerful image, I think up there with the earlier German Romantic picture of philosophy as arising from a feeling of being out of place, not being at home.
Nietzsche's analogy hasn't really worked for me since college though, and especially not since having kids. In particular, I get sick a lot more than I used to. They'll pick up something minor and run a fever for a day, and then I'll be shut down for over a week with the same symptoms. Other parents tell me this gets better as the kids get older. We'll see how it shakes out with me.
You would think that e-mail would be a godsend for the socially phobic, because so many of the implicit non-verbal communicative norms that the socially phobic are scared of messing up aren't in play. To some extent that's true. But it's also not, because the very lack of these norms increases the danger of saying the wrong thing and unintentionally offending someone. You mess this up enough times and the same old phobias jump out in a mutated electronic form. So an e-mail that might take a normal person thirty seconds to write will take a socially phobic person much longer.
This is vastly increased when you're sick, because it's just that much more work to get it right. So, more often than not, I get way behind on e-mail while ill.* When I start to get better there are sometimes over a thousand messages in three different accounts and a couple of days where all I'm going to do is e-mail.
Given how often Nietzsche got severely ill (and given, lest we forget, what a nut he was), I wonder how he would have dealt with e-mail? Probably the whole idea that we should be constantly available just would have led him to quit teaching much earlier than he already did. Then Peter Gast would have handled his electronic correspondence until Nietzsche's final breakdown, at which point his sister would have pushed him aside and taken over all of Nietzsche's e-mail, facebook, twitter, and typepad accounts. She would have set up a livecam in his bedroom so people could pay to see him stare into the void, as the void stared back into him. She pretty much actually did just that, albeit with the technology available at the time.
Anyhow, if you've e-mailed me in the last week and a half, profuse apologies; I'm on track to being caught up by tomorrow.
*Some of this is surely passive-aggression.** It just seems unreasonable to me that we're supposed to be at everyone else's beck and call all the time. Students will e-mail me in the early morning hours and then be put out that I didn't write them back before the class that day. I'm supposed to wear a blue tooth device and stop everything for an incoming e-mail while riding my bicycle, reading, writing papers, playing with my kids?
**Maybe the problem is just that I'm a lot more passive-aggressive while ill. I don't know, I've found that if I just sit around and read fantasy novels that I can be in a pretty good mood even when I feel pretty bad physically. People tend to underestimate just how much work the pleasures of genuine indolence can do in the hedonic calculations.]
Why does the one holiday Americans devote entirely to eating involve such lackluster food? You really have to stretch (mackerel?) to find a protein less impressive than turkey. "Dressing" looks exactly the same before your drunk uncle has eaten it and after he's thrown it up the next morning. Boiled green beans taste like dirty water, and Jello brand cranberry mold is about the only thing I can imagine that pairs appropriately with the aforementioned vomitous dressing.
It's always weird when the APA holds the Central in New Orleans and the paper you're giving is scheduled at night. Chances are, you'll end up presenting to an empty room because anyone who might have gone to your paper has the good sense to be doing something else. I twill be interesting to see if SPEP is similar.
For people who don't know New Orleans much, I should say that the musical center post-Katrina is on Frenchman Street in the Marigny, just on the other side of the Quarter. Start with DBA and the Spotted Cat. If it's a fortuitous night you'll luck into some great weird Cajun band playing a cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs with the (non-chromatic!) accordian player putting Toni Iomi to shame. There are lots of other great clubs right nearby with uncommonly good bands. My favorite is probably Checkpoint Charlie's. They have a laundromat on premises.
In the video at right, Buress messes up his geography a bit. You wouldn't go from Canal Street to Bourbon, since Bourbon ends at Canal Street. All the other stuff is basically right though. I'm surprised that he mentions Coop's by name in his "rat in the bathroom" story. My departed (two years in a month) friend Ian Crystal used to actually live upstairs from Coop's. He had a really hard few months when a recent ex-girlfriend began a romantic relationship with one of the cooks at Coop's and they'd hang out there all the time. Everyone made up in the end though.
Coop's is next to Molly's, where you can down a drink or several this weekend in Ian's memory. He used to order a greyhound by saying, "Could I have a vodka with just a splash of grapefruit juice, please?" I don't know if his drinks were actually stiffer as a result. The bartenders always rolled their eyes at me whenever he did that. If you stay at Molly's through enough drinks you'll eventually overhear a barfly in her forties telling some tourists about how she came to New Orleans x number of years ago and loved it so much she never left. It's a very welcoming city for barflies, maybe not so much Presbyterians though. . . I remember one time at Molly's getting trapped by a musician with bad teeth who wouldn't stop telling me about how the last weekend he'd hooked his elderly father up with psychedelic mushrooms. It was a pretty reliable Molly's moment. The kitchen's good too.
Ian was capable of immense hilarity and often found himself in situations where he couldn't resist doing something inappropriate. I helped write his obituary, which includes this bit:
Faculty colleagues recall Ian Crystal's wicked and irreverent sense of humour, his pursuit of justice and dedication to his students. He insisted that junior faculty members be treated fairly, and set high standards for his students, a number of whom have gone on to pursue graduate studies around the world. Students recall that he was a fierce advocate for them inside and outside the university, and would organize special classes in Ancient Greek for students who wanted more than the regular course offerings allowed.
Here's an example of the first bit. One night when he was hanging out in Molly's editing a new edition of an ancient commentary on Aristotle Ian looked up to see LSU's then chancellor Sean O Keefe at a table holding court to a group of lackeys in suits. It was a little bit incongruous. O Keefe ran NASA under Bush but after one of the shuttles blew up he was moved out to be chancellor of LSU. The story we were told is that he'd get us all these federal contracts. I have no idea how that turned out. I think that, like Bush, he just kept failing upwards and is now working in that American sweet spot at the interesection of defense contractors and our elected representatives.
At the time Molly's had Changesonebowie in its juke box. So Ian surreptitiously went over, put a couple of bucks in, and made it so that Space Oddity would play eight times in a row. By the third or fourth play, O Keefe and the flunkies left and Ian could get back to his Simplicius in peace.
Anyhow- let us all lift our glasses to Ian and to SPEP: for the good things, the bad things, and also things out of the blue.