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06.04.20: Quarantine Days

It’s been a while, as is too often the case with this newsletter. (Unless, I suppose, very occasional is just the right amount. I’ll leave that judgement up to you all.) This has been in part a lack of good habits, but also I’m finding that quarantine and all the related and unrelated stresses we’re experiencing right now have made it difficult for me to muster the sustained focused for writing.

My family is all healthy and safe, and we’ve been managing the three kids’ education while my wife and I work full time, and doing an okay job of it. And, while deep writing has been hard, I’ve been otherwise quite productive, both with Libertarianism.org stuff and personal projects.

Behind the scenes at Libertarianism.org

The big thing is we’ve been working on a total redesign of the website, tentatively scheduled to launch near the end of the month. It’s a pretty radical rethinking of the way the site is organized, and one that I hope will make it far more helpful both for people new to libertarianism and those who want to plunge into heavier research on specific topics within libertarian theory, history, and policy.

The major upgrade is that the site will now be focused on topics, built around the related article in the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (which is also gearing up to expand dramatically over the next year), and with all the content we have on that topic easily accessible in one place. In addition, for many of the topics, we’ll be highlighting a list of what we think are the best and most helpful content we have for people who want to get up to speed on it. Our goal is to make topic pages the best place to start to learn about any subject within libertarianism.

I can’t wait to show it to you.

Relaunching my podcast

A few years back, I started a personal podcast, mundanely named the Aaron Ross Powell Show, as a way for me to have interesting conversation with interest people while mostly staying away from the politics I talk about so much for my day job and my work podcasts. I got a few episodes in and then, for various reasons, it kind of stalled.

Fortunately, being stuck at home, as well as having to build a bedroom podcasting setup to continue Free Thoughts remote, has lead me to bringing it back. So far I’ve released six new episodes, with a seventh coming in the next couple of days. I’m really happy with how it’s going and hope I can keep it coming on semi-regular basis.

Here’s what you can find if you head on over and listen and subscribe.

  • Buddhism with Jason Kuznicki
  • Postmodernism with Akiva Malamet
  • Ancient Literature with Brian Wilson and Paul Meany
  • Narrating Audiobooks with Scott Feighner (and this one includes a bonus at the end of Scott reading one of my favorite stories I’ve written, a twisted little crime tale called “Snowed In”)
  • Tabletop Games with PJ Hambrick
  • Batman with Cory Massimino
  • and coming soon, Star Wars with Paul Crider

What I’m Reading

I’ve also managed to get in more non-work related reading than typical lately. My Buddhism reading continues, most recently with Karma: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters by Traleg Kyabgon. Kyabgon is a Tibetan monk, but one who is quite familiar with Western philosophy. His book is an attempt to set out for Westerners what Buddhist mean by karma, and how it factors into practice and ethics. I found the book quite rewarding for teasing out answers to questions I’ve had about rebirth, karmic effects, and the structure of Buddhist moral philosophy. There are still aspects of it I don’t accept, and ones I still feel like there are contradictions within, but this book helped a lot.

Next, I was delighted to discover that Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels are part of Kindle Unlimited, which means they’re free with the three month trial membership Amazon launched as the pandemic hit, and that they include not just the Kindle edition, but the audiobook, too. I’ve been tearing through the early ones, and they’re not only probably the best series of police procedurals ever written (and also the books that invented the genre), but, in an America rightfully enraged by police misconduct, a window back to a time when fiction portrayed cops as relatively upstanding, instead of rogue agents busting heads to pursue justice in the face of pencil-necked bureaucrats whose insistence on following procedure is played up as the height of villainy.

Finally, I went back to Ken MacLeod, the Scottish science fiction author whose novels are about characters deeply committed to various fringe political ideologies arguing with each other. There’s something comforting in listening to conversations between people so deeply committed to their ideas, and so well read in them. And while MacLeod began as a Trotskyist and is now more of a left-, syndicalist anarchist, his presentation of libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism is well-informed, sympathetic, and fair. Plus, his novel The Stone Canal presents a sophisticated take on an anarcho-capitalist society.

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