"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

9.12.2007

a series of random events

Today I got to meet one of my favorite Texas writers.

It is, as per usual, a long story. This afternoon, we had a Famous Political Scientist visiting the department to give a talk. His topic was unusual, so I decided to go see what it was about. And while I'm not really into statistical analysis of party identification trends and spatial reasoning, it was an interesting talk.

About halfway through the talk, the speaker asked a question that required a response, and only two hands went up: mine and the gentleman in front of me. It seems that Paul Burka and I are among the few political science lecture attenders who know our T.S. Eliot.

That's right, Paul Burka, Texas Monthly political columnist and blogger and the person who knows more about what's going on in Texas politics in terms of the big trends than just about anyone alive (Kronberg knows the gossip; Burka gets the big picture). Burka's writing (along with that of the late Molly Ivins) shapes much of my thinking about Texas politics. Since Texas politics most closely resemble a madhouse in which several someones are clearly pulling the strings from behind the scenes, living here has definitely helped me to better understand the Congo.

Anyway, the talk ended, the Q&A was equally esoteric, and the whole ordeal finally ended late enough to make me late for GA's. And then Paul Burka turned around and asked me to explain the talk. "Oh," I replied, "the problem is that you asked a question about reality, and political scientists aren't very good at reality."

We proceeded to have a delightfully interesting conversation about the study of politics and history, why people vote the way they do, why it's a shame that academics can't translate their ideas into communicative forms that smart people can understand, and the freshman seminar he's teaching (how lucky are those 18-year-olds?). I already liked Burka's writing; now I'm pleased to report that he's also a really nice person.

It was so cool!

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