en Been busy! <span>Been busy!</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><div>Sorry I've been out of touch!  A lot of writing obligations.  But I'm back, but just like before, no better I'm afraid.  Story of my life.</div> <div> </div> <div>Oh <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> seems right to me, about Menand’s <i>The Free World</i>:</div> <blockquote> <div>“Menand notes in passing Jakobson’s claim that the world’s languages were based on 12 binary oppositions. <i>The Free World</i> presents us with at least as many: moralism vs realism in foreign policy, extrinsic vs intrinsic in literary studies and dissonance vs consonance in music. But if you look closely—or perhaps stand back—you notice again and again a battle between the dogmatic on the one hand and the pragmatic on the other.”</div> </blockquote> <div>On the other hand, this is a ridiculous claim: “for more than a quarter of a century, Menand has been a leading scholar of pragmatism in its philosophical form.” No he hasn’t.  It is no insult to Menand at all to say he’s not a “scholar of pragmatism,” much less a “leading” one.  He wrote a very good general audience book, <i>The Metaphysical Club</i>, but that does not make anyone a “scholar.”  C’mon.</div> <div> </div> <div>Ahem:</div> <blockquote> <div>“What’s really interesting is some of the biggest pushback I’ve gotten hasn’t been about my critiques of his demeanor or the way he’s treated students or colleagues. It’s been about criticizing his economics. I also have run into a lot of blowback for criticizing Raj Chetty’s analysis of the stimulus checks, because I shouldn’t have done it in public. And that’s not even the Twitter. This is just legitimately having, in public, a debate about the quality of their economic advice is not the way it’s supposed to be done. Because they outrank me. Larry’s smarter than I am. As I am told, repeatedly.“</div> </blockquote> <div><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Really interesting interview</a> with Claudia Sahm, an economist who has an interesting presence on social media, in a good way.  On many many things, and all of it worth your while.</div> <div><br> Missed <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> when it came out—about the “meritocracy trap,” and it seems really good.  I’ll get the book.</div> <div> </div> <div>An <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">old post</a> by Kieran Healy on rudeness in philosophy, which does seem an unusually transparently rude field.  Healy thinks like a social theorist, which is illuminating, on this issue and many others.</div> <div> </div> <div>Fascinating to read the story about <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">China’s energy problems</a> on the same day that the US Department of the Interior <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">announced</a> that they would be open to having wind farms on all the federal waters of the American coast.  The different availability of energy supplies, not just carbon-based, in the US and China he’s really important, and I am delighted to see the US developing this, not only for immediate energy policy matters, but also for Geo political matters.</div> <div> </div> <div> <div>Not totally high on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this essay</a> but I post it because, among other things, it has a picture of Ras Tanura beach, which is where I tried to spend as much time as possible in 3rd and 4th grades.  We would go there after school, and sometimes not actually go home until dinner.</div> <div> </div> <div>Be well everyone.  I know I've promised this before, but I hope, I really hope, to be better about posting things here, in the near future.</div> </div> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Tue, 10/19/2021 - 22:17</span> Wed, 20 Oct 2021 02:17:08 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 14032 at Links links links <span>Links links links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>It's the weekend!  Rest &amp; enjoy.</p> <p> </p> <p>Some <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">useful advice here</a> about designing affective “flipped courses“.  Useful if you're a primitive like me, anyway.</p> <p> </p> <p>A really <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">long and rich interview</a> with Donald Fagen, of Steely Dan. As angular, serpentine, and sly as you would expect. Don't lose this web link, it's the only one you'll want.</p> <p> </p> <p>Carlos Lozada has become my favorite book viewer who is on the staff of a major newspaper, and in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this review</a> he does a good job of thinking through some of the things Fiona Hill talks about in her memoir.  Especially the phrase “infrastructure of opportunity.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Rural America is changing—growing much more diverse—in ways that may be surprising to you.  Some of the numbers were news to me—hopeful news.  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This piece</a> from the Brookings Institution maps some of the changes.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> is an interesting interview (conversation, really) between Merve Emre and Jonathan Franzen.</p> <blockquote> <p>“It wasn’t my conscious intention, but I think I produced a book that has essentially no theology in it. Even when we go back and look at the Mennonites, we are looking at people who wanted to be radical, wanted to return to what they saw as the true Christianity as it was expressed by the very first Christians recounted in the Book of Acts. That’s about a way of living. It’s about a certain kind of humility and contemplation, a disengagement from the world, rather than about a list of specific things you should and shouldn’t do. I think the questions for me are, am I a good person? What can I do to be a better person?”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Small piece</a> checking in with my colleague and friend Siva Vaidhyanathan on recent Facebook revelations:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Imagine having so much money that you don’t have to care about money! That’s Facebook. That’s Mark Zuckerberg. No, Facebook is all about generating more Facebook, more human activities on Facebook, more humans using Facebook, and those humans using it for more time of the day....</p> <p>To address the threat of Facebook, we must strike at its heart: the surveillance system that feeds the beast. We must severely restrict what Facebook can track about us and learn about us. We must limit the time it holds that personal data – maybe seven days, maybe 30 days. We must limit the uses to which Facebook, Google, Verizon, CVS, the Wall Street Journal, Amazon or any other company that vacuums up our behavioral data puts our data. We must starve the beast. We must regain power over our own activities and our own hearts and minds.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This all</a> has real NSC 68 vibes--with the Afghanistan withdrawal, and AUKUS, and this, it seems like we're seeing a major strategic reorientation of US foreign policy, less dramatic than 2001-2 and likely (I think) to be more long-lasting--maybe more like 1948-50.</p> <p> </p> <p>A sombre thought to end on.  Be well, everyone.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sat, 10/09/2021 - 01:05</span> Sat, 09 Oct 2021 05:05:28 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13987 at Just some more links <span>Just some more links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Small ball these days.  I'm writing a lot, but mostly not on this blog, I guess? </p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Fun study</a> about surprisingly substantial effects of “kindness assignments” on undergraduates.</p> <p> </p> <p>But are such studies trustworthy?  It's unclear; and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> is depressing. “papers that successfully replicate are cited 153 times less than those that failed.”</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Somewhat concerning</a>: “U.S. fertility rates are likely to be considerably below replacement levels for the foreseeable future. This is driven by more than a decade of falling birth rates and declining births at all ages for multiple cohorts of women, not simply the aftermath of the pandemic-induced reduction in births. Furthermore, the simulated fertility rates we report in this essay are similar to those observed in virtually all other high-income countries. This evidence leads us to expect that U.S. birth rates and total completed fertility rates are not likely to rebound any time soon.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Some <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">good advice</a> in here about the first year of teaching as a new professor.  People who are not new professors this year may find it interesting too, not least because of the picture it implies of what the first year of teaching is like—it’s not wrong…</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">So true</a>: “Through social media, hyperstimulation works to reorganise our predictive model and restructure our habits: we wake up and reach for our phone, never leave home without it, and constantly feel drawn toward our phones even when in the company of friends.”</p> <p><br> Very nice <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">memoir</a> of Jacques Barzun, mid-century intellectual and one of the great candidates for the title of champion twentieth-century “Man of Letters”.</p> <p> </p> <p>Enjoy today, everyone.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sun, 10/03/2021 - 12:31</span> Sun, 03 Oct 2021 16:31:10 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13958 at End of September links <span>End of September links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Last day of September; tomorrow is October!  I love October, one of my favorite months.  Fall is really here!  Actually should probably be called "autumn," which seems like it should mean "serious fall."  October and November in the Blue Ridge: the colors change, the air gets crisp, there is a metallic rattle in the trees when the wind blows, the light in the woods changes--becomes less aquatic, less filtered through green leaves, more prismatically yellow and chrome: a beautiful season.  May we all have a good October, wherever we are.</p> <p>Whether or not you do, however, there are links.</p> <p> </p> <p>"Our results suggest that grammar reflects population history more closely than any other cultural data. We found significant correlations between genetics and grammar," explains co-lead author Peter Ranacher of UZH.  A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">very interesting piece</a> on the deep historical connections between grammar and relatively distinct human groups, as tracked through DNA.</p> <p> </p> <p>Economy does better under Democrats, it's <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">science</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p>Powerful (if contestable) <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">analysis</a> of China’s aims in challenging US global hegemony.  This is very much worth your while to read and ponder.  One thing it makes me think: the Chinese leadership does not fully appreciate the way that liberal states compete not only against other states, but also against the free-agency of the market.  This failure to reckon with the power of market realities—corporations and the like, that perhaps cannot be easily reined in—may be the undoing of China’s strategy.  If they fail to achieve an illiberal system under which to subjugate those corporations, as they have done in China, that is. </p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This piece</a> is better than its headline.  Also this: “It would be hacky to blame this shift on the internet. But I will be just hacky enough to say that it parallels the internet.”</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This op-ed</a> by Fiona Hill, on Trump and Russia, has this bleak quote:</p> <blockquote> <p>“In the very early years of the post–Cold War era, many analysts and observers had hoped that Russia would slowly but surely converge in some ways with the United States. They predicted that once the Soviet Union and communism had fallen away, Russia would move toward a form of liberal democracy. By the late 1990s, it was clear that such an outcome was not on the horizon. And in more recent years, quite the opposite has happened: the United States has begun to move closer to Russia, as populism, cronyism, and corruption have sapped the strength of American democracy. This is a development that few would have foreseen 20 years ago, but one that American leaders should be doing everything in their power to halt and reverse.”</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a canny piece, and reveals some of the insight into Trump that can be found by thinking through his resonances with Putin—even if it perhaps goes too far in the comparative direction, making them <i>too</i> familiar.  But stills that passage above, it reminds me of the poignant moment near the end of the podcast <i>Winds of Change</i>, when the Russian translator says to Patrick Radden Keefe, “all these years we thought we (Russia) would eventually become like you; but in fact you have been becoming like us.”  It’s a powerful and poignant moment, and goes some way to justifying the occasionally bro-ish vibe of much of the earlier bits of the podcast.  Still, you should check it out (here ) because it is so powerful, in the end.  And read Hill’s piece—it’s very smart, I think.</p> <p> </p> <p>There is something to <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>“The benefit to the corporate university of the new moral turn is that it supports logic of austerity in a way that academics will have even greater difficulty contesting. After all, we told them ourselves: Some scholars are deleterious political reactionaries, not by ballot or even by disposition, but simply through the elective affinities of scholarly engagement. When they cut entire programs for their failure to keep pace with evolving political demands, on what grounds will we resist? We should be wary of providing ideological cover for changes and cuts the material causes of which lie elsewhere.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Any <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">new piece</a> by Peter Brown is always to be welcomed, and his pieces in the <i>New York Review of Books</i> are often genially learned yet readily accessible.</p> <blockquote> <p>“In the past thirty years a scholarly revolution has altered our notion of the first thousand years of Christianity. We no longer see it as an exclusively European religion, rooted in the Mediterranean basin and destined to reach its apex in the Latin West. Instead, scholars have turned to Africa and Asia to discover ancient variants of Christianity whose vast, largely forgotten presence once dwarfed the fragile beginnings of the Catholic Church in Europe. We used to think that Christianity spread almost entirely in the Greek and Latin worlds. Now we realize that ancient Christianity was like a great comet: its luminous trail once swept across the globe, from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Tamil Nadu, and from Mesopotamia to the court of the emperor of China.…</p> <p>Syriac is increasingly taught in the universities of America and Europe; research on Syriac topics has been encouraged among students of the Christian churches and of the early centuries of Islam. Young scholars whose knowledge had hitherto been limited to Latin and Greek have begun to work in the challenging field of Eastern Christianity, drawing on sources in Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Take care, everybody.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Thu, 09/30/2021 - 20:28</span> Fri, 01 Oct 2021 00:28:54 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13948 at Mid-week stuff <span>Mid-week stuff</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Still just trying to surf the wave of the semester's chaos; when I think I see a calm spot up ahead, so far I've invariably been mistaken.  Anyway, some cool stuff I've found:</p> <p> </p> <p>Academic publishing has some real issues, and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this story</a> is partly about them, and partly just about asinine ridiculousness and scholarly-gatekeeping incompetence.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting piece</a> on Biden’s fast record of accomplished judicial appointees.  Key point: he’s picking low-hanging fruit.</p> <blockquote> <p>“In short, Biden has outpaced recent predecessors by moving expeditiously on the judicial nominations that are least likely to meet Senate resistance. But he is only in the first inning of his effort to reshape the judiciary. The game may be different once the administration starts dealing with home-state Republican senators—especially if Democrats lose their Senate majority, or a time-consuming Supreme Court vacancy arises.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">A picture</a> of where we stand in terms of covid vaccinations delivered, and doses promised, around the world. Frankly, the US could vaccinate everyone if we just wanted to.  Why don’t we?</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Paul Krugman</a> on the challenges facing China and coming years. They are more serious than you may realize.</p> <p> </p> <p>On which...<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> is sobering as all get-out.</p> <blockquote> <p>“Imagine a different scenario. A dissatisfied state has been building its power and expanding its geopolitical horizons. But then the country peaks, perhaps because its economy slows, perhaps because its own assertiveness provokes a coalition of determined rivals, or perhaps because both of these things happen at once. The future starts to look quite forbidding; a sense of imminent danger starts to replace a feeling of limitless possibility. In these circumstances, a revisionist power may act boldly, even aggressively, to grab what it can before it is too late. The most dangerous trajectory in world politics is a long rise followed by the prospect of a sharp decline.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Hang ten, everyone. </p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Wed, 09/29/2021 - 13:16</span> Wed, 29 Sep 2021 17:16:11 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13947 at End of week links! <span>End of week links!</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>It's been an unusually exhausting week.  Semester weeks are always busy, but this one seems a bit more than usual.  I participated in a conference late Thursday and all day Friday, and normally that's a time for me to catch up on stuff I missed earlier in the week; maybe that's why. Anyway, here are some links:</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Astonishing</a>. “In this case, U.S. citizens were subject to a real-time tracking system that the U.S. government itself had deemed abusive in China.”</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="">Good discussion</a> of a new book on the history of the humanities, half by a friend of mine, Chad Wellmon.  This line of Chad’s I’ve heard him say before, but never this succinctly, and it provides much food for thought:</p> <blockquote> <p>“The modern humanities, however historicist they might insist that they are, are a fundamentally presentist project. What makes the humanities <i>modern</i>, for us, is that they are understood as countervailing against very present dangers. In this sense, the <i>modern </i>humanities address not disordered desires, unruly passions, or the presence of evil but historical changes: industrialization, new technologies, natural science, and capitalism. This permanent relationship to the present links the modern humanities to the temporality of crisis.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">On Afghanistan</a>: A fair amount of EU criticism (and at least some of the UK crit too) was motivated by the sudden panicked recognition of the publicly undeniable fact that they were kind of at the mercy of US foreign policy, b/c they simply didn't have the capacity of projective military and transport power to get their people out, despite being by population and GDP larger and richer than the US.  The truth is they spend substantially less on their own defense budgets (a max of about 2/3rds of US budgets as % of GDP), thereby relying on US military power.  Will this change?  Don't bet on it.  Should the US want it to?  To some degree yes, but in other ways, maybe not. An interesting situation, for sure.  </p> <p> </p> <p>A parallel incident, of course, happened with the AUKUS deal and France.  It also provoked quite a hissy fit.  <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a> seems right to me about that:</p> <blockquote> <p>“At a time when even France’s greatest sphere of influence, in its former colonies in Africa, is being eroded by competition from China, Russia and Turkey, France needs to draw clear priorities in its foreign policy, Mr. Danjean said.</p> <p>But trapped in its self-perception as a global power, France struggles to do just that, he said. “</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Oh <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this</a> is good—using Milton to explain why Twitter is Hell: because we carry hell with us wherever we go.</p> <blockquote> <p>“mostly Twitter is Hell because we…make it so.”</p> </blockquote> <p>And this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“Wandering, suspension, open-endedness: such errancy from linear progression isn’t necessarily error.”</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Along with being happy, and caring for others, another central model for a flourishing human life is the “psychologically rich life,” <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">according to some psychologists</a>.  This is interesting to me, and not just because one of these psychologists is a colleague of mine; I’ll follow this work.  (Have they read Jonathan Lear’s <i>Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life</i>? Worth it if they have not.  Worth it for you, too.)</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Story</a> about “The Syllabus,” Evgeny Morozov’s on-line info bundling site.  Interesting story, though so much of a tick-tock that, imho, it doesn’t really pause to reflect on what this means for Morozov’s larger critique of technology.</p> <p> </p> <p>Helpful <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">small piece</a> on “the rise of the global middle class,” and how it will effect consumption, production, and trade.</p> <p> </p> <p>That's it, folks!  Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, this weekend promises to be glorious.  I'm looking forward to getting out a bit tomorrow, wandering the Rockfish River, looking for a kind of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">blue quartz</a> that I've sort of become a bit obsessed with.  </p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Fri, 09/24/2021 - 19:25</span> Fri, 24 Sep 2021 23:25:40 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13926 at Yeah, more links <span>Yeah, more links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Just a few things here, nothing big.</p> <p> </p> <p>Since I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and love paleontology, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this article</a> about paleontology in Saudi Arabia was doubly interesting for me.  But it should be for you too—since Saudi seems to have been one of the main routes out of Africa for the human migration over the past half-million years or so.  Very cool.</p> <p> </p> <p>This is just a sort of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">so-so piece</a> on Maggie Nelson, who still deserves a study that goes beyond narration and description into deeper analysis.  But it’s for the NYTimes magazine so maybe that’s what was wanted.  But still, it’s in itself too light on details—feels a bit like a series of brief conversations, decontextualized.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This essay</a> doesn't actually answer the question posed in the byline, or even offer a sophisticated analysis of the contributing factors, but it's on the topic of recent links in your <em>We Are the Times</em>. Not 538's best, but maybe of interest.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Jonathan Lear on Meghan and Harry</a>, and the Humanities too, this should get all the kids riled up.  The stuff he says about how the humanities should be taught is good, too.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">This</a>, on China's growing isolationism, is worrisome. China should not become more like the United States. The United States should become more like China has been over the past few decades, at least in this respect: curious about the rest of the world, inquisitive, and definitely learning other languages. Not surprised that Xi and his government are doing this, but it is a very bad step, for them and for the world.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Pretty good piece</a> on what kind of political writing can be valuable on the interwebs.  Makes the point that the “newsletter boom” may be showing us what useful, and even good, writing can be.</p> <p> </p> <p>Be well!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Mon, 09/20/2021 - 21:32</span> Tue, 21 Sep 2021 01:32:04 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13888 at Just some links <span>Just some links</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Just a few links, to keep you off the street today, keep you out of trouble.</p> <p> </p> <p>Joseph Brodsky’s family’s Leningrad residence—you cannot really say “apartment,” it was only a part of an apartment, as he said, “a room and a half”—is <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">now a museum</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting suggestion</a> that we think of Facebook and other social media sites in terms of addictiveness, and esp so for certain groups, like teenage girls.  Not sure this is the best analogy, but it’s worth looking at this article.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">pretty interesting interview</a> with Colson Whitehead.  Though I must admit it always feels like we’re playing poker against him in these things—like he’s actually keeping track of what cards have been dealt.  There’s something seriously guarded about him.</p> <p> </p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">wonderful piece</a> about UVA’s gardeners. I can confirm that they are pretty <em>humane </em>people, as well as gifted with skills far beyond mine. I have known Mike Beaudrieu for at least 20 years; they make the Grounds we at UVA occupy so ravishingly beautiful.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Interesting interview</a> with Musa al-Gharbi, a young social theorist. Gives me a lot to think about. I will read his article in Socius, as I am distantly acquainted with Ibn Khaldun’s work, and even more distantly acquainted with some of the other Islamic social theorists he writes on there.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Great piece</a>: “Today, more Americans are becoming aware of the role Black pioneers played in shaping the West. One of the most commonly cited statistics is that during the golden age of the cattle drives (1865–1890), at least one in four cowboys was Black. But even that underplays the historical truth: that the West was a vibrant, racially fluid place.”</p> <p> </p> <p>Get outside today--it's lovely where I am, I hope it is where you are.  Rock on!</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Sun, 09/19/2021 - 14:13</span> Sun, 19 Sep 2021 18:13:51 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13887 at Browsing and serendipity <span>Browsing and serendipity</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>Here's a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">small older essay</a> on browsing.  I agree with it.</p> <p>How do we deal with the issue of where we get our accidental discoveries? This piece, that talks about browsing in bookstores, has one idea. In graduate school, I worked in the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago, unarguably one of the best bookstores in the world. One of the most important things we did was arrange what we called “The Front Table," which gave everyone a sense of what had been published in the past week or two, that we judged important, in scholarship, literature, and culture.  There was then a filtering function--literally thousands of books are published every week, even in English alone, and we would include a few non-english books as well (we tried to be decent)--but effectively you were given a wide field to select from.</p> <p>I used to watch professors I knew skim that table.  I believe I saw Allan Bloom and Saul Bellow there; I know I saw Mark Strand and Lauren Berlant and Homi Bhabha; I probably saw Barack Obama, but I don't remember that, as much as I wish I did (he was a part-time law prof and a denizen of Hyde Park in those days).  Everyone had a different strategy.  Some would skim quickly row after row of books, to get an overall picture, a “Gestalt" of the whole.  Others would move more like hawks, lightly passing over the whole until some gripping cover, or title, hooked them and they dove down to pick up the book.  Inevitably it felt like the skimming revealed something important about the people.  There's no right way to do it, so long as you move into a kind of ambient, fugal state of semi-attention, then snap into awareness from time to time.</p> <p>I still think browsing is an underappreciated academic virtue—not an underutilized one, but under-appreciated.  How could we think about this more directly?</p> <p> </p> <p>Something to think about this weekend.  Take care.</p> <p> </p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Fri, 09/17/2021 - 11:43</span> Fri, 17 Sep 2021 15:43:13 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13869 at Ezra Klein, Tyler Cowen, and appreciation <span>Ezra Klein, Tyler Cowen, and appreciation</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--mode-rss field--item"><p>I've been listening to a lot more podcasts over the pandemic, particularly on long walks, or when I'm wandering the mountains around my house, looking for interesting stones.  (More on that at some other time.)  I've found a number of wonderful podcasts, and maybe one day I'll do a thorough recounting here.  In general, though, I find it most useful to hunt and pick through them--not to listen to <em>everything</em> a podcaster does, but to only the ones that pique my interest right away.  And if it doesn't work, if it doesn't catch you, turn it off and move on--there are a million more out there.</p> <p>I especially (but not exclusively) enjoy the interview/conversation format, where two or more people, well-versed in the topic at hand, and ideally in one another's opinions, engage in a conversation on something of common interest.  Even when they have radically different opinions, it can be illuminating.</p> <p>I suppose I've been paying attention to Tyler Cowen for a long time now, at least fifteen or more years.  He's one of those people who was grounded in economics, but economists these days don't really think there are any boundaries to the topics they can investigate.  (This is a good thing and a bad thing about economists, imho, and very much an annoying thing, too; but again, that's another post.)  I find the range of stuff he's interested in very illuminating.  In the past few years I've grown more wary of him, as I have gotten more exasperated with the kind of economistic logic that refuses to see things like racial identity as operative in their own inquiries, and in general the libertarian position has grown more and more tiresome to me.</p> <p>So I was a little suspicious when I started <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this podcast</a> between Ezra Klein and Tyler Cowen.  But I am happy to say that it was a very worthwhile thing to listen to. Much of what Cowen said, I found exasperating, and some of it obviously--OBVIOUSLY--wrong, but some of it was annoyingly insightful in ways that I have thought distantly related thoughts as well; and the final peroration, about how to appreciate things better and to attempt to focus on resisting the tendency to complain, struck me as both wise and for myself very therapeutic. </p> <p>The most immediately irritatingly interesting thing he said, to my mind, was the point he makes that the idea of de-legitimating your political opponents is a bipartisan endeavor.  Yes, yes, I know, the forms of de-legitimation are quite different; no one is accusing the GOP of secretly running a child sex cult.  And there is a LOT of evidence, imho, of radically anti-democratic energies taking over the GOP.  And there is no Charlottesville, and there is no 1/6, on the Left.  And there is no row of "elder statesmen" on the Democratic side who are arguing that the Democratic party has been taken over by anti-democratic forces, as GWB and others have said about the GOP.  And, and, and.  The radical asymmetry between the parties makes any kind of "both-sidesism" ludicrous, and the typical GOP "whataboutism" reply to these sorts of critiques is obscene and self-deceptive.</p> <p>All of that is true.  But Cowen has a point that people--even on the left--can sometimes confuse their <em>moral</em> opposition to rival members of the political community with their <em>political</em> legitimacy, and suggest that because their moral views are so abhorrent (they are!), they are naturally not politically legitimate.  We saw some of this in the shock of 2016--it was not just that the election was lost, but that the victors were so clearly deplorable, that their deplorableness seemed to de-legitimate the political victory they had won.</p> <p>Now, to be clear--I think in a normal liberal-democratic political system, it's important to be able to lose, and accepting loss is part of what marks the health of that system.  And it is arguable--I would at least entertain such arguments--that we are not in anything like a "normal" liberal-democratic political system right now; so our opponents are really our enemies.  (They certainly seem to think of everyone who is not them as an "enemy.")  But it is also noteworthy that we continue to conflate a moral position with a political one, I think.  That is all.  I don't agree with Cowen's overall view or even maybe this particular conclusion; but I find him provocative.</p> <p>Apart from that, Cowen's final few moments of reflection, about refocusing your life on appreciation and away from complaining, were also a highlight for me.  I very much want to do this as well.  I will probably go back to those moments in the podcast and listen again, after I've had a bit of time to process.</p> <p>That's all for today--be well!  Don't complain (and as TC says, try not even to complain about complaining).  Focus on what you can appreciate, what you can value, what you can build.</p> <p>Rock on.</p> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/user/charles-mathewes" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Charles-Mathewes</span></span> <span>Wed, 09/15/2021 - 09:48</span> Wed, 15 Sep 2021 13:48:39 +0000 Charles-Mathewes 13864 at