May Day 2021
In his 1901 book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud, introduced a concept he referred to as Fehlleistungen. English translations rendered that mouthful as a Greek word, parapraxis.
I’d bet even money it’s more likely you know the concept rather than either technical term. There’s even a straightforward if perhaps dated, alternate: Freudian slip.
While you may think that refers to verbal missteps, or at least Homer Simpson‘s tendency to wonder whether he said something or only thought it, Freud saw the same unconscious mechanism demonstrated in memory and physical action.
I hope that explains why I’ve seized on it to explain how my need to indulge my near-pathological dread of finishing anything has led to my misplacing more than a few almost-finished books in this vast manse I (accurately) refer to as the Stone Cottage. Typically, I’ve attempted to fix the problem by starting more books.
In an attempt to compensate, though, today I’m going to focus on one of those newer-fangled mediums: podcasts. Fact is, I’m back in the office three days a week and spending more time in the car. Terrestrial radio bores me and Apple has put their desire to sell services ahead of my music listening preferences. So, when I get tired of struggling against Cupertino I turn, like so many, to podcasts. Here are a few I find worthwhile.
My first encounter with Glenn Loury took place back in the late 1980s when my then boss, finding my just-out-of-school politics a bit too much to take gave me a subscription to The New Republic as a corrective. Loury was a regular in those days and I’ve encountered him since. What I admire about Glenn is his willingness to risk thinking out loud and his willingness to change his mind. I’m not sure I can name another academic who has wandered from Left to Right and back again as Glenn has. I especially enjoy his conversations with John McWhorter, the linguist and “public intellectual,” as in the episode linked here. (Video available for fans of that approach.)
Never take the straight path when a byway is available. When I decided I’d benefit from advanced study I pursued a degree in research and analytics. No matter what anyone tells you, both of those activities are largely interpretive. And no matter whether it’s Facebook and Google selling ads or the President selling policy proposals, the math and methods are congruent. So I keep my hand in by listening to Nate Silver and company at 538. Here they discuss Joe Biden‘s first 100 days in office. (Video available.)
Heterodox Academy–Half-hour of Heterodoxy
It ought to be apparent by now that I have a tortured relationship with education, or at least the institutions of education. I’m willing to admit to lacking discipline and a learning style rooted in confrontation with the smartest person in the room. That that person may not be the instructor muddies the waters even more. Yet I’m intrigued by ideas and modes of thinking and so, good Isaiah Berlin fox that I am, I seek out voices beyond the dominant strain of the moment. For me, the conversations hosted by Heterodox Academy provide that access and often, as in this episode devoted to college teaching, focus on areas in which I hold a particular interest.
What at first seemed a joke took on more and more weight as the previous presidential administration wound down. At times it seems as though we’ve moved past the point where everything is political to an even more uncharted place: the place where all those political issues intersect with the judicial branch. In these weekly installments, Josh Barro and former US Attorney turned defense counsel Ken White do their best to lay out the contours of this dragon-filled map, as in this most recent installment.
The more progressive your politics the more conservative I will appear to be, although conservatives of all stripes would never recognize me as one of their own. While I share James Madison‘s abhorrence of faction I’m also a realist. Parties and political alignments exist. And in the same way that understanding the 1960s and 1970s is the best way to understand the Reagan Revolution, understanding the decades since the millennium turned helps with comprehending the current mess. The Bulwark–the online home of the conservative never-Trumpers–showcases intelligent, conservative people trying to make sense of that, too. While you won’t find the hosts and guests here engaged in some form of identity suttee, you will find them struggling to understand the moment we find ourselves in.
You can easily fill all your free time with podcasts. I can see how they might accelerate the sins of narrow-casting, layering on the technology behind social media. At their best, though, they can help with understanding and thinking. For me, that’s a net good.