a post in three parts
many things to say, so let me start with the most banal:
you know, i think we buy new shoes but what really we want is for our new shoes to feel exactly like our old shoes feel. only -new, you know? i've replaced my old leather ankle boots, which have served me well and faithfully since i got them in 2001 before showing up here at the U of C. they've tromped through snow and salt and slush and rain, both here and in melbourne, and have roasted in sunny Singapore, and gone who knows where else -i forget. but finally they have reached the point where resoling them and putting them on again is just not worth the money. so i bought a new pair of Nine West ankle boots (which look almost the same) to replace them. but i just couldn't bring myself to wear them, and throw the old ones away. i finally had to force myself to wear the new ones, and throw the old ones (and the box for the new ones!) down the rubbish chute so that i don't have a choice anymore.
and still all i want is for my new boots to have that slouchy old-leather feel of ankle-hugging comfort, without my having to take the time to use my poor abused feet to break them in.
moving right along: Kenneth Waltz, of Theory of International Politics fame, was here at PISP this afternoon. we overflowed out of Pick Lounge and were relocated to Kent, the 'chemistry hall', where we filled a lecture room (capacity: 160) almost to the limit, and had 'a record attendance for PISP' since it began. we had more people in there than there were in PISP the weeks after 9/11. waltz, by the way, was wearing the most incredibly cute floppy bow tie -you know the kind, with lots of excess material, not the kind that holds up collars of tuxedos- definitely some old-school professor-ness there!
Waltz gave a shortish spiel on 'America Alone In The World' -ie why do we not see balancing against the USA? why is the US behaving like it is now? (essentially: the US is not behaving with restraint because there's no reason to. ie: this is what the US really wants to be doing, and now that no one exists who can gainsay it, it's gonna go ahead and do just what it damn well pleases) - and then took just about an hour's worth of questions thrown helter-skelter by U of C undergrads and grad students and professors all eager to get a piece of Waltz. good lord, if my brain works that well when i am pushing eighty, i can rest easy.
it seemed to me that Waltz's argument for why no balancing comes down to a few things:
- there's no one big enough to do it;
- there isn't enough material means to do it yet;
- the US, as the unipole, has plenty of incentives for countries not to oppose it -in fact to bandwagon with it-, and conversely plenty of punishments for those who do not go along with the US agenda. (i would take that to mean the US is actively working to prevent or at least delay, long-term, the rise of another pole that could constrain its activities.)
i'm pretty convinced by this argument, though ultimately, i'm a little nonplussed by the fact that it doesn't really tell you anything you couldn't figure out with the back of an envelope and a pencil, some random GDP figures, and some good ol' fashioned common sense. but perhaps common sense is rather in short supply.
lastly, on About Last Night, a post:
I thought of a possible game you might like: What did you read when? It was prompted by a friend, who reported that his wife said their mid-teenage kids better read Ayn Rand quick, or they will be too old for her.what do you think? are we ever too old and cynical to read Rand and be moved? does it matter when we read things? (of course, she answers. we get different things out of the same book, read over different parts of our lives. lenses, and framing issues, and all that jazz.)
I was thinking of reading the Alexandria Quartet about a dozen years ago, in my early thirties, when my wife, who had loved it, waved me off: I was too old.
There are books that can only be read when we're young; books that can only be read when we're old; and books that can be read at all ages, but which change as their readers do. Maybe there are also books that are the same for everybody (genre fiction? Wodehouse?).
maybe we just force fit the books we read to the tales of our lives, listening only to the parts that speak to us right there and then. is that right?