Monthly Archives: March 2012

Thanks Dave

Sometimes I enjoy Dave Winer’s perspectives on stuff, and sometimes I get annoyed and toy with just deleting his blog from my RSS feed (I’ve even done it a couple of times, but then gone back). I’m glad to be in a reading-Dave phase now, since it yielded a nice piece of autobiographical writing today (I’m glad I went to college). Here’s his last paragraph:

The thing is, you don’t know in advance if going to college is going to be worth it, so you don’t know if you should or shouldn’t go. Like I said, everyone has to decide for themselves. But for me, not only was it worth it, but it gave me the life I wanted. I wanted to be creative. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted people to know me, and I wanted to be self-sufficient. I didn’t like what the adults were doing, and I still don’t like what most of them do. But some of them were looking out for me, and I was lucky enough to find them when I needed them.

This inspires a silent but heartfelt thank you to those adults who looked out for me, all of them now gone…

Mien and moue

I’m always on the lookout for passages that articulate things I’ve observed more clearly than I’ve ever managed to express them. Here’s one from Tony Judt’s Thinking the Twentieth Century that applies equally well to milieux I have experienced:

…to become an insider at Cambridge or Oxford does not in itself require conformity, except perhaps to intellectual fashion; it was and is a function of a certain capacity for intellectual assimilation. It entails knowing how to “be” an Oxbridge don; understanding intuitively how to conduct an English conversation that is never too aggressively political; knowing how to modulate moral seriousness, political engagement and ethical rigidity through application of irony and wit, and a precisely calculated appearance of insouciance. It would be difficult to imagine the application of such talents in, say, postwar Paris. (pg 56)

The details of mien and moue vary from place to place, and time to time (early-1960s Harvard not the same as late-1960s Stanford, in my own case, and present-day fashions are different again), but Judt really nails it with ethnographic precision and verbal elegance. I have the sense that Tony Judt spoke with semicolons…