Mark Kingwell, Silliness, the Podcast to Be and A Top Twenty List.

On Jan 12th La Literati welcomes Canadian philosopher Mark Kingwell to the show. My co-host and I have the utmost respect for Mark and are giddy about the booking. OK, giddy might be too strong of a word, but we are happy. Niles and I have a running gag going about being stood up for the podcast. We’re really wondering why he said yes. What can I tell you, underneath the guise of adulthood lurks two insecure sixteen year old girls begging to come out. Niles says “speak for yourself.” At any rate, I thought it would be funny to come up with a list of excuses Mark might give for being a no show. I’m also trying to promote the podcast in a semi clever way. (clever is in the eye of the reader, I suppose)

I give you 20 potential Kingwell excuses.

And Mark says…”so Niles and what’s your face, I really hate to bail on you guys but…”

1.  “My sister-in-law’s friend’s cousin’s father’s uncle tragically lost his pet turtle. The details are just too sordid to share.”
2. “My re-gifting recipient list demands to be written. Christmas will be here again before you know it.”
3. “I’ve fallen. I could get up, but I refuse”
4.  “I never go on a podcast on days that end with day.”
5. “I thought I was going to be on LA Literati. What the fu^* is La Literati? What language is this?”
6.  “I have to attend Charles Manson’s wedding.”
7. “I’ve been meaning to get a Rob Ford tattoo on my shoulder and it can’t wait.”
8. “I’m just way too busy chewing gum.”
9. “I have an important call from a telemarketer, and I HAVE to take it”
10. “I’ve been putting off making my Justin Bieber scrapbook.” (Bieber fever won’t wait)
11. “It just wouldn’t be fair to all the other brilliant people.”
12. “Summer will be here before you know it. I need to work out. Those Speedos won’t wear themselves”
13. “I’ve been putting off reading Fifty Shades of Grey. E.L. James is calling to me.”
14. “Signing up for an AOL account. It’s way overdue.”
15. “I’ve being dying to take a beets bath”
16. “My diet has been sorely lacking in kale lately. I must eat some NOW”
17. “I need to spend some serious time thinking up more excuses for why I can’t do the show.”
18. “I’m writing a new book on sardines and I have a deadline to meet”
19. “Kesha is in town for one day only. I can’t miss this concert”
20. “I need to get two restraining orders. How do you spell your names again?”

and bonus

21. “I just read your asinine list on WordPress.”

 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum/2015/01/12/la-literati-welcomes-professor-and-author-mark-kingwell

Twenty Random Questions with Philosopher Extraordinaire Mark Kingwell.

Mark Kingwell was kind enough to agree to answer twenty random questions, posed by yours truly. If you aren’t familiar with the Professor, please check out his bio at the end of this post. I have an innocent and platonic fascination with his mind. He’s my Glenn Gould. Mark will get that, and so will those of you familiar with his books. If you haven’t read Kingwell’s work, I promise once you do you’ll be just as intrigued. As an aside, Mark will on my podcast La Literati on Jan. 12th. You can find the details at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum We’re excited to speak with him. In the meantime, check out his insightful and humorous answers to total randomness.

1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?

Well, it’s a psychedelic trip, isn’t it? So I would come back, but I wouldn’t tell anybody about it. And I’d figure out a way to get back there at some point.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Everyone hates a sad professor.” (Yes, I stole that.)

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

That’s easy, because I once published a book about cocktails and I like to mix them for friends. So I’d say I am a dry gin martini, served straight up, with one of those big olives stuffed with a piece of blue cheese. Cold and clear, then some salt and pungency waiting for the right moment to show itself.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

Failure. And since you ask, I’m still not too crazy about wasps. Also frozen hockey pucks to the face.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

No religious zealotry, thank you.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

John Donne, “The Ecstasy.”

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

Very soothing stuff, darkness. Except when it isn’t. You know, that noise that doesn’t immediately make sense…

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Cole Porter. Or maybe Hal David.

9. What makes you nostalgic?

This will sound weird if you aren’t, like me, an air force brat: seeing any military airplane. They make me think of the bases where I grew up, the funny houses with the same floorplan no matter where you were in the country, the kids you knew for a few months before their fathers got posted somewhere else. Games of Post Office in somebody’s garage. Sandlot baseball. Soundtrack by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, and Alice Cooper.

10. Clowns., creepy or cool?

You’re not seriously asking that, are you? Creepy of course. Creepy creepy creepy. Also, see Question 7. Bart Simpson had it right: “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.”

11. Do you remember your dreams?

About once a week. They are usually extremely violent, David Cronenberg or Quentin Tarantino violent. I have no idea why.

12. What’s your favorite song?

That’s easy: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” any version, but maybe especially the Platters (1958) and Keith Jarrett (2009). I’m going to cheat and add that my favourite album of all time is Glenn Gould’s “A Consort of Musick Bye William Byrde And Orlando Gibbons” (1984); this just edges out Keith Jarrett’s sublime “Köln Concert” (1975) and “Armed Forces” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979).

13. What’s your favorite season?

Autumn. Especially here in Ontario, where everything looks better when the leaves begin to change colour. Also: playoff baseball.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

Absolutely. The self-applied kind is the best, though.

15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?

I will quote Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise: “There is no fate but what we make.”

16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Also, The Republic.

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?

I’m not paranoid, but I usually disguise my intense misanthropy under a facade of easygoing amiability. Does that answer the question? Maybe not… Might make sense of Question 11, though.

18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?

Well, there has to be sex with my sweetie in there somewhere, plus music, and art, and then cocktails at some point before dinner. Also a baseball game or a walk in the woods or some fly fishing. Hmm – I guess it matters whether I’m alone or not. Am I alone? Oh no…

19. Are you more like fire or the earth?

Can’t I be both? And also wind? I always wanted to play in the horn section on “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

20. Do you hear voices?

Just my own, incessant and various, about deadlines and ideas, quotations and turns of phrase, things to say and things I wish I’d said. Wouldn’t want it otherwise.

Bonus question:
What are you currently working on?

A new collection of essays about democracy and culture, to be published next year

About Mark kingwell:

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author or co-author of seventeen books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009). His articles on politics, architecture and art have appeared in many academic journals, including the Journal of Philosophy and the Harvard Design Magazine, and in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Utne Reader, BookForum, the Toronto Star, and Queen’s Quarterly; he is also a former columnist for Adbusters, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Kingwell has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia on philosophical subjects and had held visiting posts at Cambridge University, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the City University of New York, where he was the Weissman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities in 2002. Mr. Kingwell is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, the Outstanding Teaching Award and President’s Teaching Award at the University of Toronto, a research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism. His most recent book is a collection of political essays, Unruly Voices (2012); he has also recently published two illustrated pamphlets, Frank’s Motel (2013) and Democracy’s Gift (2014).

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Mark Kingwell-The People’s Philosopher

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is the University of Toronto professor, author, essayist, and critic Mark Kingwell. He apparently has quite the following in Canada, but we Americans haven’t caught on yet. I discovered his work by accident last year while doing research for an interview with New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard. Reynard who writes under a pen name, is an anonymous Canadian author who is shrouded in mystery. If you’re curious about him, click here.http://http://www.sylvainreynard.com/ He’s a brilliant guy, kind to a flaw, and his proses are effortless. No one aside from Jesus does redemption better.

But I digress. Kingwell’s name came up an article on Reynard. There was speculation that perhaps Kingwell and Reynard were one in the same. Having read both their works, I don’t see it. Their literary voices are vastly different. Reynard seemingly is a strong man of faith. Hope and redemption are prominent themes in his books. Kingwell, from all accounts, is a  atheist. He refers to himself as a rehabilitated Catholic. There are other glaring differences, but we’ll save those for another time.

Kingwell has written twelve books. You can see a list of his work here.http://http://www.philosophy.utoronto.ca/directory/mark-kingwell/ Today I want to focus on two of my favorites. A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000).  In A Civil Tongue, he takes on political discourse and culture. He believes social justice can be achieved through an open and honest dialogue. He refers to this as “the talking cure.” He is a proponent of tolerance, reason and civility — how very Canadian of him. In a time when political discord is out of control, his ideas are refreshing. Imagine a world where we actually discuss our political views in a rational, sane way, where we offered up ways to make a difference, where the blame games were nonexistent, and we listen to the other side. Imagine if we not only listened but showed respect for others’ point of view. If we could change political discourse, we could change the world.

In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000) explores the nature of happiness and human nature in an engaging and entertaining way. Pop culture references are found throughout — everything from The Simpsons to Pepperidge Farm goldfishes. Naturally the works of some of the greats in philosophy play a prominent role. Spoiler alert: Aristotle plays a leading role in the book. Kingwell is a fan. He also takes us into the New Age movement with a hilarious anecdote of his time at a happiness camp. He tried Prozac just to see what all the fuss was about.

Kingwell asserts that happiness isn’t a feeling. Happiness is not about “feeling” good all the time. “Sometimes good enough is enough.” Reflection and introspection about one’s life are crucial to peace of mind.
It is not enough to just be in the world; one must also feel connected to humanity and the collective good. This can be an arduous task in our modern society in which we are inundated with information. This constant stream of noise that can leave us feeling out of the loop Kingwell refers to as “upgrade anxiety” –the feeling that we have to catch up. This feeling can zap us of our energy and overwhelm us.

Paradoxically, no man is an island. Much emphasis is placed on intimate relationships as being fundamental to happiness, yet solitude has sparked some of the most creative minds in history. Kingwell also states the seemingly obvious, that material goods can’t buy happiness. Happiness is not about getting everything we want. In fact, having all of our heart’s desires can lead to unhappiness. It is in the striving that we find meaning.

A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000), are books everyone should read. Kingwell’s writing is flawless without being pretentious or preachy. His wit is a thing of wonder. He’s truly the “every man and woman’s philosopher.” He’s hip, snarky and smart. Who needs happiness camp or Prozac when you have a Kingwell book?

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