February 22, 2021

"Lo and behold, the great philosopher’s number was listed right there, next to those of mere mortals. But who should be the one to call Rawls?"

"No one volunteered for this daunting task. So Anjan nominated me. 'You should talk to him,' he said, 'because you guys have a lot in common.' The idea that a world-famous political philosopher would have anything in common with an obscure high school sophomore struck me as ridiculous. Still, a part of me was flattered by Anjan’s suggestion that I should be the one to call Rawls. So I let him persuade me. With trembling fingers, I dialed Rawls’ number, half-hoping that he wouldn’t be home. It turned out that Rawls was home. Somehow, I managed to work up the courage to explain who I was and ask my question [about an argument they wanted to make in a high school debate]. Rawls listened carefully, and then modestly admitted that he simply hadn’t thought about that issue before. Still, he stayed on the phone with me and talked about it for more than half an hour. I didn’t get much out of him that would be useful for the tournament. He really hadn’t thought about our issue before. Nonetheless, I was moved by Rawls’ thoughtfulness and even more by his willingness to treat a lowly high school student as an equal and take my questions seriously. He didn’t become impatient even when I took issue with one of his points. I still think that most of Rawls’ major ideas were probably wrong, brilliant though they undoubtedly were."

Writes lawprof Ilya Somin in "A Road to Freedom," which I'm noticing this morning because Somin is calling attention to Rawls's 100th birthday, which was yesterday. See "Happy 100th Birthday, John Rawls!/Today is the 100th birthday of the most influential political philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century" (Reason). 

Somin also calls attention to a commemoration of Rawls by Larry Solum (at Legal Theory Blog). Excerpt:
Rawls... spoke at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in New Orleans.... [Cass] Sunstein and Rawls engaged in an important exchange on the relationship between the ideas of public reason and overlapping consensus and Sunstein's similar notion of incompletely theorized agreement. After the lunch following the lecture, I remember that Rawls expressed a desire to gamble but no one else wanted to go! This moment haunts me still — surely I could have found time to accompany Jack (as he was known to his friends) to the Riverboat Casino for a few hours. Time passes. It is now the 100th anniversary of John Rawls birth....

I would especially love to see comments that connect Rawls's "Theory of Justice" to the topic of gambling. 

Also, feel free to imagine fictional scenarios that parallel Solum's missed opportunity: You're in some city where you intersect with a famous person who wants to do something that you wouldn't do if your usual travel companion suggested it, but you really ought to do because you'd have the chance to spend more time with this famous person.  How would that go?

And I'd love to hear about times when you were a high school student and you got some real conversation time with an eminent person you were surprised would talk to you at all.

95 comments:

alanc709 said...

Wonder what Rawls would think of the world his social justice ideas have produced.

Leland said...

It wasn't in HS, but between my freshmen and sophomore years of college. I volunteered for a few months for the 1992 Republican convention, which I wouldn't have done without prodding by a HS teacher and for the fact that it came to my town. During the convention, I met Sen. Phil Gramm back stage, as I was being asked to type his speech into a teleprompter system. I was unimpressed. During the entire introduction and explanation from a third party of how I would help; Gramm shook my hand but never once actually looked at me or talked to me. It was then that I decided to no longer put politicians of any party in high regard.

Lucien said...

In 1977, as a Senior, I was part of the "High School Special Program" that allowed students with high SATs as Juniors to take classes at UCLA. There was a "Freshman Seminar in Ethics" which was taught by Philippa Foot. I had virtually no clue as to who she was, or how special the opportunity was.

David Begley said...

In law school, the future US Attorney for the Western District of Washington called the author of our con law textbook at home. I think it was Rotunda.

tastid212 said...

About 10 years ago. I was walking down the east side of Park Avenue one day around noon, and the sidewalks were filling with people coming out of buildings. Right in front of me steps Felix Rohatyn, probably looking for his car and driver. (Look him up if you don't know who he was.) We nod at each other and I walk around him. At the corner I turn right on 57th St and cross Park. Walking out of a hotel, and right into my path, is Cate Blanchett, probably also looking for her car and driver.

Two random accomplished people, just half a block apart. I thought if I could only have compressed time and space just a little, I would have introduced them - "Ambassador Rohatyn, I'd like you to meet one of the great actresses of our time, Cate Blanchett. Miss Blanchett, I'd like to introduce you to the man who saved New York City, Felix Rohatyn." Then I would have left them together, and kept on walking.

rhhardin said...

Rawls tends to human relationships being contractural.

Mr. Forward said...

1961, I was all alone on my bicycle, 10 years old getting my first look at the interstate interchange they had managed to superimpose on a previously scenic rock formation. I had pedaled away from the opening ceremony down the road just ahead of the dignitaries. Governor Gaylord Nelson was the first to arrive. He joined me to look out at the view and said the words I never forgot. "They sure f...ed this up."

Fernandinande said...

"Evidence in support of Rawls can also be found in societal views on gambling. People who gamble and risk their money on a constant basis are considered addicts and put in rehabilitation facilities because they are considered to have a problem. They are not considered to be thinking rationally when they choose to risk their money. This further supports Rawls’s point that society does not equate rational thinking with serious risk taking."

rehajm said...

You used to be able to call the great golfer Jack Nicklaus that way, too. He'd pick up the phone...

Amadeus 48 said...

Did Rawls fail to take account of individuals' risk preferences--i.e., the value of autonomy and liberty?

Did he accept that trade would make society better off without regard to "fairness" or "justice"? People like Jeff Bezos would have more, and the pie for everyone would be bigger.

David Begley said...

I saw George McGovern at Elmwood Park in Omaha when I was in high school.

If Althouse and Meade came to Omaha and they really wanted to go to the strip club in Carter Lake, I’d go with them if my friend Tiffany came along.

Temujin said...

In the early 70's, I'm thinking 1972 or 73, I was hitchhiking home from East Lansing to the Detroit area for the weekend. I was standing just a bit outside of the Michigan State University campus, on the on ramp to the highway when a stretch Lincoln Continental pulls over and stops to pick me up. I was a long haired, hippy looking guy with a duffel bag. I opened the passenger side of the door to see a very distinguished, well dressed black gentleman waving me in. I recognized him, but could not place who he was. He said he was going to the Detroit area. I said I was too, so he offered me a ride. We drove for about 1 hour talking about all sorts of things. I'm sure he must have asked me my name, but I don't recall asking- or getting- his. He asked me a lot about the University and how I thought things were going. What I liked. What I did not like. I was a moron. A sophomore(?) in college. Smoked a lot of pot (and did other things). Fairly liberal and radical in those days (things change). Words that came out of my mouth embarrassed me as I said them. I was so used to talking in student talk, but around this guy, it sounded stupid. I remember thinking that even then. He seemed very sophisticated and...I remember thinking calm. So calm. Nothing I said made him show any emotion. He just kept smiling and driving this stretch Lincoln. My exit came up and he told me that he's been in that area buying some great Jewish rye breads. Hmmm, I thought. He knows everything. I thanked him, got out, and then it hit me.

I was driven home by Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., who was at that time, the President of Michigan State University. He had a distinguished career (the first African American to pass the foreign service exam), had a long career in the foreign service, and in academia. He also later became Chancellor of the State University of New York system). And was the Deputy Secretary of State under Bill Clinton. This man forgot more over a glass of wine than I know even today. I had an hour alone with him in his car and I always thought that after that drive, he went back to the University and told his team that they had to do better. He just interviewed one of their students, and the guy was a moron. I was immediately embarrassed after he pulled away. Not that I did anything wrong. But I realized too late, who he was, and how much that drive could have been so much more.

I never did know why he was driving that stretch Lincoln, but I assumed it was the car he was usually driven around in, and he was 'borrowing' it to go someplace that weekend.

SlighlyLoony said...

I was in high school (10th grade) in '65, in New Jersey. I visited the library in Trenton, and was searching through the non-fiction section for a book on radio electronics, which I was very interested in. I walked around an end-cap, and right up to someone I recognized immediately: Isaac Asimov. I was a huge fan of both his fiction and his non-fiction writing, and knew him from the book cover photos. Quite flustered, I stammered a hello. He saw my discomfort, and dragged me over to a corner table where we could sit and talk - which we did, for nearly an hour! I remember little specific about that conversation, but the gist was clear: he was encouraging me to learn more about science and math. To this day I'm gobsmacked by easily he engaged introverted, terminally shy me in an interesting conversation that felt like I was sitting with an old friend. Thinking about the encounter still brings a smile, over 50 years later...

Breezy said...

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, over 40 years ago. Can’t honestly remember what we talked about because I was thinking so much about the fact I was talking with her, just the two of us.

mezzrow said...

Aaron Copland. Such a nice man. He conducted our university orchestra playing his ballet music. I couldn't have been more than 19.

I asked him what Paris was like in the 20s. - "It was a different world."

In retrospect, it was a great short answer.

rhhardin said...

King Cnut has to be a typo.

Jupiter said...

"Also, feel free to imagine fictional scenarios that parallel Solum's missed opportunity:"

I missed an opportunity to chain John Rawls to Cass Sunstein and push them both into the Mississippi River. I kick myself for it every day.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Damn, Rawls is 100?! I always loved his singing!

"You'll never find....."


Oh, wait....

Lawrence Person said...

I set across from George Takei at an SF convention dinner in high school. He has one of the loudest, weirdest laughs I ever heard.

I once told Philip Glass that just because he was the world's most famous livi8ng classical composer didn't mean he could cut in line at the mini-taco bar. (I was joking.)

In college some fellow conservatives and I talked to William F. Buckley, Jr. over drinks in his room. I've also done a video interview with Ted Cruz.

Since I'm a science fiction writer, I've met lots of famous SF writers. Met Asimov. Corresponded a little with Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury (who I also got a call from). Conducted a breakfast interview with Neil Gaiman. And I accidentally dumped a full glass of Dr Pepper into George R. R. Martin's lap one of the times we've eaten together.

Temujin said...

Person wins hands-down.

Tina Trent said...

IRA terrorist Gerry Adams came to nearby Vassar College to whine about how the British working class wasn’t subsidizing his deadbeats in the manner to which he was accustomed.

The auditorium was so empty he hung out with me afterwards trying to impress me with his rubber bullet, which he used as a prop to demonstrate his victimization. I was a sophomore in high school sent by my idiot English teacher to cover the “event.”

I thank him for accelerating my progress to the hard right and away from these ball-less commie terrorist liars.

DarkHelmet said...

I have met many famous people in the course of my profession. I can tell you that both Bobby Unser and George Will are shorter and slighter than you would think from seeing them on TV.

Rawls was not a great thinker. His reasoning is sophomoric, and unremarkably, it appeals to sophomores. He did a lot of damage. Probably even more damage than Howard Zinn. ZInn's absurdities are glaring and obvious, while Rawls has to be read carefully to be refuted.

Tina Trent said...

Wow, Breezy. Anne Morrow Lindbergh! She was afraid of flying but singlehandedly helped her husband open the first air routes in China, South America, and Northern Canada. Helped deliver supplies to the victims of the Great Yangtze Flood and almost drowned doing so. Dear friends with the author of The Little Prince. Understood that her husband was being demonized by lazy people in America for his leadership of America First while he was actually using his German identity to report back to Roosevelt on German Air Force capacity, then fought to defeat them with great and unacknowledged courage. Never complained. One of America’s greatest heroines. Top three of people I’d ever want to meet. I am impressed.

Krumhorn said...

When I was a high school sophomore, I met Emil Gilels on a deserted train platform on a cold cold cold blizzard-y night in Cleveland with my piano teacher from Oberlin after his recital. I was surprised to see his short, stubby, fat fingers given his extraordinary virtuosity. He had very little to say to me with his broken English, but he and my piano teacher were fluent in the language of pheromones. She would subsequently disappear for weeks at a time when he was on tour. He did, however, show me how he fingered the rapidly repeated 4 note figure of a Shostakovich fugue that he played so spectacularly that night. Later in life, I often wondered if he used that same tap-tap-tap-tap fingering technique on my piano teacher.

- Krumhorn

Sebastian said...

"I still think that most of Rawls’ major ideas were probably wrong"

True.

"Today is the 100th birthday of the most influential political philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century"

But not of the 21st. How long before he's canceled?

"I would especially love to see comments that connect Rawls's "Theory of Justice" to the topic of gambling."

In practice, the difference principle always comes down to coercive distribution. So gambling is fine, provided the iron fist of Justice hovers nearby. In fact, you can enjoy it more: if you lose big, Rawls has got your back.

"And I'd love to hear about times when you were a high school student and you got some real conversation time with an eminent person you were surprised would talk to you at all."

I did talk to several fairly eminent, though not Rawls-eminent, people while in high school, but all in contexts where it made sense for them to engage with young people--so I was not surprised.

jaydub said...

I never met John Rawls, but I had all of his brother Lou's albums.

chuck said...

I threw a rock through Irving Reed's window when I was four. Does that count? I wanted to see if I could throw that far.

Amexpat said...

In 1974 I was HS student on a skiing trip to Colorado. I had an avid interest in politics at the time (I knew the ADA ratings for most US Senators) and I was curious about what the locals thought of their newly elected Governor, Dick Lamm, who was a potential star for the Dems.

An opportunity arose when I was sharing a Gondola with a party of 5-6 locals who seemed hip. They were talking amongst themselves, not noticing me, when I broke into their conversation and asked what they thought of their newly elected Governor. Dead silence. It became clear that I had offended them, but I couldn't figure out why. Finally, a woman in the group pointed to a man and said, that's the new Governor. Some more silence before they continued their conversation, ignoring my existence in the confined space we were sharing.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

I was a hundred yards or so from Richard Dreyfus once.

That's about it for me.

Chris N said...

I was walking a lonely stretch of road, bindle on my shoulder, with my thumb out. Sure enough, a gruff lady-trucker picked me up and we went a few hours up ahead.

At the diner, a chill fell over the room when I told ‘em LARGE MARGE sent me.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Well, I'll take that back. My stepdaughter was on the same youth soccer team as MLBPA president Tony Clark's daughter. I talked to him a couple of times, but only about the game in progress. He kept a low profile. I guess he didn't want to spend all his time dealing with soccer dads who wanted to yak about baseball. I respected that.

He did like the souped-up mac and cheese that Mrs. NorthOfTheOneOhOne brought to the team meal, though.

Mark said...

Dick Lamm was the guy who said that the elderly have a duty to die.

Not surprising that he and his entourage would be obnoxious a-holes.

Scotty, beam me up... said...

If the woke left ever edits “Blazing Saddles”, it will be 9 minutes long with 6 minutes being the opening and closing credits.

Stan Smith said...

My first-year college roommate at UC Santa Barbara was a golfer. He found out that Al Geiberger, a relatively famous pro with a body type close to my roommate's, lived in Santa Barbara. I urged him to give Geiberger a call to see if he had any advice for a person with a similar golfing body/style. My roommate was petrified, but called anyway.

They went golfing regularly from that time on. Geiberger was apparently an extremely gracious fellow.

stevew said...

I met Steven Pinker on a shuttle flight to LaGuardia from Boston one time many years ago. Very disappointed that I turned into a fan boy - not as bad as Chris Farley's character on SNL, but just babbled a bit about how much I enjoyed his work. Sad.

Came across Snoop in SFO one time. Asked if I could get a photo with him (this is pre phone selfie days) and he laughed quite loudly, I imagined because I was a mid-forties aged white guy. Had to show him that I had his music on my iPod. He thanked me and then the big burly fellows that surrounded him scooted me away. No photo. Super Sad because no one believes me now.

Rick.T. said...

Long ago switched seats with Harry Chaplin so he could sit next to his son. Listened to Pam Tillis at a gardening event tell a couple stories about how whacky Ashley Judd is.

A few years ago wife stopped Dick(less) Durbin in the Loop one day and told him what a prick he was to Alito during his confirmation hearing. Never prouder. More recently she and Brenda Lee showed off their scars to each other at an estate sale.

Michael K said...


Blogger Stan Smith said...
My first-year college roommate at UC Santa Barbara was a golfer. He found out that Al Geiberger, a relatively famous pro with a body type close to my roommate's, lived in Santa Barbara. I urged him to give Geiberger a call to see if he had any advice for a person with a similar golfing body/style. My roommate was petrified, but called anyway.


I was a very good high school golfer. When I began at USC in 1956, for some reason I did not go out for the golf team. Geiberger was on it then and they practiced at LA Country Club. I probably would not have made it but public courses in LA were few at the time. Don't know why I did not think of it.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Spent a long interview with Carrie Hamilton, Carol Burnett’s daughter, when she agreed to be interviewed by high school journalism students who were competing for CJEA honors (we feature writers were assigned her interview for a story about rehab). It was a Journalism Education Association event but the other kids were starstruck and I ended up doing most of the interviewing while everyone took notes. Maybe doesn’t exactly fit the topic format, but her graciousness and the way she opened up in order to help others really stuck with me. These CJEA competitions were always fun because I write well under pressure and took home the big trophies. Another event had the cast and cons from the “Scared Straight” documentary and they were really fun to interview.

Joe Smith said...

Why is everyone getting worked up over a white guy (Rawls).

Don't they know the rules?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Speaking of golf, my father-in-law was an alternate on the 1961 PGA tour.

who-knew said...

I suppose you have to be an Indy car fan to appreciate this, but I once met Gordon Johncock (11 top tens, including 2 wins at the Indy 500). A friend and mine took off through the woods to the flag station along the back stretch of Road America at Elkhart Lake and there was Gordon Johncock standing around chatting with the flag men and the few spectators who , like us, knew there was a place to stand back there and see the cars on the fastest part of the track. His car had died right at the kink and he was waiting for the race to end so someone could come pick him up and give him a ride back to the pits. Road America is 4 miles long so it was quite a hike back. He was a really nice guy. Talked to everyone who had questions and made small talk. As an aside, I always thought it was odd the RA had no spectator areas along the fastest straight, although since I started going there in the 70's they have finally built a spectator area at Canada Corner which is at the end of that long back stretch.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Lots of celebrity elbow rubbing happens in SoCal, especially in my buddy’s seats behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. Seats around us kept changing hands: Rob Reiner, Jason Bateman, Steven King, lots of rockers/composers music industry folks. But my other close friend provided the most opportunity since he was an actor/singer and joined the Groundlings right after High School. Jeez I met Elvira before she invented the character (petite reddish-blonde w no make-up), Paul Reubens before he was PeeWee. Vince seemed to know everybody. Bbut the best were meeting Vince’s other best friend Lenny Kravitz (before his first album came out) and hearing their tales of growing up in the California Boys Choir, doing tracks with Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin. Vince was in “Sweeney Todd” in LA and I met Angela Lansbury. At a backstage after party for “Lil’ Abner” we had drinks with Joe Namath, who was doing musical comedy in his transition from sports to entertainment. Yes he played Abner. How was extremely cool and not a shrimp like almost all other celebrities.

Narr said...

No famous person came within miles of me when I was a teenager AFAIK, and I would probably have avoided them if I could.

My work meant that I have met many politicians and entertainers of local and state prominence, and a few national figures. At one time my bosses were hoping that Fred Thompson (R-TN), an alum, would leave his papers to my care, but I was not; I did spend quite a bit of time with Benjamin Hooks and his entourage.

Despite being on the university campus since 1971, and with the above exceptions, my only encounters with even arguably well-known people (Walter White, C Van Woodward, Keegan, Wilmot, Updike) have mostly been brief. CCP FM Xi breezed through my little shop one day, but that hardly counts.

Shelby Foote had his phone number listed and was reportedly quite happy to converse with honest callers. I interviewed him at his house once, and he was a master gamesman--he showed me through the front part of his very Tudoresque home and took me back to the office, where the only seating other than his desk chair and the bed was a soft deep chair that made note taking difficult (I had a recorder also).

Through him I am two handshakes across history from Jeff Davis and N B Forrest by way of Lee Meriwether (1862-1963).

Narr
My great-grandpappy rode with Forrest

Narayanan said...

rhhardin said...
Rawls tends to human relationships being contractural.
------------============
nice evasion / eliding under "human"

in my view -
Rawls tends to human relationships being social-contractural - Rawls is collectivist through and through.

Under Rawls' social contract
- productive individual has to beg for permission to live and thrive but
- moochers get free pass.

Trump(ism) is in essence anti-Rawlsian

Roughcoat said...

Corresponded with Cormac McCarthy. We talked about literature in general, Blood Meridian in particular, and his upcoming projects.

I framed one of his letters and hung it on the wall above my desk.

Narayanan said...

In practice, the difference principle always comes down to coercive distribution. So gambling is fine, provided the iron fist of Justice hovers nearby. In fact, you can enjoy it more: if you lose big, Rawls has got your back.
--------------============
aka student loan forgiveness

boatbuilder said...

My late mother was given the gift of a book by Jimmy Buffet (who she didn't know of care much about, but it was a gift from one of her children and she would read just about anything...). It was a cheap knockoff, apparently; in any event most of the pages in the middle of the book were either blank or part of some other book. She wrote to Buffett care of the publisher to alert him to the fact that his books were being trashed-and he called her on the phone.

They had a nice chat, which I am eternally sorry I did not get to listen in on.

I do remember that previously was listening to Jimmy's live album when she walked in during "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" and expressed her disapproval. I do not think that she ever connected the two events.

johns said...

It's Chapel Hill. 1983. My wife meets the BB team's "mom." She says Michael Jordan is going to play in the Pan Am games, but he needs his shorts altered. My wife says, I have a sewing machine. I'll do it. When the job is done, wife offers to drop off the shorts but the mom says no, Michael really wants to say thank you. So he came to our house to pick up the shorts. All I can remember is that we said stuff like how's it going, and our lab went crazy barking at him. But since then I have had people say, hey tell my friend (or son or whatever) your story about meeting Michael Jordan.

johns said...

The team mom also loaned me one of MJ's uniforms and shoes to wear to a Halloween party, as I am the same height as MJ. and no, I did not add anything to my face. The party had both Duke and UNC faculty, but was Duke hosted. I won the prize for nice concept, bad execution.

mandrewa said...

I enjoyed reading Ilya Somin's account of his childhood, A road to freedom. Thanks for linking to it, Ann. It was well worth reading.

If I talked to anyone at all as a high school student that was eminent, I'm unaware of it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

DarkHelmet,

I can tell you that both Bobby Unser and George Will are shorter and slighter than you would think from seeing them on TV.

Don't know about Unser, but that's certainly true about Will. I met him at a book signing at the Borders store where I worked (yes, this is that long ago -- mid-90s, I think). He was touring with, I think, Men At Work, the baseball book. I had no idea he was coming, and turned around to find him standing at the information desk. I said, "Good heavens, it's George Will!" He concurred :-)

I think he was shorter than I was, and I'm 5'6" or so.

Re: asking help from famous people -- well, in my senior year of HS I got marked wrong on a question on an English exam, and was so steamed that I wrote to Noam Chomsky. (I had then an awfully hazy idea of what a linguist actually did.) The question was "Iceland is one of those countries that [have, has] little pollution." I said it was "have," and my teacher said "has." Neither of us, naturally, could explain to the other why we were right.

So Chomsky wrote back, noting that if you bracket noun phrases you get "Iceland is [one of [those countries that have little pollution]]" -- i.e., that on the merits I was "right" -- but added that that isn't how, in practice, language works. He went on to tell me a bit about MIT, which I was considering attending. (I didn't go, but did end up meeting his son Harry at UC/Berkeley, where I did go; Harry is a good amateur violinist, and we were in orchestras together.) It was a nice letter, kind and considerate and much more than I had any right to expect.

Having subsequently read (parts of) Manufacturing Consent, I can't say that I agree with Noam Chomsky on, well, much of anything, but he has style. I remember the time he booked Zellerbach Auditorium (the biggest hall on the Berkeley campus) and filled it to the brim with young radicals dying to hear some red meat about East Timor, and proceeded to give a very rarefied talk about grammar that perhaps half a dozen of them had any hope of understanding. I think the rumors that the doors proved to be locked were false, but anyway a lot of people were desperate to get out who had no means of doing so unobtrusively.

Skippy Tisdale said...

In 1976, I put gas in Rod Carew's car. Super nice guy.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

My other brush with fame in that sense was truing to call up Felix Khuner to get help with a paper on the Schoenberg String Quartet Concerto. Khuner was the second violinist of the Koeckert Quartet (who premiered all the later Schoenberg chamber works, including the Concerto, from memory). He misunderstood me, thought I was talking about the Violin Concerto, and hung up on me. I was mortified, so I wrote him a letter and dropped it in his mailbox. Whereupon he called me back, very apologetically, and we talked. I ended up studying with him briefly. Later, of course, we played together a lot -- his father was director of Berkeley Opera (now West Edge Opera), and Felix used to sit in as second violinist. A couple of friends of mine tell a harrowing tale of going over to his house for dinner and being dragged through a sight-reading session on Alban Berg's Lyric Suite. Yikes!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Dammit. "trying," not "truing." And the Kolisch Quartet, of course, not the Koeckert.

rhhardin said...

I spend a day hanging around with Frans Bruggen. We went to an airport to inspect my airplane, and to a bowling alley for coffee. Just chatting about this and that. He was in between a concert and someplace else he had to be.

Francisco D said...

I walked past Dick Van Dyke at O'Hare. He was a lot smaller than he appeared on TV, but a really dignified looking guy.

I had a brush with Jerry Rubin on the El in the 70's. He was an angry little twit in a three piece suit. I guess there was no money in being a Yippie. I always preferred Abbie Hoffman anyway.

DimWhit said...

I was once in the same room as Sophia Loren.
I once pumped gas into Fred Astaire's car.
I once had a girlfriend who roomed with Cathy Guisewite
as frosh at UofM. Dorms being what they were
at UofM in those days, I got to spend the night w/ gf
whilst roommate found other accommodations....

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

rhhardin: Oh man, lucky you. I have a good friend who's in the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and played with Brueggen all the time, but I never met him myself.

Narr said...

Huh. I was looking up Brueggen on the Intertubes just last night; had missed news of his death. RIP.

Ben Stein's very nice.

Narr
Chatted with Rufus Thomas once, also very nice

Joe Smith said...

"You used to be able to call the great golfer Jack Nicklaus that way, too. He'd pick up the phone..."

I read a story awhile back about someone super-famous (old school...maybe a Hollywood type?), who had a publicly-listed number and would always answer the phone...it will come to me.

"I was once in the same room as Sophia Loren."

When she was hot or ultra-hot?

My most famous was Shirley Temple Black at a jewelry store. I think I worked myself up to saying 'Hello.'

But I am good friends with a Hall of Fame football player...probably doesn't count : )

effinayright said...

I once had a conversation with Sen. Alan Simpson in my bookshop.

He was in town to see his old buddy John Galbraith, the economist.

Both he and Galbraith were six-feet-five, and on that visit Simpson said he asked Galbraith why he never played basketball.

According to the Senator, Galbraith replied, "Because I hated the fucking game."

MountainMan said...

I have run into a number of well-known people over the years. Have only interacted with a few.

I was very much into white water canoeing and rafting with my college outdoor group in the early 70's. Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter came with us on the Chattooga River one Saturday, when he was governor. During my work years I would sometimes see famous people while traveling, never got to interact with anyone much. Bouncing around the East Coast one Friday night while trying to get home to the Tri-Cities from Boston I had to take the Eastern Shuttle from National to LaGuardia to catch the last flight out of there on Piedmont to TRI. Daniel Patrick Moynihan sat in front of me, said hello as he sat down. Wish he had been beside me, that night have been an interesting conversation. On another odyssey trying to get home from New Orleans one night I got diverted to Nashville and took a very small AA commuter flight and had Art Linkletter sitting across the aisle from me. But the plane was so loud and the weather was rough that other than a hello and goodbye we had no opportunity to talk.

I was shopping in the Galleria in Brentwood south of Nashville in the late 90's with my wife and younger daughter. While wandering around in the women's clothing looking for them I almost ran over a couple browsing in the clothes racks. It was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

I had lunch one time at work with Lamar Alexander and also have met Fred Thompson and Marsh Blackburn.

My two most interesting experiences have been with football coaches. My wife and I had the opportunity to have lunch with former UT head coach and AD Phil Fulmer one time. It was a really fun time, I don't think I ever met someone so funny and full of stories. He gave a talk to an investment group i am in. He could have had a second career as a stand-up comedian. I also usually see former UGA head coach and AD Vince Dooley 2-3 times a year. We are both involved in a historical preservation group and I am a friend of several of his former players. At lunch or dinner he never talks sports or football. He is a real expert on the Civil War and also a master gardener, which are his big interests.

New profile who dis? said...

I met Colin Powell at a grip-and-grin event during a business convention a few years ago. It was after he had delivered the keynote address (an anodyne, predictable feel-good liberal blather fest) and I told him that my son in the Army would like me to say hello. He lit up like a christmas tree; if it was faked, it was the most impressive fakery I've even seen and I am a professional bullshit artist. As we posed for the picture, I put my arm around his shoulder and he pulled back - I apologized, he laughed and said "No, put your arm around my waist, it makes for a better picture!" I did, and he did the same, and I absolutely love that picture.

Regardless of his political views, he really impressed me as a person.

buster said...

"The most influential political philosopher in the second half of the twentieth century" exerted his influence mostly in the academic fields of political and legal philosophy. I don't think he had much influence beyond that.

The most obvious non-academic milieu to look for Rawle's influence is in judicial opinions. For some years after publication of "A Theory of Justice" it was practically de rigueur for judges with intellectual pretensions to cite the book in nearly every opinion no matter what the legal issue. But it was just a citation. There are few, if any, opinions that actully try to apply Rawl's theory to the problem before the court.

And no wonder. Rawls himself emphasized that his theory is not meant to apply to particular institutions such as corporations or trial by jury. How, for example, would the two principles apply to the so-called right to abortion? Or the death penalty?

rcocean said...

I was shocked to see that bob wright is well, tall. He seems so small in spirit on BHTV. But he's really BIG. A big, big man. So big, you'd think you could see a crashin' blow from his huge right hand send a Louisiana fella to the promised land. Big Bob.

It reminds me of when I saw Danny Ainge in the late 80's. He always looked like Larry Bird's little brother, and with that "I want my mayo" face he looked like a little kid. Well, Danny is 6-5 and 210. He's HUGE.

rcocean said...

well guess what? Stalin charmed FDR and Churchill. "Good ol' Uncle Joe". People have talked about how funny, charming, smart, and NICE Hitler could be. Nixon talked about what a great guy Mao was. So charming and clever.

Madoff was such a good guy. John Wayne Gacy, funny as a clown, loved to do Charity work. I don't think there has ever been a mass killer, dictator, or highly successful conman or criminal that wasn't " a hell of a guy". when he wanted to be.

Joe Smith said...

"I don't think there has ever been a mass killer, dictator, or highly successful conman or criminal that wasn't " a hell of a guy". when he wanted to be."

Kind of comes with the 'psychopath/sociopath' thing...

: )

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I have never read Rawls, but I have read Allan Bloom's absolute evisceration (assuming everything in the review is factually accurate) of A Theory of Justice in his Giants and Dwarfs. I don't think the book is as bad as that; I don't really think any book could possibly be as bad as that; but I have no standard of comparison. Can anyone point me to a review of the review? Or at least to a positive review of A Theory of Justice?

steppin' razor said...

Along with others here I flatter myself that I even know who the dickens John Rawls was, but I’m not sure he was “famous” in the same way that EddieVan Halen or Stan Lee or Alexandra Octavio-Cortez are famous. Perhaps being famous means it’s possible that a stranger would try to telephone you at home, but the extent of your fame is inversely proportional to the likelihood that you’d answer your own phone.
I had dinner with William O Douglas in a small group, went to a dinner party with Arthur Goldberg (retired) at his home, and chatted with Sandra Day O’Conner about the Kelo case for ten minutes at a reception. Goldberg and O’Conner were the souls of graciousness; Bill Douglas was a rotten son of a ...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

steppin' razor,

Aw, hell, we're all here reading the comments on the blog of a retired law professor. We can hardly be considered a "cross-section of the American public," or whatever.

And Ocasio-Cortez is "famous" b/c the media have made her so, and for no other reason. There are 435 Representatives, and I doubt I could name a dozen of them, though of course all four of "The Squad" are in there. And in that I think I'd be ahead of the vast majority of the American public.

steppin' razor said...

Michelle D. T.: But that’s what fame is. A relatively few folks ever heard of John Rawls; lots and lots have heard of AOC, not to mention Kim Kardashian. Fame has, quite often, nothing at all to do with merit or accomplishment. . I don’t like AOC either but I know lots more about her than I know about Rawls, though I did read his book lo these many years ago.

Narr said...

Two autograph stories.

The mid-80s, a reading by Shelby Foote of his account of the Lincoln assassination, on the anniversary. One of my friends has brought one of the trilogy sets, and afterwards asks Foote if he'll inscribe and autograph them. He starts to explain that he doesn't like to, when my friend says, "They're for my brother, a lieutenant in the armored cav in Germany." Foote immediately agreed to do it. (This was before Ken Burns made him famous; the lt. retired as a colonel.)

About a year before his death, Updike spoke on our campus. He had agreed to sign a certain number of books, and about ten people from the front of the line was a dipshit with what looked like every one of Updike's books, in hardback. Two big armloads, it would have taken forever.

I left, but hope he told the guy to choose one!

Narr
The nerve of some people

daskol said...

Rawls was instrumental in persuading me to change my major to economics. Rawls and a girl named Meg.

Narayanan said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
I have never read Rawls,
---------=============
This professor compares Rand v Rawls

sbwaters said...

From my book, Individuals, Journalism, and Society:
“Meanwhile, muddying notions in the 1970s, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice proposed a modern welfare state, charged to distribute wealth ‘fairly.’ That may have sounded good to ears tuned to the 1970s, but ‘fairly’ turns out to be a euphemism for disproportionately, with some central authority as the arbiter of fair. For Rawls it was important that the thumb on the scales of justice be hidden behind a veil.”

MountainMan said...

And i have to come back and add three more:

Steve Spurrier - got to pick him up at the airport one time and have dinner with him when he came to speak at an alumni meeting. This was right after he finished his pro career and was in his very first college job as an assistant coach. Very personable and funny. It was a very enjoyable evening. This was about 1978.

Adm. Grace Murray Hopper - also got to pick her up at the airport one time and have dinner with her when she came to speak at a technical meeting in 1980. For those who don't know, she is famous in the IT world, was one of the first programmers on the Harvard Mark I computer during WWII. Her husband, a naval officer, was killed during the war and she spent he rest of her life in the Navy. She coined the word "bug" when a moth was found in a relay in the Mark I and she later achieved prominence with the development of the COBOL programming language. A fascinating woman and I enjoyed every minute spent with her The Navy named a ship for her after her death a few years ago.

And finally, the late astronaut John Young, probably the greatest American astronaut. He devoted a significant amount of his time to alumni affairs and attending meetings all over the US after he retired. I got to spend about 30 minutes talking with him alone and had dinner with him as well. He was also an excellent speaker and could captivate an audience. I also will never forget how small he was.

chuck said...

She coined the word "bug"

The technical use of the word started back to the days of telegraphy and spread to other fields. It originally referred to noise on the telegraph lines:

The sound of these false signals were referred to as a "Bug" on the wire, and the neutral relay's armature in this case, being the cause, was the "Bug."

Edison designed various electro-mechanical circuits to take care of the transition time when the polarity was reversing and he called his designs, "Bug Traps."

More here.

David R. Graham said...

As an HS Senior (Claremont, CA), I came in off the street, with a classmate, at Grace Cathedral, SF, and asked Richard Purvis, Cathedral Organist, if I could play the main organ. He looked at me and said something I forget that meant "Certainly." We came down from his office, I sat on the bench, and I asked him to make registrations for Franck's Piece Heroique. He did and I began. I got part way in and he interrupted me, asking me to move over so he could show me some ways to improve my interpretation of the word. Such fun. Confirmed in my experience that day was that straightforward is the approach most accommodating and appreciated in the human condition.

David R. Graham said...

Althouse specifies HS experiences with notable personalities. Most of these comments contemplate name dropping from later life.

Kirk Parker said...

My college orchestra played Krzysztof Penderecki's St Luke Passion, with yours truly on the bass clarinet.

It was not only a huge production (the orchestra includes a piano, organ, and harmonium!), but it was also some kind of premiere performance--I don't remember exactly what, but it was a big enough deal that the composer attended. We were all very intimidated at the thought, but in the event Penderecki was extremely gracious and appreciative.

Much later in life, when I was on the board of an arts organization, I got to spend most of a day hanging out with clarinetist Richard Stoltzman -- driving him up to Seattle for a lengthy live interview on King-FM, lunch, and then back to Tacoma for the concert. A great performer, but also a wonderfully fine and easy-going person.

lostingotham said...

Almost 30 years ago, Spalding Gray came up during a drunken conversation between some friends and I in a Tokyo bar. We'd all read several of his books and recently seen "Monster in a Box" and it just seemed like a great idea to call him. Somehow we found a karaoke place with a speaker phone, persuaded its owner to let us make an international call and dialed NYC directory assistance for his (published) number. He was confused, but surprisingly gracious about being called in mid-afternoon, his time, by a passel of expatriot drunks. Unfortunately, having surmounted what should have been the insuperable obstacle of getting him on the phone, we discovered we had little to say beyond, "Hey man, you're a great writer. I really loved 'Impossible Vacation.'" He did tell us we had brightened his day, which gave me a tiny shred of comfort when, a decade later, he committed suicide after a long battle with depression. I can only hope that our random, drunken, call lifted for a few minutes the fog of sadness that enveloped that great storyteller.

R.I.P., Spalding.

(And if you really admire someone's work, take the effort to reach out to tell them. Do it in a less obnoxious way than we did, but do it, nonetheless. Everyone likes fan mail.)

glacial erratic said...

"A Theory of Justice" was assigned reading when I was in college. I remember being impressed by it. Many years later I had occasion to reread it and was less impressed. He asserts as a given many principles the older me disagrees with.

For whatever that's worth.

Richard Dolan said...

Can't pretend to have much interest in long-ago high school encounters. But Rawls is interesting in his own right, in many unexpected ways.

He intended to become an Episcopalian priest, and at Princeton was immersed in theological issues, including most particularly the ones posed by theodicy -- the justice of God. He rejected the Pelagian view -- that we are all free moral agents, responsible and answerable for our choices -- for the Augustinian doctrine of original sin reflecting humanity's depraved nature, which can only be saved by the gift of Grace. Grace on that view is not deserved, never earned but freely (and, it seems, arbitrarily) dispensed by the Almighty. Augustine's point was to make room for Christ as Savior -- after all, if we are free moral agents answerable for our own choices, and the justice of God dispenses eternal rewards based on our choosing to do good rather than evil, why do we need a Savior and what are we being saved from?

Rawls' mature philosophy, written long after he had abandoned religion in general and Christianity in particular, claims that no one earns his or her talents, abilities or the advantages of family, etc. -- those are all arbitrarily distributed from a moral point of view (so he says). From that he builds his 'justice as fairness' edifice, using his 'difference principle'. The key move, holding that no one really earns what he has in life, reflects the same theological concerns, with the distribution of unearned Grace being replaced by chance (or fate, if you prefer).

Interesting to imagine how his Theory of Justice would have been received if it had been viewed as an expression of classic Augustinian theology dressed up in secular language by a priest-manque. (None of this is original to me -- the ideas are developed in depth by Eric Nelson in his book, The Theology of Liberalism -- well worth a read by anyone interested in the subject.)

Lurker21 said...

Somin is too young to be writing his memoirs, and it doesn't look like his life has been supremely interesting.

High school debate was awful and high school debaters are people you want to avoid. Start with Ted Cruz and imagine worse.

Lexington had excellent public schools, but very high taxes. Chomsky lived there, too. In some of the suburbs west of Boston there were neighborhoods that were academic colonies of Boston/Cambridge. Professors bought houses next to each other back in the 60s and raised their kids there.

No thoughts on Rawls.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Richard Dolan,

He rejected the Pelagian view -- that we are all free moral agents, responsible and answerable for our choices -- for the Augustinian doctrine of original sin reflecting humanity's depraved nature, which can only be saved by the gift of Grace.

I thought that that was explicitly not the Pelagian view -- that Pelagius taught that all are saved, regardless of what they do. Augustine taught that we were all doomed to damnation, but for grace; Pelagius taught that grace was unnecessary, and therefore salvation universal. So that, far from our being "free moral agents, responsible and answerable for our own choices," we are slaves, responsible and answerable for exactly nothing. If you can't control what you do, you can't be responsible for it; and you therefore can't even have the liberty to be damned.

Hercules, not that one though said...

I wanted to talk to Sparky Sparks. He was the marketing guy for the IBM personal computer. IBM had to move that raggity team to Florida to get them away from the Armonk suits.

I called him 15 times. Talked to a secretary 14 times. I think she figured out I was not going to stop calling. I wasn't. I wanted to talk to Mr Sparks. Sparky came on the line the 15th time. Invited him to come speak at the college I was attending. He did.

Every college professor gave extra credit to those students who would attend. Why would you need credits to go and hear Sparky Sparks? I never understood that. Still don't

Had a way too small room for the talk. Had to get an auditorium.

Hercules, not that one though said...

BTW...SlightlyLooney...I was in high school (10th grade) in '65, in New Jersey.

6th grade in '65, NJ. Good to hear from an expat. It's a tribal thing after all.

SlighlyLoony said...

Hercules: I escaped from New Jersey in ‘71, to California. Escaped from there I’m ‘14, now live in rural northern Utah - nearest town to us is Paradise, which we think is apt...

Hercules, not that one though said...

SL...came back from the Army and matriculated Rutgers. Then escaped. Spent my 30s in California. In rural Northern Idaho now.

California was the dream back them, wasn't it. I had a great decade there, but it was time to get out.

SlighlyLoony said...

Hercules: it was, indeed. Sure isn’t now! My wife and I couldn’t wait to get out of there, even though we lived in the sticks, in the mountains east of San Diego. We used to own a pretty piece of land up your way, straddling Trestle Creek, not too far from Hope. Long story, but a group working to conserve a fish that spawns there managed to remove access to where we planned to build our retirement home. Ended up in Paradise instead, and now I think they did us a favor. I wasn’t so happy about it back then :)

Richard Dolan said...

Michelle,
I don’t think you have that right. Pelagius defended his views as orthodox at the councils called or instigated by Augustine to condemn him as heretical. What you attribute to him could never have been so defended — if all are saved regardless of what they do, there is no need or function for a savior and no meaning to the cross. He didn’t reject the doctrine of Grace, but deemed free will to be the great gift of God’s grace. By observing the law and following the example of Christ, he taught that the gift of free will made it possible to achieve sanctity and earn salvation. Or to choose to be a slave to sin. For that he was accused by Augustine (among others) to be a proponent of the Law, a Judaising view contrary to the doctrine Paul had preached.

While his views ultimately lost out in the theological debates of the early church, they have become the basis for classical liberal theory, focused as it is on the autonomous individual actor. I think he’s gotten a bad rap over the years and that he never pressed the extreme views sometimes attributed to him.

Hercules, not that one though said...

SL - I lived in Warner Springs for a time during my sojourn in CA. East of San Diego.

I can't seem to get far enough North. All the housing stock here, was bought by Seattle folks, a few months ago. Top dollar, site unseen, trying to get away from Antifa and the politics that spawned them. They run away from Antifa and bring the politics with them. Our Capitol City, Boise is solid Prog. Just passed a law allowing homeless to pitch tents on the sidewalks if no housing available. Just like Portland and Seattle and San Fran, and LA. It's not about housing, but they have one tune, and they keep playing it.



SlighlyLoony said...

Hercules: I'm afraid I can't give you much better news from my neck of the woods. While the natives are salt-of-the-earth folks who lean far more conservative than liberal, we're being invaded by the same sort of folks who are invading you. The difference is that our invaders mainly hail from California. Just like yours, they're bringing their failed politics with them. Housing prices here have more than doubled since we moved here in '14 - they're so high now than many natives can no longer afford a home in their own community. Builders are booked through next year. I put in some off-grid solar this past September, and the installers were booked for two years - I ended up doing it myself (not an entirely bad thing, but surprised me). We have no intention of leaving here before they plant us, so the higher real estate prices just means higher taxes for us. Fortunately we bought a small farm (26 acres), so nobody can build right next to us. We expect to be an island of alfalfa in 5 to 10 years...

Linda Seebach said...

This is a marvelous thread!
I'll spare you mine, which were anyway much later in life, and just report that Frank Zappa, as a teenager growing up in southern California, was asked what he wanted for a gift, and he replied that he wanted his parents to pay for a long-distance call to to Edgard Varèse.