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Congratulations to Alex Ross & Miguel Zenón

On September 23rd covering

Music critic and historian Alex Ross has just been announced as a 2008 MacArthur fellow. His book and blog The Rest Is Noise makes the most sense of the 20th century so far. I recommend it to everyone. Good for him.

Furthermore, saxophonist Miguel Zenón is also named as a fellow fellow. Another win for the good guys.

Blog: what you don’t know you know

On September 22nd covering , ,

My colleague Kenneth Eisold has a blog.

New look, new web site: it’s OK to ask for help

On September 22nd covering

Welcome to my relaunch. I’ve developed a site at to describe my better-defined consulting activities, and moved the blog to

The smartest thing I did was to admit I needed help. It would have been fun for me to develop the site myself and spend my weekends reading manuals and FAQ’s and pushing buttons on the WordPress machine. But I didn’t need a hobby, I needed a functioning site.

The other smart thing I did was to contact the guy who wrote the WordPress theme I was using before. I like his clean and spare designs. Fortunately he was available for this project, so I hired him on as my Latvian Web Ninja and he has far exceeded expectations. We’ve done everything via email — we were going to talk via Skype but there hasn’t been a need. He’s been a fast worker and a clear communicator. (Since people ask me about this, I’ll add that his English is great). It’s been stunning how fast this has come together. Read more »

Suicide & David Foster Wallace

On September 18th 1 Comment covering , ,

I am still troubled and sad about the passing of David Foster Wallace — and I’m in touch with many others who share this feeling. It seems apropos to say a word or two about suicide.

It’s hard to keep away from the question of what the suicide’s real state of mind was — a question we can’t answer. A suicide leaves such a toxic stew of pain, guilt and anger among the survivors that one interpretation is that this is an act of terrific hostility and selfishness – a gift that keeps on giving, a massive stink-bomb of an exit. This is a hard thing to think about a person we love and esteem, and it’s not the only possibility. I do not think this of Mr. Wallace. Everyone says he was a thoroughly decent fellow, and there is some wishful thinking on my part. I do not want to be angry at him for doing this to his family, his wife, his students, and to all of us. Read more »

death by excruciating self-awareness

On September 14th 1 Comment covering

The world is a diminished place since last Friday, when David Foster Wallace killed himself. I am shocked and saddened, but should not be surprised. His fiction and essays are from a mind that finds self-awareness nearly unbearable. His public appearances showed that his literary voice was no contrivance — the paralysis of a hall-of-mirrors of a mind reflecting endlessly on itself seemed to be the painful condition of his life, even if it could make for wildly entertaining reading.

I don’t like the g-word because it invokes a magic status that takes us regular people off the hook for our mediocrities … but if he wasn’t a genius then there’s no such thing. I also have many reasons to believe that he was a mensch, a genuinely decent fellow and a gifted teacher. He had attained the sweet life for a literary writer: a MacArthur fellowship and an endowed chair at a college with earnest, bright students, a newly minted marriage, the fast track into comfortable grey eminence at age 46. All of us who love his work had hope, in the face of all the evidence, that he could become happy. Read more »