Traveling coach on Amtrak is not exactly luxurious, but amenities are superior to business class on many American airlines. A person seated in coach on a Superliner — the double-decker train used on the Sunset Limited route — has access to a dining room with white tablecloths and waiter service and to seats with 15 inches or so more legroom than those in some first-class airplane cabins, as well as access to electrical outlets. But playing video games or watching movies on a phone or computer tends only to distract for several hours, and there is no Wi-Fi, so most passengers turn to a more traditional form of entertainment: conversation.
The cliché, familiar to air travel, of the nosy passenger who makes pestering conversation with his seat partners does not exist on the long-distance train. On the Sunset Limited, everybody is nosy, and no one seems to mind. There are several reasons for this. While it might be socially uncomfortable to speak with a stranger during a short trip, the scale seems to tip for trips longer than six hours, at which point it becomes significantly more awkward not to speak to your fellow passengers. Besides, if you’re taking a 47-hour train ride in 2013, you probably have an unusual reason for doing so. Train stories are much richer, more emotionally pitched, than airplane stories. And the train offers the possibility of cheap therapy: there’s ample time to relate your entire life story to a stranger, and you can do so in confidentiality, because you’ll never see the stranger again.
I seriously don’t know whether to love this or roll my eyes.
I honestly didn’t even know who the coach was when I was coming to New York. I just wanted to win a championship; I didn’t even know who was coaching. I didn’t care. It could have been Aunt Jemima. They could have had the syrup coaching. I was coming here regardless. I just wanted to win a championship here.
Look, without our stories, without the true nature and reality of who we are as People of Color, nothing about fanboy or fangirl culture would make sense. What I mean by that is: if it wasn’t for race, X-Men doesn’t sense. If it wasn’t for the history of breeding human beings in the New World through chattel slavery, Dune doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the history of colonialism and imperialism, Star Wars doesn’t make sense. If it wasn’t for the extermination of so many Indigenous First Nations, most of what we call science fiction’s contact stories doesn’t make sense. Without us as the secret sauce, none of this works, and it is about time that we understood that we are the Force that holds the Star Wars universe together. We’re the Prime Directive that makes Star Trek possible, yeah. In the Green Lantern Corps, we are the oath. We are all of these things—erased, and yet without us—we are essential.
"On Philosophy’s Place in Academia" -OR- "Bro, just take some philosophy."
I’m thinking of a conversation I had with some random person who had expressed displeasure at taking a logic course in college because “it was math, NOT philosophy.” I tried to say that as someone who pretends he is good enough to be in philosophy, I can confirm that it IS philosophy. This person would have none of it (I assume the person’s background were the arts or literature), and that’s how far the convo went.
I guess my frustration is the idea that philosophy is made up of profound and abstract ideas. I think a few of my current students were prepared for that, tbh. But that’s not what it is. Maybe you can summarize ideas that way, and that would be labeled “a philosophy.” But there has to be a lot of work explaining that idea thoroughly, and that’s what philosophy, as a discipline or craft does. A big part of that is doing some hard logic that looks like math. It’s the structure where ideas are built upon. That’s analytic philosophy. Even continental philosophy, while closer to being abstract than analytic, still isn’t as abstract as people think it is. (I just gave continentals a bone, here. Take a screenshot, it won’t happen often.)
There is a dichotomy in academia that most of us tend to see. There are the humanities, which philosophy is a major tenet of, and more straight forward disciplines led by, but probably not solely inhabited by, science and math. And I think that’s a false dichotomy. For one, pragmatically it’s untenable. We’re both going after money, and there’s little to be gained favoring one over the other when the vast majority of people see “academic” as a fault rather than a value.
But more importantly, after being in philosophy, it all tends to merge for me. There is no left-brain logical/right-brain creative thing. They’re the same thing in essence: the brain working hard as opposed to not at all (sometimes by will). Even if it did exist, science does spill onto the right side. As much as you scream “DATA! DATA! IT’S ALL DATA!!!”, it’s actually not. In order to make conclusions, you need a frame of mind that, empirically, is arbitrary to have. (That is, unless you value elegance. But then, hey, guess what, in that explanation you can’t refer to empirical data, yo. You’re doing philosophy, son.) You aren’t a punching bag idly absorbing the natural world as it spews out evidence of what it does. You’re organizing this shit.
Say you were a writer, the opposite of a scientist. Your not just using your creative side, but your logical as well. You outline your stories? Good. You follow a form of poetry? Excellent. Guess what…that’s math, brohammer. There’s the structure that taking hard logic can help your mind understand thoroughly. AND EVEN IF YOU GO DUCHAMP and reject form, you still have to know form in order to reject it. Not just in practice, but logically. Can you reject something you aren’t aware of? That doesn’t make sense.
And philosophy would encompass ALL of that. Both sides of the brain. Like the bad ass thing it is. Don’t assume that it’s Nietzsche going batshit insane with huge unwieldy ideas. It’s also about structure, and that’s a good thing.
So, take and read more philosophy, and embrace it in all its awesomeness.