Similar Thinkers

And what’s really interesting is that the only major difference between Zygmunt Bauman’s ideas and Scruton’s article that I linked in the previous post is that Scruton’s piece is much better written. But that’s because Bauman wasn’t a native speaker. The ideas, though, are not that different because both were describing the existing reality that they saw clearly.

And now both are gone. Scruton wasn’t even all that old.

OK, now I’m just depressing myself.

RIP Roger Scruton

Sir Roger Scruton died! It’s really sad. He was a great friend to Eastern Europeans when we didn’t have many. Not that we’ve got crowds of them now, of course. But Scruton understood and supported Eastern Europe until his death.

Here’s a great recent piece that’s fairly short for those who don’t know him.

Conspiracy Theorizing

The Ukrainian plane was shot down in Iran at the exact moment when Ukraine’s president was in Oman. Nobody knows why he was in Oman.

Oman and Iran share a maritime border. Ukraine has no interests in Oman, obviously.

I’m boarding a plane home but I want to leave people with something to read and discuss. It’s always sad to get off a plane and see no new comments

Fascinating Research

Also, what’s really weird about this Japanese format is that it’s all about the images. And the presentations were on the epistolary genre, which isn’t about images all that much.

To give an example, one of the presenters told us that Gabriela Mistral had a son whom she concealed from everybody for unknown reasons. The scholar had gone into the archives and discovered a fascinating paper trail of how Mistral used her connections with powerful women to falsify the boy’s paperwork and present him as somebody else’s kid.

The boy killed himself at 18, leaving a suicide note for Mistral that addressed her as “dear Mom.”

This is fascinating stuff that deserves a lot more than 6 minutes. It turns out that in Chile nobody is happy about this research because people are not prepared to see Mistral as a woman of many lesbian relationships, beautiful female lovers 30 years her junior, and secret children she spent decades concealing from the world. But we barely got to hear about that because of the weird format.

Pecha Kucha

What’s really annoying, too, is that there was a session of really famous scholars who had some fascinating material, real research, but the MLA forced them into some new-fangled Japanese format where the talk is supposed to be structured like an elevator pitch. These scholars (none of whom was extremely young, obviously) rose to the challenge and delivered their talks in 6 minutes 40 seconds each. But these were people who had real kick-ass material. The audience wanted to hear more!

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to get the Twitter-praising youngsters to cut their talks down to 6 minutes and let serious scholars who actually have something to say talk for the full 20 minutes?

I often get bored during talks and start getting distracted but these presentations were so interesting I heard every word. These are people who went into archives and found some really new, fascinating material. But they weren’t allowed to tell us much.

When the Spanish-speaking presenters first told me they were going to have to use the pechacucha format, I thought they were using some inventive swear word in Spanish.

On the Positive Side

Aside from the fracas of the association’s panel, it was a good conference. I discovered that people read my stuff and use my books in their research and their graduate courses.

It’s really cool to find out that my ideas are catching on. I don’t usually hear people talk about the withering away of the nation-state model as something even a tiny bit negative. It’s always all “down with the nation! Erase all boundaries!” Although it’s a complete mystery what’s so good about erasing all boundaries. Nobody likes their personal boundaries to be stomped on all over the place, do they?

So it was good to have a whole panel (that I didn’t organize) talk in the way that sounds right to me because they have read the book and decided that it makes sense.

We’ve got to teach students to go beyond slogans, though. Because there’s too much of that going on and that’s annoying.