Text of a recent letter, sent along with a package. Story contained herein.
Ornette Coleman died today. I am saddened that the universe no longer includes him, and heartened by the thought that it once did. When I was 15 years old, broke and bored in a world without a car or an Internet, the local library’s vinyl collection held high a tiny torch of hope. And there in the racks was Ornette, carving a new world out of the empty air. Maybe it was Song X I heard first, but Free Jazz and The Shape of Jazz to Come weren’t far behind. Like all those who move me – philosophers, musicians, and the rest – he showed what was possible as though I was invited to play and think and create with it. He taught me that there is a fearlessness born out of joy, not just anger. That a world in flux can be embraced, not just feared. That there are ways of living without feeling the ground beneath your feet in which you are flying, not just falling. That there is always more music to play.
met•a•pan•ic |,metə’panik| noun. an acute and sudden episode of anxiety brought on by the realization that one has so many enormously demanding things to do that one is probably forgetting something that one should be worrying about at that moment
I know very little about the head-to-head statistics of college basketball. I couldn’t tell you whether Lousiville or Duke has a better offense, for instance. But like many people, I enjoy playing with data. And one thing I do have is a series of longstanding grudges against many colleges and universities. I was on the job market on and off for 12 years with great success – I am now tenured at the third place to offer me a tenure-track job, which puts me in some ridiculously rare percentage of all candidates. But I also applied to hundreds more, much like all other candidates, and got jerked around furiously by some of those. So every year I pick an NCAA bracket based entirely on lingering bitterness towards schools. It’s cathartic, really. Very good for me. Picture the Emperor from Return of the Jedi hissing, “Let the hate flow through you…” as you pick your bracket.
The rules are relatively simple. Continue reading 2015 Bitterness Brackets
A student reminded me of something that got lost in the move to this new address. On pulling rabbits from hats.
This Saturday is the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, and I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of interesting papers. The act of giving a paper in a public forum can be nerve-wracking even in collegial settings (you’ve only been working on this most of your adult life, of course, so it’s not like rejection would hurt or anything). So it’s important for young and old philosophers alike to harness that feral panic of self-doubt and turn it into an engine of productivity for their work. That reminded me of something I wrote a few years back about getting ready for an impending Big Talk. The key is planning, people. Make yourself a schedule with all that nervous energy.