Today, I got around to replying to his 'Thanks!' note with these observations on our sharpest observers:
And, thank you!
Your constant curiosity & courage are an inspiration.
You've earned a permanent place in my known universe of our modern
conditions' most piercing analysts: Malcolm Gladwell, Kurt Andersen, David
Brin, Tom Wolfe, many Edge.org contributors (especially Jaron Lanier,
Nicholas Taleb), John Tierney, often David Brooks...
...that turned into quite a list! Serious question for you: Who am I maybe
missing?! I figure you watch a lot of these other guys too, and you probably
have a couple other favorites similar to y'all whom I've yet to discover.
Wolfe called what you do Neo-Journalism. I call it actually saying something!
My friend Michael Duff (often brilliantly perceptive; if he were more of a
journalist than a focused fiction writer, he'd be one of you guys) just now
blogged this image I bet you'll appreciate: cool t-shirt
Now I've got myself really thinking about who the vocally sociologically
perceptive tend to be!
Filmmakers: MANY. Way too numerous to list. Good ones almost can't help but
be(come) great observers.
Comedians: Also many (maybe even more than filmmakers as a straight
percentage), but more hit-and-miss within each oeuvre & more superficial in
presentation. Dennis Miller, Dave Barry, Ben Stiller (his 1991 Fox show was
simply amazing; best sketch comedy I've encountered), P.J. O'Rourke, sure.
Also the mainstream superstars: Jerry, Ellen, Chris Rock (all hit-and-miss,
Classical liberal economist mindsets: Steve Landsburg, Tyler Cowen (of
Marginal Revolution), David Friedman, Nozick, some Cato folks...these guys get
lots of practice noticing how little most experts know -- and that opens them up to
becoming very wide-ranging experts on what's actually known. Old school: Heinlein,
Mencken, Adam Smith, Locke, Bacon.
Several novelists come to mind, naturally, but the phenomenon of keen social observation remains relatively rare among them compared to these other categories.